‘Golden’ State Warriors

By on May 29, 2019

Warwick girls bring home the PIAA championship

As Warwick was clinching the State Triple-A team championship last Saturday, there were lots of emotions at the end of the 4x400 relay, as evidenced with Leah Graybill (left) giving a hug to teammate Jessica Williamson. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

As Warwick was clinching the State Triple-A team championship last Saturday, there were lots of emotions at the end of the 4×400 relay, as evidenced with Leah Graybill (left) giving a hug to teammate Jessica Williamson. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Warwick seniors Leah Graybill and Emily Williamson couldn’t help but to reminisce a little bit.

Back to their freshman year.

And back to their first time stepping into Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium.

It was then that Graybill and Williamson teamed up with Sam Shields and Deirdre White to win the District Three Triple-A gold medal in the 4×400 relay.

“We were so excited just to qualify for Districts,” Graybill recalled. “We won the 4×4 at that meet, and from then on, I was just like, ‘OK, if we can do that, we can do so much more.”

Boy, she wasn’t kidding.

Graybill, Williamson and their Warrior teammates were back at Shippensburg University last Friday and Saturday.

This time, there was nothing more to be achieved.

The Warwick girls were State Triple-A team champions.

“We have just grown so much,” Williamson said. “Our freshman year, we were just happy to make it to Districts for our relay, and now we’re coming to States for individual events, relays, jumping events, and it’s just crazy that we are going home today with the State title.”

“I think it’s just the best way to send off our seniors,” said junior Juliette Delmotte, who competed at States in the triple jump. “They’ve worked four years so hard, incredibly hard every single season, and this is the perfect way to top off their high school career.”

Naturally, emotions were high for everyone. None more so than head coach Alex Daecher, who became choked up talking about this magical journey.

“I’m still shaking a little bit, but it’s just pure joy,” Daecher said. “Every time those girls were asked to do something, they did it. They rose to every occasion from the time they were sophomores to now and they’re just unreal.”

The Warriors’ State title is the fifth PIAA team championship in Warwick’s showcase, joining three field hockey teams (1987, 1999, and 2000) and the boys soccer team in 2005.

“It still doesn’t feel real yet,” Graybill said.

In all, the Warwick girls took home seven medals from the State Championships.

Senior Kate Dickow started things off on Saturday with bronze in the 3,200 while breaking the PIAA record in 10:20.08 and it snowballed from there, with junior Lily Palacio-Lewis, Graybill, and junior Meghan Quinn finishing 2-3-4 in the 100, then Graybill adding another bronze in the 200, and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays winning silver and fourth-place medals, respectively.

“The hardest thing to do in any sport, I think, is consistency,” Daecher said. “If you’re consistent, you’ll win every basketball game because you make every shot. But they’re consistent through and through.”

In the end, the Warriors scored 44 points, ahead of runner-up North Penn (29), Strath Haven (26) and L-L rival Conestoga Valley (25).

“They’re just a great group of kids,” Daecher said. “They’re kids you can talk to and they’re likable and coachable. It’s not like they’re all doing their own thing. They would do whatever is asked of them.”

What was asked of Dickow in the 3,200-meter run was to get out and take the lead, which she did for the first seven laps.

“It’s definitely something I worked on this year,” Dickow said, “because when I was a younger athlete, it was harder for me to lead it. As a senior now, I’m more confident with it.”

Through the one-mile mark, she ran a split of 5:10 at the front of a pack of six runners, including Cedar Crest’s Gwyneth Young and Bethel Park’s Emily Carter.

“I just wanted to take it out at a good pace because sometimes, races go out slower in the State Meet, so people can just sit and kick,” Dickow said. That’s not really fair to everyone who works so hard to get here.”

Dickow continued to work hard as she and the leaders began to separate a little bit. On the final lap, Carter was right off of Dickow’s shoulder and kicked with just under 200 meters left, then went on to win the gold in 10:16.02 — just ahead of silver-medalist Reagan Underwood (10:18.96), of Wilson, and Dickow (10:20.08), who dropped her school record time of 10:28.2 by eight seconds.

The top three finishers all shattered the previous PIAA record of 10:21.06, set by Pennsbury’s Sara Sargent in 2010.

“I’m really happy with the season,” Dickow said. “I’d be happy with any medal. It’s just a privilege to be able to race here against so many great people.”

There were more great people in the 100.

And Hayden Robinson, of Avonworth/Northgate, had to be at her best to win the gold, crossing the finish line in 12.03 seconds. Palacio-Lewis (12.19) wasn’t far behind, and then Graybill (12.23) and Quinn (12.33) took third and fourth.

“We were crying (leading up to the 100),” Graybill said. “We realized this is our last 100 together. We wanted to come away and sweep it, but second, third and fourth is pretty unreal as well for the State Meet.”

“It’s crazy to be 2-3-4 in the 100 at the State Meet,” Daecher said. “It just shows how talented they are. They have a lot of talent and we have, I think, the best sprints coach in the State in Bobby Rhoads. And that showed today.”

What also showed was the girls’ fortitude, having also run two races in the 100 on Friday in the prelims and semi-finals just to advance.

“We knew this was going to be a long weekend for all of us,” Quinn said. “No matter how many races we’re running, it’s definitely mentally exhausting. But the adrenaline has kept us going and the support we’ve given one another is really strong. We had high goals and we’re meeting them.”

The adrenaline was still strong for Graybill, Williamson, Quinn, and Palacio-Lewis in the 4×100, in which Palacio-Lewis — on the anchor leg — nearly caught Harry S. Truman at the finish. In the end, the Tigers won the gold in 47.09 seconds, an eyelash ahead of the Warwick girls in 47.18.

“If we had, like, 20 more meters, I think we would have had it,” Graybill said.

“It was close,” Palacio-Lewis smiled. “It was kinda scary.”

To a runner, the Warriors admitted that it wasn’t easy handling the pressure of being a No. 1 seed.

“Like Meghan said, we’re all mentally exhausted,” Graybill said. “Being seeded first is a lot of pressure and to know we have a chance of winning this State Meet is also a lot of pressure. But I think after last week (at Districts), we were so successful that we were like, ‘Whatever happens at this meet, it’s the State Meet,’ so we wanted to come in and just have fun together for our last time on the track as a team.”

They also dropped their school and L-L record time of 47.25 seconds, set at the Penn Relays.

“Ever since Penn Relays, we hadn’t seemed to be able to bring our time down,” Graybill said, “but we did it today with some really good competition. So I think that’s definitely something to be proud of.”

In the 200, Graybill — who ran 10 total races in two days — came through with a bronze in 24.62 seconds, with Robinson winning silver by the slimmest of margins (24.61). Saucon Valley’s Talitha Diggs took gold in 23.88 seconds.

“I was stressed going into it just because I wasn’t sure what my seed was going to be,” Graybill said. “(Friday), I was kinda stressed after the 2 (semi-finals), so to come back and get third in that race was crazy as well. I’m really happy with it.”

In the final race of the seniors’ careers, the 4×400 relay — including Jessica Williamson, Quinn, Emily Williamson and Graybill — placed fourth in 3:53.16, barely behind Strath Haven (3:53.06), which held on for the bronze medal.

“That’s where we were seeded at, and at this point, it’s been a long weekend,” Quinn said, “so I think we all ran really great. We ran a second over our PR (3:52.39), which is not bad at all for this race, so I think all of us put the pieces together and it was a good last race together.”

Asked what she learned from Graybill, Emily Williamson and the other seniors, Quinn said, “One thing I’ve learned from them is that no matter how many medals or how many awards you get as a team, it always comes back to the people that you are and the friendships you’ve made along the way. (Leah and Emily) are the team captains this year, along with Jill (Colebert), and they’ve been really adamant to be a team and not just go for yourself. We can’t do it without each other.”

The Warriors’ State championship is proof of that.

“It’s nothing but pure joy,” Daecher said. “I’m super proud of them.”

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