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High School Track and Field: Immaculata making jump to local dominance, national level

Immaculata freshman Meghan Krawiec followed in the footsteps of senior standout Kaitlyn Lopez by qualifying to jump in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. They both also helped the Bears dominate as a group in Western New York meets. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
Lopez, Krawiec compete in national competition

Though the jumping pit behind Immaculata Academy may be considered somewhat rudimentary when compared to other schools that have their own full-fledged track and field complexes, it’s become the starting point for producing a group of athletes excelling in that facet of the sport.

It’s where Penn State-bound Kaitlyn Lopez got her start in the long and triple jumps and where the Immaculata senior has helped Bears’ head coach Charlie Planz mold a group of athletes who have helped create somewhat of a jumping central for Western New York track and field and even gotten the school some national recognition.

Lopez qualified and competed for a second straight season at the New Balance Outdoor Track and Field Nationals in Greensboro, NC over the weekend. This year, she was joined by freshman teammate Meghan Krawiec, who is one of several young Immaculata athletes helping give the school a reputation as a jumping powerhouse.

“When Kaitlyn was talking to the University at Albany, who was also interested in her attending, they wanted to know more about our school’s track facility,” Planz said. “They were in awe that we basically jump in the parking lot; to do what she’s done with the lack of a dedicated track and field facility they thought was unbelievable. We may not be working with a complex like some area schools, but we’ve taken advantage of what we have and made it work.”

So much so that five Immaculata jumpers, three of whom are freshman, can now land leaps of 32 feet or better in the triple jump. Planz said most high school competitors are only jumping 27 to 28 feet on regularity.

The Bears rode their jumpers to the top four places at the All-Catholics Championships and then were the only school in Catholic State competition to have more than two athletes qualify. Allie Drosda and freshman Katie Lukasiewicz competed there along with Krawiec and Lopez. Planz noted freshman Grace Attea also qualified but did not attend due to an injury.

“To have that many jumpers over 32 feet is a coach’s dream. It’s really unheard of at this level,” said Planz, whose team won an All-Catholics track and field title for a third straight season. “It’s such an asset at Invites and in championship meets, and it’s only going to grow. What Kaitlyn has taught them is something they should certainly put to good use and expand upon in years to come.”

Lopez helped create and lead the surge of jumping at Immaculata when she began to take on the long and triple jumps last year. Now, the school’s record-holder with a 39-1.5 in the triple jump and 18-9.75 in the long jump, Lopez has shared much of the knowledge of how she got there.

“Last year when I started jumping here, there wasn’t much of a jumping program,” Lopez said. “But this year, I tried to teach the younger girls, like Meghan, what I know from camps that I’ve been to and what coaches have taught me. I’m just trying to pass on all that I know to them and it’s been really good watching the program bloom. We have five or six good jumpers coming up, so the program should only get better.”

Krawiec took her first stab at jumping this year and could not have had a better mentor to help her along the way.

“Kaitlyn was really good with teaching all of us and not putting too much pressure on us to learn it really quick,” Krawiec said. “She really knows what she is talking about so it’s really been helpful for us all to catch on. She’s always giving us helpful tips and giving us things to think about while we’re jumping to get better every time. It also helped challenge us to do better every meet.”

Jumpers like Krawiec also wouldn’t mind following in their teammates’ footsteps as Lopez readies to compete at the Division I level next year. Lopez actually began to attract that type of attention after winning the Emerging Elite Division in the long jump at last year’s national track and field event.

She received a packet from Penn State after that and was sold pretty quickly by the school’s level of athletics and academics.

“I think they’ll help me get to places I want to go,” Lopez noted.

This year, Lopez made the qualifying standards for the Championship Division of the long and triple jumps at the national event. She took 14th in field of 25 competitors with a 17-10.25 in the long jump. She fouled in her third and last attempt which Planz believed would have been around 19 feet. In the triple jump, she finished 21st of the 31 competitors with a 38-00.75.

The move up from the Emerging Elite was a real challenge, Lopez admitted, but she was able to gain confidence from making a second appearance in a national competition.

“The girls were a lot better this year, but I think it was good overall for me because those are the girls I’m going to be competing against next year so it kind of opened my eyes and gave me a good idea for next year,” Lopez said.

Planz agreed it was a good barometer for what she’ll see at the next level. “This is the type of atmosphere she’s going to be involved in over the next four years or longer,” he noted.

Krawiec was a bit overwhelmed having to compete against some of the nation’s top jumpers, many of whom were sophomores and juniors. She finished 24th out of 30 in the long jump with a 16-03.75, and in the triple jump, was 21st with a 35-01.25. Her personal best this season were a 37-4.5 in the triple jump and 16-8 in the long jump.

“Most of the girls were a lot older than me so it was a little intimidating, but I think I’ve learned you’ve got to focus and do your best,” Krawiec said. “It was definitely a good experience and it exposed me to that kind of competition and hopefully it will help me do better in the future.”

Planz sees a bright future ahead for Krawiec and maybe a new jumping mate will join her in national competition next year.

“It was whole different environment, dealing with national quality jumpers,” Planz said. “Meghan does have the capability but I think she was somewhat set back by the atmosphere. Next year, I think it will be a different story.”

Although she’ll be pretty occupied by her own competing, Lopez is hoping to be around to see it and just maybe continue to have an influence at the school.

“I’m excited to see what they do and if they get even more jumpers,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to come back and help coach, too.”


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