Years of training to be the best of the best has finally paid off for many Pennsylvania natives. The 2016 United States Olympic team will be featuring 554 athletes this August, with 31 of them being individuals from various regions of Pennsylvania. Competing in another country, a few of these athletes are actually from—or live close to— the Lehigh Valley, making us prouder than ever to watch this year’s events!
Matt Baranoski of Perkasie has qualified for the U.S. cycling team. From being a competitive athlete in high school (Pennridge High School) and college (Pennsylvania State University), Baranoski will be continuing his cycling career in Rio. This cycling career dates back to when he was six years old and began racing the track through the Air Products developmental programs at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center. For Baranoski, training never stops. A majority of his time is spent practicing with his father or weightlifting to ensure his athletic abilities are continuously up to par. In 2010, and at only 17 years old, Baranoski became the youngest USA Cycling elite national champion to date, and he has won numerous Junior National Championship titles, Collegiate National Championship titles and more throughout his career.
The Lehigh Valley is excited to cheer on Joe Kovacs of Nazareth, who has qualified for the track and field team for shot put because of his outstanding personal record of 22.56 meters outdoors and 21.46 meters indoors. As a Bethlehem Catholic High School graduate and having attended Pennsylvania State University, Kovacs has had a great amount of success with track and field. In his first year as a professional, Nike asked to sponsor Kovacs because of his hard work and dedication to the sport. Before college, Kovacs won PIAA titles in the discus and shot put during his senior year. His winning of the 64-foot-shot put mark is the PIAA Class AA state record. Kovacs proudly holds the position of being ranked number four in the United States for shot put.
Along with Matt Baranoski, Julia Reinprecht is another Perkasie native who has qualified for the USA Olympic team. Reinprecht is no newbie to the Olympics. As one of the top Field Hockey competitors, Reinprecht qualified for both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams. Julia played field hockey at Mount Saint Joseph’s Academy and continued her career at Princeton alongside her sisters, Katie and Sarah. She has won gold medals at the 2011 Pan American Games, 2013 World League Round 2, 2014 Champions Challenge and the 2015 Pan American Games.
A family that plays together stays together. Katie Reinprecht, sister of Julia, of Perkasie will also be joining the USA Field Hockey team in Rio. This is not her first time as an Olympic qualifier either. In the 2012 Summer Olympics, Katie Reinprecht also played for the national field hockey team. Her high school career took place at Mount Saint Joseph’s Academy and was continued at Princeton where she gained a lot of her success including Ivy League Player of the Year, First Team All-American, Ivy League Champion, First Team All-Ivy Honors and more. The Valley (and Reinprecht family) is excited to watch these sisters take the field and represent the United States.
Although they may be almost 5,000 miles away, Rio hits even closer to home now that we are sending some of our very own to represent the nation. We wish not only the locals luck as they play for all they have worked for, but for all United States qualifiers as a whole. Go get ‘em, guys!
For the full list of U.S. competitors, click here.