Apr. 25—Teamwork is the best word to describe what it takes to become a successful relay team in track.
Teamwork was key when the 2017 Norwin boys 1,600-meter relay team won the PIAA Class AAA title and when the Hempfield girls won consecutive 400-meter titles in ’13 and ’14.
Achieving what that Norwin team did is the motivation coach Thom Swenson uses as he prepares his current relay teams.
Swenson not only is Norwin’s head coach, he is the relay coach.
“That was a special group of guys,” Swenson said. “They worked hard, and they were talented.”
Norwin’s relay teams look to be strong again.
The 400 boys team finished fourth at the Lady Spartan/Wildcat Invitational on April 16, and the girls were second. Both 3,200-meter relay teams finished sixth.
The boys 400 and 1,600 relays placed fourth at the Butler Invitational on Friday.
Senior Connor Chrisman said he remembers the 2017 state champs, especially Gianni Rizzo.
“I look up to him a lot,” Chrisman said. “The team put up some great times and records.”
Rizzo was a sophomore on that team along with seniors Josh Coleman, Nick Coleman and Kyle Turcovski, which ran a 3 minute, 18.26 seconds at the state meet.
Teamwork is only one thing a relay team must perfect. Timing, consistency and speed are some of the other keys. Handoffs must be flawless.
“Obviously, we want to be better than they were,” Chrisman said. “We look up to them every day.”
Running track is something new to senior Nathan Bown. He is one of the guys trying to crack the starting lineup.
“We have to continue to work on our handoffs,” Bown said.
Swenson said the starting relays remain a work in progress. He hopes to have the top four in each settled by the Baldwin Invitational on May 6.
Right now Noah Dudik, Bown, Dom Barca, Tony Sacco and Chrisman are battling for spots in the 400 relay. Chrisman is being slowed by a leg injury.
The 1,600 squad has Brendon Ash, John Dodaro, Noah Kirsch, Luke Weyandt, Dudik and Anthony Singer competing.
“We have some good athletes battling for the positions,” Swenson said. “They’re all getting stronger. Depth makes us better. Everyone is pulling for each other.”
The girls also are working hard, and Swenson expects them to be strong. Like the boys, the girls have a lot of talent and depth.
All three girls relay teams placed third at the Butler Invitational on Saturday.
“The athletes are taking advantage of what they missed in 2020,” Swenson said. “They continue to work hard. They take care of themselves and focus on their opportunities. This is a first for a lot of sophomores who missed their freshman season because of the coronavirus.”
Senior Jordyn Turcovski added: “We have to continue to work hard ,and our handoffs must improve in all phases of the relay. We all work hard, and we are driven to get better. We feel we can make anything happen.
“Our expectations are to place first, second and third in every event and to run our best and break our personal record.”
Turcovski is part of the 400 relay with Nataiah Robertson-Dutrieuill, Layla Robertson and Jaden Streussnig.
Battling for spots on the 1,600 squad are Bernadette Zukina, Bri Hatok, Layla Robertson, Alex Walton and Anna DeFazio.
“We just trying to do our best,” Zukina said. “We’re good as a group, and our friendship and unity is very together. I think that’s more important. We work well together and have fun with it.”
And while a lot teams have goals, Zukina said the group hasn’t talked about it yet.
They’re just trying to let their performance do the talking.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .