NEPA Sports Nation

Church leads Dallas championship; DV star sprints into record book

PHOTO: Delaware Valley’s Taliyah Booker, left, and Dallas’ Alondra Church went head-to-head in the 200- and 400-meter dashes. (Zachary Allen Photo)

By Tom Robinson,

MOSCOW – Taliyah Booker and Alondra Church split their head-to-head battles Tuesday, each producing one winning sprint and coming away with something more.

Delaware Valley’s Booker left the District 2 Class 3A Track and Field Championships with one of the most impressive of the meet records.

Dallas’s Church went home with the knowledge that she had played a role in the team championship, along with her personal success.

Church won the 200-meter dash, qualified for the state meet with her performance while finishing second to Booker in the 400, then finished up by filling the anchor role on the closing 1600 relay victory that clinched the title and stretched the final margin of victory to 74½-57 over Pittston Area.

“Booker is someone that I’ve had my eye on since sophomore year,” Church said. “She was running amazing times sophomore year and I’ve used her as my motivation. She’s an amazing athlete; an amazing person and I honestly look up to her. I wanted to be just like her.”

When they met in the 400-meter dash final, Church turned in a performance very similar to what she saw from Booker two years ago.

In 2019, the last time District 2 track championships were held before the pandemic wiped out 2020 competition, Booker surpassed the previous record from Pittston Area’s Madison Mimnaugh in 2016 and qualified for the state meet with a time of 57.63. She did not, however, get to claim a district record or gold medal because Wallenpaupack’s Makenzie Turner was even faster, winning in 57.51.

Booker and Church were both even faster Tuesday.

Church went more than a half-second better than the Turner record with a time of 56.95, but she was not able to threaten Booker, who put a potentially discouraging season behind her with a sizzling time of 55.86.

“My school has had a lot of setbacks because every time we reach a threshold of cases, we shut down for a few days, no practices, no sports, nothing,” said Booker, who will run on an athletic scholarship at Purdue University.

The many COVID-19-related interruptions complicated a delicate injury for a sprinter, dealing with a problematic hamstring.

“It wasn’t anything too bad, but I didn’t want it to progress into anything worse, so I took some time off,” Booker said. “I was just motivated to come back and be where I was this winter.”

Booker ran her best-ever 400 time indoors in the winter in 55.45 and lowered her 200 time to 25.11.

“Those two times are what sparked all my D-I offers,” Booker.

Booker came up just shy of those times, but she was well aware of the time needed to set the 400 record.

“In 2019, I was second to (Turner), when she broke the record, but I was only about a tenth behind her,” Booker said. “I was coming for that record this year.”

Booker got there in what was arguably the meet’s most impressive single performance.

The best race of the night may have been the Booker-Church rematch in the 200, which also brought others, including 100-meter champion Jessica Cervenak from Tunkhannock, into the mix.

Qualifying for the state meet in Class 3A as a non-winner has often proved to be difficult for District 2 athletes, but four girls came in under the standard needed to qualify for the state meet.

This time, Church got to the finish line first, in 25.25, with Honesdale’s Rachel Collins (25.53), Cervenak (25.61) and Booker (25.66) in pursuit.

“I think it was a privilege to run against her, because without her I don’t think I would have done as well as I did,” Church said of Booker. “I strongly admire her and can’t wait to see what she does at states and what I do at states.

“I was seeded first in the 200 and she was seeded first in the 400. I definitely wanted to get first place in one of the two – I had never medaled in first place individually.

“When I lost the 400, I was so happy for her because I (set a personal record), which is what I wanted. But, then going into that 200, I had already run that 400; we had run a 200 prelim; and it had been a long, hot day. I just wanted to go out and run my hardest and I think I did that. I pushed her and she pushed me.”

Church also pulled along a younger group of teammates, including four freshmen medal winners, that allowed Dallas to beat out Pittston Area for the team title.

In a rematch of the season-ending dual meet in which Dallas won the battle of unbeatens to claim the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 title, Pittston Area kept the score closer this time.

With Giavanna Innamorati, the day’s only three-time gold medalist, and freshman Aria Messner leading the way, Pittston Area remained in contention until the final event of the night.

That event, however, was not one of the strengths for the Lady Patriots and included Dallas as a prohibitive favorite.

Shelby Pocono, Calli Ogurkis and Elizabeth Viglone got the batton to Church with a sizable lead. As the only one of 72 runners in the event to run her leg in under a minute, Church more than doubled the lead in both the race and the team standings as Dallas clinched the title.

“Our team has such young talent,” Church said. “They’re not going to be missing too many seniors next year and I think that if they can just follow in our footsteps and keep going with it, they can do this again and again.”

Church’s 200 and the 1600 relay were the only Dallas wins, but the Mountaineers took second and third in the other relays and scored with top-six finishes in 12 of 18 events total on the way to the title.

Innamorati led the way for Pittston Area by sweeping the hurdles and running a leg on the 400 relay that team that included Messner, Lauren LoPresto and Jakiya Kroon.

Messner’s victory in the triple jump kept the Lady Patriots in contention.

A fall in the 100 hurdles finals two years ago had spoiled Innamorati’s title hopes then, but she controlled the race right from the start, making the victory look easy, winning by more than second in 15.60.

“Those last three hurdles, I was just thinking to myself, ‘don’t hit them, don’t fall’,” said Innamorati, who later added her title in the 300 as a sixth seed.

Dallas and Pittston Area led the way as WVC teams claimed the top six spots in the standings while winning 15 of 18 events.

Hazleton Area, Berwick, Crestwood and Wyoming Valley West all finished above Scranton Prep, the Lackawanna Track Conference’s top finisher in seventh place.

Isabella Colyer won the pole vault and Ashley Bueso won the shot put for Hazleton Area. The Lady Cougars also qualified javelin thrower Abbey Hengst for the state meet.

Renny Murphy won the javelin, beating two other state qualifiers – Hengst and Allie Melchiorre, her Berwick teammate.

Crestwood’s Molly DeMarzo cruised to the 3200 title after her anchor leg rallied the Lady Comets to the win in the opening 3200 relay.

Instead of trying to win the difficult 1600-3200 double as a distance runner, DeMarzo helped bring three teammates to the state meet.

Emma Guydish, Regina Pirolli and Maggie Kozich kept Crestwood in second place, within striking distance of Dallas, when Kozich handed off to DeMarzo.

Jillian Bonczewski won the 800 and Fatikha Tiktova the high jump for Wyoming Valley West.

Rita Collins led the way for Scranton Prep, winning the 1600 and finishing second to Bonczewski.

Wallenpaupack’s Anastasia Ioppolo, in the long jump, and Nanticoke’s Sophia Lukowski, in the discus, were the other champions.

Booker chose to scratch from the 200 at the state meet to concentrate on the 400. Because she was an additional qualifier by meeting a state standard, her spot is not replaced in Shippensburg.


Team scoring: Dallas (D) 74 ½; Pittston Area (PA) 57; Hazleton Area (Haz) 51; Berwick (B) 50; Crestwood (Cr) 41; Wyoming Valley West (WVW) 37; Scranton Prep (SP) 29 ½; Delaware Valley (DV) 26; Honesdale (Hon) 26; Wilkes-Barre Area (WBA) 26; Wallenpaupack (Wal) 26; Tunkhannock (T) 25; Abington Heights (AH) 21; Scranton (Scr) 16; North Pocono (NP) 13; Nanticoke (N) 12; Hanover Area (Han) 10; Valley View (VV) 9; West Scranton (WS) 8.

100: Jessica Cervenak (Cr) 12.34; Rachel Collins (Hon) 12.64; Lylah Mosley (WS) 12.87; Jakiya Kroon (PA) 13.15; Roelle Alguirre (T) 13.21; Emma Sheloski (Cr) 13.36.

200: Alondra Church (D) 25.25; Rachel Collins (Hon) 25.53; Jessica Cervenak (T) 25.61; Taliyah Booker (DV) 25.66; Lylah Mosley (WS) 26.77; Jakiya Kroon (PA) 27.11.

400: Taliyah Booker (DV) 55.86; Alondra Church (D) 56.95; Rachel Collins (Hon) 59.79; Elizabeth Viglone (D) 1:02.05; Abby Seely (B) 1:02.80; Marygrace Sabatini (AH) 1:03.15.

800: Jillian Bonczewski (WVW) 2:23.33; Rita Collins (SP) 2:26.14; Trinity Basara (Dal) 2:27.77; Maddie Fleschut (Dal) 2:28.88; Mikayla Zabrowski

1600: Rita Collins (SP) 5:18.07; Emily Franklin (NP) 5:27.24; Aracelia Denhalter (DV) 5:38.11; Brenna Dahlgren (Hon) 5:39.00; Kaye Meler (DV) 5:39.40; Jillian Wolk (Haz) 5:41.18.

3200: Molly DeMarzo (Cr) 11:30.28; Bella Noreika (Scr) 11:42.46; Avery Tompkins (SP) 11:48.51; Emily Franklin (NP) 12:04.48; Maggie Kozich (Cr) 12:12.06; Ellie Kozich (Cr) 12:20.18.

100 hurdles: Giavanna Innamorati (PA) 15.60; Lexi Nevel (B) 16.65; Kayla Kresge (Cr) 16.79; Isabella Colyer (Haz) 16.79; Anastasia Ioppolo (Wal) 17.06; Shelby Pocono (D) 17.24.

300 hurdles: Giavanna Innamorati (PA) 47.19; Esabella Mendola (WBA) 47.67; Calli Ogurkis (D) 47.72; Sophia Filali (D) 48.67; Jyanna Mendola (WBA) 48.86; Anastasia Ioppolo (Wal) 49.23.

400 relay: Pittston Area (Lauren LoPresto, Aria Messner, Giavanna Innamorati, Jakiya Kroon) 50.06; Wilkes-Barre Area 51.84; Dallas 51.87; Valley View 51.89; Abington Heights 52.03; Tunkhannock 52.06.

1600 relay: Dallas (Shelby Pocono, Calli Ogurkis, Elizabeth Viglone, Alondra Church) 4:07.51; Wilkes-Barre Area 4:14.73; Abington Heights 4:16.48; Crestwood 4:17.26; Valley View 4:18.51; North Pocono 4:21.52.

3200 relay: Crestwood (Emma Guydish, Regina Pirolli, Maggie Kozich, Molly DeMarzo) 9:59.93; Dallas 10:00.37; Abington Heights 10:14.44; Scranton 10:18.43; Hazleton Area 10:29.43; Valley View 10:35.76.

Long jump: Anastasia Ioppolo (Wal) 17-3; Aria Messner (PA) 16-10 ½; Lauren Festa (Haz) 16-10 ½; Brooke Acoveno (DV) 16-8 ½; Noelle Alguire (T) 16-4 ½; Lauren LoPresto (PA) 15-11.

Triple jump: Aria Messner (PA) 35-3; Lauren Festa (Haz) 34-8 ½; Brianna Dempsey (D) 34-5; Anastasia Ioppolo (Wal) 33-11 ¾; Isabella Popson (Han) 33-6 ¾; Faitkha Tiktova (WVW) 33-5 ½.

High jump: Fatikha Tiktova (WVW) 5-5; Isabella Popson (Han) 5-3; Taylor Woodeschick (B) 5-3; Avery McNulty (SP) 5-1; Anna Scoblick (AH) 5-1; Aria Messner (PA) 4-11.

Pole vault: Isabella Colyer (Haz) 11-0; Julia Lazo (Cr) 11-0; Stephanie Felmy (Wal) 10-0; Isabella Allen (AH) 10-0; tie Jennifer Simrell (SP) 9-6 and Calli Ogurkis (D) 9-6.

Shot put: Ashley Bueso (Haz) 36-10 ¼; CC Isenberg (B) 36-4; Brandy Varner (WVW) 35-1 ½; Felicity Martin (Scr) 34-9 ¾; Emmanuela Kier (Wal) 32-4 ¾; Sophia Lukowski (N) 32-4 ¼.

Discus: Sophaia Lukowski (N) 118-7; Brandy Varner (WVW) 112-3; Allie Melchiorre (B) 104-6; Jackie Nevel (B) 102-4; Kiara Kane (WVW) 100-11; Ashley Bueso (Haz) 97-10.

Javelin: Renny Murphy (B) 145-7; Abbey Hengst (Haz) 137-0; Allie Melchiorre (B) 134-4; Lorelai Paxton (T) 116-10; Alissa Koniszewski (VV) 114-0; Aby Cullen (N) 110-6.

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