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Lois (Whitsel) Smith loved track & field, and the Mt Top Track & Field Club resulted from that joy

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

Lois (Whitsel) Smith

Lois (Whitsel) Smith fell in love with track and field as a young athlete at Penn Cambria High School in the 1970s. She and her sister, Pam, competed for the Panthers, and it engendered an interest in her that has provided a major stimulus to her life.

A daughter of Robert and Nancy Whitsel, she was a hurdler and sprinter for P.C. However, when she started competing as a freshman, little did she know that track & field would become such an integral part of her life.

What she learned as an athlete, and later as a coach, is that developing competitors in track and field is challenging if they do not start learning the fundamentals until they are in high school.

As a result, she realized that training young boys and girls to become track and field athletes at a young age could significantly help them and the schools where they compete.

Therefore, she approached some other people in the community who were interested in helping young athletes to help establish a track and field club to encourage these potential runners and field performers.

In 1989, it came to fruition, and Lois credits Bernie Karabinos, Stan Mattix, and Roger Rose for being instrumental in forming the Mt. Top Track & Field Club.

Success at many levels

The results from it have been stunning. The Mt. Top Track and Field Club has seen its members win high school state championships, district titles, along with conference honors.

In addition, members have captured national championships in junior olympics along with regional titles.

In addition, many athletes have competed at the collegiate level, and that provides a sense of satisfaction,

Well, I started the program because it’s so hard to train athletes in three to four years. We started getting more members after Tonya Harris and Jill Perehenic started to have success (for Penn Cambria).

Interview with Lois

Two Mt. Top athletes who competed for Penn Cambria captured state titles. Carrie (Karabinos) Vinglish earned four District 6 championships in the javelin, and then in her senior year, earned the gold in state competition.

She also captured the USA Junior Olympic National championship

Another athlete, Stephanie Novella, captured the PIAA State Track and Field Championship in the high school. She had competed at the national level in the JO USA program.

The most recent national champion is Cooper Gergley, who won the 8 and under shot put in July.

Jadyn Tiracave is now competing for Navy, one of top throwers in history

A unique javelin friendship

Two other Mt. Top athletes, Britt Krug and Mike Biddle, captured national championships in the javelin, and each went on to compete in college, Krug at South Florida and then Michigan State and Biddle at Penn State. Biddle captured the 2018 Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field title with a throw of 239-7.

Later, their friendship that started with their participation with Mt. Top resulted in their marriage.

That success of so many athletes gives a level of satisfaction to Lois, as she listed some of the competitors who have competed in college,

Jadyn Tiracave, Tyler Spaid, Noah Lee, Noah Zolnak, Jessi Delic, Arlee Simindinger, Sara Clauto, Tyler Mandley, Garrett Sutton, Nat Kuntz, Kam Stoy, Zach Krug,, Miche Burket, Matt Karlheim, Grace Thomas, and Ben Wechenhiser all went on to participate at the college level. I am sure there a few that I have missed.

On average we have 175 athletes per year participating with us.

What I like about track is that you can compete for yourself and your team.

Interview with Lois

Mike Biddle with medal won in Big Ten competition while at Penn State


When I asked Lois about how the success has affected her, she demurred while still saying that the relationships with the athletes is what matters most to her,

I have really never thought about how I feel about the success of the program in the way it affects me. The kid's success in life is what makes me happy.

Seeing them grow as people is the best part.

The program is really not about me, it's about the kids. enjoy the sport and love sharing that love with the athletes.

I think they give me more than I give them. They are always around when I need a laugh, a hug or to just hang around.

Interview with Lois


Lois said that the club encourages former athletes to come back and help coach the current ones. Brian Dillon, who is the president right now, is one of the former athletes.

The club stresses not just success on the track and in the field,

We have athletes from many area schools. The program brings kids together that form friendships for life.

Running is a life long activity that they can enjoy forever. We promote sportsmanship, competition, and healthy life styles.

Interview with Lois

The group also started the Mt Top Invitational 25 years ago, and that is the primary source that the group uses to make money. They also have a sub sale and charge a small registration fee to compete each year.

Lois has been married to David Smith for 31 years, and they are the parents of a daughter, Ashley Miller. They have two grandchildren.

Mark Karlheim and Britt Krug with Lois

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