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May 29—SHIPPENSBURG — Matching the speed she showed circling the track, the public address announcer at Seth Grove Stadium declared Melissa Riggins a three-time state champion in the 1,600 meters as soon as she crossed the finish line.

A little later Friday, Riggins also won the 800 meters for the third time in her career. She became only the sixth girl in WPIAL history to win six PIAA gold medals in individual events, yet the Shady Side Academy senior couldn’t help but wonder what could have been as she made her final appearance at the PIAA Class AA track and field championships.

“It feels amazing,” Riggins said. “Obviously, I was going for the four-peat. Things happened. We didn’t have a season. But to be back here, to be competing with everyone, to be able to run 4:48, I’m pretty happy with that.”

No WPIAL girl had ever won eight, but the pandemic stole that chance when the 2020 season was canceled. Greensburg Central Catholic thrower Colleen Rosensteel was the closest with seven individual PIAA golds.

But Riggins, a Georgetown track and soccer recruit, won’t dwell on the past. She tried to find time Friday to look around, absorb the atmosphere and enjoy the moment.

“Not during the race,” she said with a laugh, “but before the race and now, I’m like, ‘Wow, it’s my last race.’ It’s crazy. Time flies.”

So did she, around the track.

The 1,600-meters time she ran Friday — 4 minutes, 48.91 seconds — was only about a tenth of a second away from the personal best she ran her sophomore season. And truthfully, the clock was her only real opposition this spring.

Riggins won the 1,600 by more than 12 seconds and beat the 800-meter field by five seconds. With her grandparents in the crowd, having driven in from Florida, she ran her career record to 64-0 in individual races on Pennsylvania tracks.

“I love being back in Shippensburg,” Riggins said. “And it’s not too hot.”

The only other former WPIAL girls to win six individual gold medals, not counting relays, were Rochester’s Lauryn Williams, Laurel Highlands’ Breehana Jacobs, Thomas Jefferson’s Marla Puryear and Wilmington’s Kathy Travers.

Rosensteel and Williams went on to become Olympians. Someday, Riggins hopes to add her name to the list.

“It’s always a dream,” Riggins said. “I think, ‘I’m doing pretty good,’ and then you check out the Olympic qualifying times, and I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ Or you watch Athing Mu on TV and she is just amazing, so spectacular. What a runner to watch.

“I hope one day I can just race them and be in that kind of great company.”

In all, eight WPIAL athletes and one relay team won PIAA gold Friday. Among the girls were Brownsville’s Jolena Quarzo (3,200), Waynsburg’s Taylor Shriver (pole vault), South Park’s Maddie Raymond (100) and Quaker Valley’s Nora Johns (300 hurdles). The boys winners were North Catholic’s Trevor Paschall (200), Deer Lakes’ Carson McCoy (1,600) and Riverside’s Cody Belczyk (800).

Belczyk also ran the anchor leg on Riverside’s winning 1,600-meter relay.

The state championship was divided into two one-day meets this year with Class AA on Friday and AAA on Saturday.

The weather was cool with temperatures in the 60s. There was rain in the afternoon, but most of the meet was relatively dry.

For runners, Riggins described the weather as perfect.

“Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” she said, “considering what I’ve had all season long. It’s a really happy day.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at or via Twitter .