Leah Graybill did not want to join Warwick's varsity track and field team as a freshman. She was enjoying an unprecedented run in the sprints with her middle-school teammates and friends, Lily Palacio-Lewis and Meghan Quinn, who were still in eighth grade.
But another friend, Emily Williamson, was making the varsity jump as a freshman. She convinced Graybill to join her, and Warwick's dynamic four-year run, culminating with a PIAA Class 3A team championship, was underway.
Track and field, in its elemental form, deals with the ego. It pushes athletes toward personal records and individual glory. But the Warwick girls' run to a PIAA team title in May — the first Lancaster-Lebanon League girls' title since McCaskey's captured the Class 3A crown in 1992 — was as remarkable for its absence of ego, as much as it was for its abundance of individual talent and accolades.
PIAA Track and Field: Warwick is the state Class 3A team champion. pic.twitter.com/wvnZc9XSO9— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 25, 2019
SHIPPENSBURG — Through every tightly contested race and every muscle-draining workout, every…
"They're unreal," said Alex Daecher, Warwick's head coach, with tears in his eyes and a hitch in his throat on the Shippensburg University infield, where the Warriors lifted the trophy and posed for pictures. "Just their pure selflessness. We didn't get a single first(-place finish at the state meet). Of course, Leah could've maybe done it in a couple events. Lily could've. But they wanted to do this (together)."
A triple threat in the sprints
Graybill had helped set the tone for the Warriors' ascent as a freshman, collaborating with Williamson on a District Three championship-winning 4x400-meter relay. Four years later, on the same track at Shippensburg's Seth Grove Stadium, she took on a PIAA gauntlet, running 10 races, including preliminary heats, over the two-day meet. She captured bronze in the 100 and the 200, silver in the 4x100 relay and a fourth-place medal in the 4x400 relay.
"Of course, it would have been better for Leah to run only a couple events," Daecher said, "but she wanted to win the state title for her school. It just showed great selflessness."
Since joining Graybill on the varsity level, Palacio-Lewis and Quinn also shined in the sprints under the tutelage of Bobby Rhoads, "the best sprints coach in the state" in Daecher's estimation. Strong individually and stronger together, the trio reached the state final finishing second (Palacio-Lewis), third (Graybill) and fourth (Quinn). At the end of the race, the three sprinters shared a hug, as they had dozens of times before at big meets, no matter the order of finish. Shortly after, the trio joined Williamson for their second-place run in the 4x100 relay.
Warwick's Lily Palacio-Lewis, Leah Graybill and Meghan Quinn take second (12.19), third (12.23) and fourth (12.33) in the PIAA Class 3A 100-meter dash final. Hayden Robinson of Avonworth won the title at 12.03. pic.twitter.com/JSQxgODrIK— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 25, 2019
"They're consistent, through and through," said Daecher, who stepped down as the Warriors' head coach after the state meet. "They go out there, and they do it again and again and again and again, and under every pressure situation, from a little dual meet — They don't take it easy; they go as hard as they can — up until now, when it's the biggest stage, and there's so much riding on it."
But the Warriors' success extended beyond the sprints.
Dickow's distinguished distance run
Senior Kate Dickow had developed into one of Pennsylvania's premier distance runners. She won the 3,000-meter title at the state indoor meet in February and attacked the L-L League's record books in the spring. She picked up Warwick's first points at states, finishing third in the 3,200 at 10:20.08, a personal record, and breaking the previous meet record. Dickow had also broken meet records at districts — where she finished second — and at the L-L League meet, where she won her second title in three years. When she crossed the finish line ahead of the pack at the league meet, she turned to watch her teammate, Anna Martin, finish fourth to earn a league medal.
"I always wait at the end," Dickow said, "for my teammates to finish. When (Anna) finished, I was there."
Warwick's Kate Dickow takes third (10:20.08) and Cedar Crest's Gwyneth Young fourth (10:21.86) in the PIAA Class 3A 3,200. Bethel Park's Emily Carter takes the title at 10:16.02. The top 3 broke the old PIAA record. pic.twitter.com/Af3PqBeHrP— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 25, 2019
Delmotte's formidable field performance
Juliette Delmotte had led the charge for Warwick in the field events. She fouled out at the state meet in the triple jump, but the junior had battled from an early season injury to help the Warriors earn their second straight L-L Section One title. She repeated as the league's triple jump champion, finished second in the long jump at leagues and earned her triple jump state berth with a third-place finish at districts, which helped Warwick lock up its second straight District Three team crown.
"It's nice to show that we have some dimension," Delmotte said of Warwick's field-event success, "and can score points in more than just the sprints."
That's a triple jump of 36-0.5 for Warwick's Juliette Delmotte. She's the leader through the first set of jumps. pic.twitter.com/JALu4CNKRc— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 10, 2019
Key contributions from Williamsons
It was the last race of the final day of the state meet. Warwick had already locked up the team title, but the Warriors had more hardware to win in the 4x400 relay. Fittingly, Williamson handed off to Graybill on the final exchange of Warwick's fourth-place finish.
"She was a huge backbone for us," Daecher said of Williamson. "In two relays, to go second in the state (in the 4x100) and fourth in the state (in the 4x400), she's a huge contributor."
Warwick's Leah Graybill takes the baton from Emily Williamson in the final exchange of the 4x400 relay. Jessica Williamson, Meghan Quinn, Emily Williamson and Graybill finish fourth in the PIAA Class 3A final at 3:53.16. pic.twitter.com/we2F5pQopq— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 25, 2019
Jessica Williamson, Emily's younger sister, also contributed to the medal-winning run in the 4x400, joining Emily, Graybill and Quinn. A sophomore, and one of three Williamson sisters on the Warwick roster, Jessica had filled in midway through the season when injuries hampered the Warriors' 4x400 lineup.
"She did so well," Graybill said after Jessica anchored Warwick's 4x400 at the Penn Relays. "We're really proud of her."
As the state meet wound down, and the finality set in for the Warwick seniors, Cassidy Kline stood at her teammates' side. Kline, a junior, had missed most of the season due to injury. She had given the Warriors a boost in the sprints and the hurdles during the team's strides toward a state title, helping Warwick's 4x200 relay team strike gold at the state indoor meet before sitting on the sidelines for most of the spring. On the infield at Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium, as the seniors wrestled with their mixed emotions, Kline helped lift their spirits before they lifted the trophy, another selfless act for a selfless team that claimed a state title and cemented its place in L-L track and field history.