Baldwin Invitational draws top runner
The 28th Baldwin Invitational will feature one of the nation’s top female distance runners in The Baldwin School’s Julia Pudlin, who hails not from the host school but rather a private school in suburban Philadelphia.
Don’t be confused. Just get ready.
The stage has been set for a showdown between Pudlin, a junior from Bryn Mawr, and West Allegheny senior Lauren Shaffer. They have developed a rivalry this season that is expected to be captured tonight in what could be the nation’s largest single-day high school track and field meet.
The Baldwin Invitational features 153 schools from 93 districts.
Shaffer beat Pudlin in the 3,000 meters at the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association indoor championships this past winter at Penn State. Pudlin edged Shaffer in a two-three finish in the high school division of the 3,000 at the Penn Relays this past weekend in Philadelphia.
Baldwin track and field coach Ed Helbig, director of the Baldwin Invitational, said that Pudlin is ranked No. 5 among the nation’s high school distance runners, so he extended an invite to her while at the Princeton, N.J., Relays.
|28th Baldwin Invitational|
| When: Friday Trials: 12:30 p.m. Finals: 6:15 p.m. Boys events to watch:
100 meters: Marc Mitchell, North Hills; Derek Skillings, Derry Area; Jason Williams, McKeesport; Joe Webb, Ringgold;
800 meters Eric Miller, Woodland Hills; John McGee, Butler; Dan Collier, Highlands;
1,600 meters Dan Mazzocco, Baldwin; Sam Bair, Shaler;
400-meter relay Derry, Erie Cathedral Prep, McKeesport, Schenley, Woodland Hills;
Shot put Tyler Reed, Thomas Jefferson; Lanfer Simpson, Waynesburg.
Girls events to watch: 100 meters Lauryn Williams, Rochester; Patricia Price, Schenley; Ashley Cochran, Kiski Area; Kharma Lowe, Thomas Jefferson;
1,600-meter relay Bethel Park, Butler, Great Valley, Hempfield, McDowell;
Pole vault Jocelyn Lindsay, Waynesburg; Jackie Rodgers, Baldwin; Emily Tharpe, McDowell;
400-meter relay Chartiers Valley, Great Valley, Kiski Area, McKeesport, Penn Hills, Schenley.
‘We went to the Princeton Relays at the end of January and saw her there, and I approached her about coming to the Baldwin Invitational,’ Helbig said of Pudlin, who recorded a top-10 time in the nation with a 4:59.32 in the mile at the Princeton Relays. ‘We sort of adopted her because she’s from Baldwin.’
Helbig said one ironic twist is that only days after West Allegheny coach Jim Hamilton faxed a request to move Shaffer from the 3,200-meter run to the 800, Pudlin’s father called and asked if she could make a similar move.
‘What’s funny is,’ Helbig said, ‘neither one knew what was going on.’
Another irony is that Pudlin’s mother, who works here at PNC Bank, won’t have to travel far to watch her race. She normally flies home on the weekends, but, this time, only has to commute across town to her watch her daughter race.
Pudlin and Shaffer are tops among a strong field in the 800- and 1,600-meter runs, which include Butler’s Crystal Epps, Hempfield’s Lauren Bricker and Peters Township’s Jessica Perry. The girls’ 1,600 meter final is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. and the girls’ 800 for 8:50 p.m.
‘The quality of the meet has become so good,’ Helbig said. ‘This is the one that everyone looks at because they go at each other in this meet.’
The Baldwin School doesn’t compete in the PIAA, so this might be the best chance Shaffer has to compare herself to the state’s top distance runner.
Pudlin, a junior, finished eighth at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships in Orlando this past December. Pudlin has recorded the state’s fastest time in the 1,600 with a 5:01.49 on March 31, which is nearly eight seconds better than Shaffer’s personal best of (5:09.1) this season.
Tonight, they’ll settle the score.