ST. MARYS — Some athletes are great at one sport or perhaps two, but Elk County Catholic senior Taylor Newton is one of the rare ones who excels at every one she plays.
And for the Lady Crusader, that makes her a three-sport standout who competes in volleyball, basketball and track and field. Given her success, and accolades, in all three there was never a question of would she play sports — just which one or ones.
That question was recently answered when Newton signed her national letter of intent to compete in track and field at the Division I level at the University of Pittsburgh, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
“I was extremely fortunate that I had lot of opportunities to continue track and/or volleyball at the collegiate level,” said Newton. “This summer and fall was definitely crazy with all the college visits, but when I visited Pitt I immediately knew it was the right fit for me academically and athletically.”
Newton added that academics played a huge role in her decision.
“I plan on majoring in occupational therapy, and the University of Pittsburgh has a fantastic program for my major,” she said. “Academics are most important, and I knew that if I went to Pitt, I would be getting the very best education for my particular major.”
So, track became the sport of choice for Newton, who received All-State honors in all three of her sports last year (2018-19) as a junior. She said track moved to the forefront during that impressive junior season.
“I absolutely love all three sports that I do,” said Newton. “Up until my sophomore year, I was pretty much back-and-forth between wanting to play volleyball or run track in college. However, my junior year came around and I just fell in love with track. I absolutely love it and knew there was no doubt I wanted to do it in college.
“I am so thankful for so many amazing people that made this possible. I am extremely fortunate that I have the best coaches around, and teammates as well. My family has also been unbelievably supportive, and I am so grateful for everything they’ve done for me.”
Newton is the reigning PIAA Class 2A girls high jump champion in the state of Pennsylvania. The Lady Crusader was one of two competitors to clear 5-7 in the event and bested Beaver sophomore Emma Pavalek for the gold medal based on having fewer misses.
By striking gold, Newton won the Lady Crusaders’ ninth state title in program history and first since Kennedy Weisner won the 800- and 1,600-meter runs in 2014. Newton is the second state champion in the high jump, joining Laura Skok who cleared 5 feet, 5 inches to win the state title back in 1991.
Newton consistently cleared 5-6 last season, winning her second District 9 title at that height, while clearing a personal-best height of 5 feet, 7 3/4 inches in a dual meet against Kane. Both of those heights would already make her Pitt’s best female jumper, as Lady Panther Breanna Phillips cleared a team-best 1.65 meters (just over 5 feet, 4 inches) at last spring’s ACC Championships.
The PIAA medal was the second in as many trips to states for Newton, who tied for fourth place in 2018 as a sophomore. She was one of six jumpers to clear 5-4 (second-best height) but placed fourth based on misses.
Newton’s all-state accolades in volleyball and basketball also are well-deserved, and she very well could have decided to play either at the next level as well.
She put together a monster junior year a season ago in basketball, earning Tri-County Sunday/Courier Express Player of the Year honors after averaging a double-double on the season. She finished with 392 points (17.0 ppg) and 232 rebounds (10.5 rpg). Newton enters her final season on the hardwood on the threshold of 1,000 career points, she currently sits at 942.
Newton also went well over the 1,000-kill mark in her volleyball career, hitting the milestone number in the first week of this past season against cross-town rival St. Marys.
By signing her letter of intent at Pitt, Newton becomes the latest in a long line of ECC tack and field athletes to compete at the Division I level.
She joins recent fellow state champs Megan Dornisch (2011 graduate, Akron) and Kennedy Weisner (2014, Georgetown) in doing so, along with the likes of Alex Brazinski (2009, LaSalle), Kady Weisner (2010, Bucknell/St. Bonaventure), Victoria Dippold (2015, Pitt) and Nicole Florio (2015), another high jumper who went on to compete at Robert Morris.
“Our school has such amazing coaches that truly sacrifice and do so much for us,” said Newton of being the latest D-I athlete (boy or girl) to come out of the ECC program. “I’m extremely thankful that I am able to be a part of of it, and I think that the success so many athletes have achieved throughout the years is a huge reflection of what a great job our school and coaches do.
“I have a lot of (my) senior year left, and I really look forward to it.”