By Matt Popchock
Every once in a while we get a kick out of seeing what WPIAL alumni are up to, and starting this weekend the entire world will get to share in the celebration of western Pennsylvania’s proud athletic heritage.
A number of natives will have the opportunity to represent their country in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Before the goings-on get going on in London, here are a few to whom you should pay attention:
Lauryn Williams – It’s been a roller-coaster ride to global glory for this Beaver County product. Along with future WPIAL champion Derek Moye, she gave Rochester two of the premier track stars in the WPIAL since the turn of the century, and she won silver in the 100 meters at Athens in 2004. But her relay team was DQ’d in the ’08 Beijing Games, and she just fell short in the 2011 Olympic trials for the 100. Still, she’ll get a shot at redemption as she runs with the U.S. women’s relay team this year.
Jake Herbert – Interestingly enough, I remember his brother Josh as a standout on North Allegheny’s state championship hockey team in 2007, and, in fact, scoring one of the more incredible goals I’ll probably ever see in the ’07 Pennsylvania Cup. But this time brother Jake is trying to build upon his own legacy. He was an accomplished wrestler for that school, and went on to win the Hodge Trophy, the Heisman of that sport, at Northwestern. He’ll try for more hardware in London in just a couple weeks, when the 185-pound freestyle events commence.
Swin Cash – It isn’t every day Pat Summitt comes to Pittsburgh, but many years ago, while the McKeesport girls were on their way to a WPIAL Class AAAA crown, everybody who was anybody in major college hoops wanted to get a look at the future WNBA forward. Instead Cash, a high school All-American, got a ride to longtime rival UConn, where she helped the Huskies win two national titles before her professional coronation with the Detroit Shock and Seattle Storm. After four straight gold medals, can she, under college coach Geno Auriemma, help the U.S. get No. 5?
Meghan Klingenberg – She may not get her first taste of Olympic action in London–Meghan made the U.S. women’s soccer team as an alternate midfielder–but that alone is a significant honor for such an exceptional young player. Klingenberg, an All-American team captain and PIAA champion at Pine-Richland, earned a scholarship to North Carolina, a varitable Mecca of collegiate soccer, before gaining valuable playing time with the U.S. national team. Don’t be surprised if she makes an even bigger impact in the 2016 Rio de Janiero Games.
Meanwhile, our WPIAL football broadcast partner, the MSA Sports Network, has provided some excellent Olympic previews as well. To learn more about western Pennsylvania’s role in this Olympiad, check out these profiles, courtesy of MSA’s Mike Azadian:
—Waynesburg native Coleman Scott will compete for the U.S. in the 132-pound freestyle wrestling class.
—Hopewell alumnus Christa Harmotto, sibling of former Hopewell football quarterback Nolan Harmotto, will line up as middle-blocker for the women’s volleyball team, and she is also one of a couple Penn State grads to represent America in said event.
—Montour graduate Cassidy Krug, one of the most decorated divers in modern PIAA history, will go for gold in the three-meter event.
(Special thanks to Brandon Boyd of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Meredith Qualls of Trib Total Media for their contributions to this post.)
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)