Abby Norwillo lost all track of time. She thought there would be time to get back to Genetti’s in Wilkes-Barre for Pittston Area’s prom.
At one point, she would have had 20 minutes to get ready after making the drive back from Shippensburg University. There was only one problem. She had to stand on the podium following her fifth place performance at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Track and Field Championships.
She made it to Genetti’s a little late to join her sister Haley, but with a little more weight around her neck.
Abby broke her own school record by clearing 12 feet in the pole vault Friday, May 27 and earned a fifth place medal for her performance. She said doing it in front of such a large crowd “was amazing.”
“The atmosphere was incredible — the crowd was huge and everyone was cheering for everyone,” she said. “Being able to set a new personal record and school record in that kind of setup added to all of it.”
An 18th seed coming in, the Pittston Area sophomore wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the last few pole vaulters competing for the state title. But Abby kept clearing each height while watching 27 other competitors in the event fall out.
She went on to win tiebreakers with two other girls to secure her medal. Her vault of 12 feet broke her previous record of 11 feet, 6 inches. When it was all said and done, she was happy to be a part of it all.
“I knew I was capable of getting to 12 feet and I practiced really hard for it,” she said. “It was just putting it all together in the right moment. If that got me a medal it would be icing on the cake.”
After she found out she was going home with hardware, Abby said she was in shock.
“I had butterflies in my stomach,” she said. “It felt unreal.”
Over the years, Abby has expanded her skills beyond the pole vault.
At the 2015 Les Richards Swimming and Diving Invitational, the then-freshman took gold. That same year, she took home a bronze at the PIAA District 2 Diving Championships. An injury hampered her performance this past diving season, but she said she will work to get back on the medal stand this winter. She gave way to teammate Madi Osticco, who won district gold this season.
Over the past several years, the Norwillo name has been synonymous with Pittston Area athletics.
Elder sister Haley, a Pittston Area outgoing senior, was a standout lacrosse and field hockey player for the Patriots. She eclipsed the 100-goal plateau in lacrosse as a junior and is headed to Chestnut Hill College to continue her career.
Haley said she found out her younger sister won a medal while she was getting ready for prom. She said the two are “best friends.”
“I never knew much about pole vaulting and I thought it was incredible,” Haley said. “To see it pay off at states was incredible.”
The sisters have both dealt with injuries, specifically Haley’s ACL tear prior to her senior lacrosse season. She worked hard to get back and returned the field for the playoffs.
“She pushed through that and worked so hard to get back to do what she loved,” Abby said. “That put it in perspective for me. I know it’s in me to work that much harder.”
Behind the scenes in the Norwillo family are parents John and Holly Norwillo. Last year, Abby started practicing her pole vaulting skills every Sunday in New York state. Driving her back and forth were her parents, with the poles strapped to the side of the vehicle.
“They are so supportive,” Abby said. “I practice two hours away and they drive me down and back. They leave work early and pick me up from practice. Not only do they put up with us, they wholeheartedly support us and push us to do our best.”
On to next year
When Abby won her medal on Friday, she was the only Pittston Area athlete at Shippensburg. Two of her teammates competed the next day.
She said it “felt like a privilege.”
“It would have been great to have a team around you, but to be the only person there was kind of neat,” she said.
Heading into next season, Abby said her goal is to get to 13 feet in the pole vault. That would have won a gold medal this year, as the winning vault was 12 feet, 6 inches. She’ll be looking to get a longer pole next season to push her to even bigger heights for her junior year.
She said her technique will be a big factor into whether she can get to that goal.
The Norwillo sisters have a younger sister, Olivia, who will be a freshman sprinter on the track team next season.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick