Previews of the Sprints, Distance, Relays and Field Events by Aaron Rich, Hannah Granger, Mike Schmittlein, Chris Roe and Aris Polites
By Aaron Rich
High Jump: Sarah Binder, Palmerton, and Rebekah Newhart, Hughesville, lead this field at 5-5.00. They should be battling each other for the win as they lead the competition by 2 inches.
Pole Vault: Amber Gaffey, Susquehanna, is the favorite to win the gold with her best of 11-09. Her closest competitors, Keri McDermott, Bethlehem Catholic, and Steph Weber, Catasauqua, have both cleared 11-06.
Long Jump: Three athletes are all within 2.25 inches making this a very close competition for the gold. Touri Goode, Mt. Alvernia, leads with her 17-09.75. She is followed by Janee Dunchack, Northern Cambria, and Tesa McKibben, Montoursville.
Triple Jump: Rebekah Newhart, also a favorite in the high jump, could come away from this meet a double champion. This event should be the easier of the two, as her 38-11 enjoys a 15 inch advantage over her nearest challenger.
High Jump: Three athletes are tied at 5-06 in this event, followed by another who sits at 5-05. Erica Pascarella, Bradford, Rebecca Novacek, Hopewell, and Da’Lynn Mills, Seneca Valley, lead the way. They are followed closely by Kaitlyn Dugan, North Penn. All four of these girls are capable of winning the gold.
Pole Vault: There are two athletes who sit 6 inches above the field, at a height of 12-06, and will be vaulting against each other for the gold. Becky Frey, Liberty, and Abby Schaffer, Easton lead the way. Hoping to join them in the top 3 is Beki Finn, Liberty.
Long Jump: Ryann Krais, a rising star in the heptathlon, is a narrow favorite to win gold. Her 19-00 is .75 inches up on Anita James, Pocono Mountain West. Ryann’s biggest advantage will be her ability to rise to the occasion when it matters most. Hoping to round out the top 3 is Bintou Dibba, Upper Darby.
Triple Jump: Kristin Brandt is the gold medal favorite with her 38-10.75. Also gunning for the gold are Ajla Glavasevic, McDowell (top photo by Carl Strub), and Anita James, who will also be looking for gold in the high jump.
High Jump: Half of an inch separates the two favorites in this event. Weston Schaa, Mercer Area, and Graham Huber, Lewisburg, have jumped 6-08 and 6-07.5 respectively. Looking to take advantage of any misstep will be Owen Wignot of Bishop Hoban.
Pole Vault: Cameron Peirson is 5 inches up on his nearest competitor with his best of 15-00 this year. He is the favorite to win over Kyle Miller, Catasauqua, and D.J. Horton, Kane Area.
Long Jump: Akeem Moore, Brentwood, is the favorite by one inch over Mike Tomovich, Chestnut Ridge. They have jumped 21-10 and 21-09 respectively. Following closely behind and looking for a top 3 finish are Nicolai Varga, Shenandoah Valley, and Herman Kirkland, Imhotep.
Triple Jump: There are four athletes within 3 inches of each other, and Stacey O’Neal, Valley, leads the way with a best of 45-10.25. Following him are Dan Ciabattoni, Holy Name, Jordan Boatwright, Milton Hershey, and Ed Roberts, Delco Christian.
High Jump: Two jumpers are all square at 6-08 in their hunt for gold. Raymond Quill, Pottstown, and Connor Barrett, Seneca Valley, will be battling it out for the win. Others contending for top honors are Terrell Rickard, Waynesboro, and Bryson Hartzler, Indian Valley. And William Tennent's Jay Pittenger appears to be back in form and did clear 6-10 indoors.
Pole Vault: The favorites to win gold are a lofty 8 inches above the rest of the field, and will be challenged by each other and the conditions in their quest for a gold medal. Joe Berry, Hatboro-Horsham, has cleared 16-04 this year. Fellow senior Justin Germani, Daniel Boone, has gone 16-02.25. (Photo by Don Rich after Germani and Berry were 2nd and 1st, respectively, at the Penn Relays)
Long Jump: Jesse Garcia, a senior from Milton Area, aims to end his high school career with a state gold medal. His 23-06 is a full 8 inches further than the nearest competition. Other jumpers looking for a top 3 finish are Dion Lehman, James Buchanan, and Jon Clouse, East Stroudsburg..
Triple Jump: A Carlisle senior is head and shoulders above this field. Aaron Whetstone’s 47-05.50 is better than the competition by more than a foot. A gold medal would be a fitting way to cap his high school career. His closest competitor is Emmanuel Overare, McDowell.
By Aaron Rich, with Hannah Granger
By Aaron Rich
4x100: The top team in this relay is Swenson, having run a 48.3. Following closely are Quaker Valley, 48.51 and Paul Robeson, 50.08. Swenson is the favorite, but Quaker Valley could take the top spot if they handle their exchanges and Swenson falters.
By Aaron Rich
4x400: The clear favorite in this race is Carver E&S, with a time of 3:56.3. If they improve on this time in the finals they will cruise to a gold medal. Challenging Carver will be Swenson, 4:00.00, and Bethlehem Catholic, 4:01.30.
By Hannah Granger
4x800: With Gwynedd Mercy Academy out of the AA picture, the 4x800 race has so hands-down favorite to win. Lewisburg Area, Boiling springs, Elk Lake, Montoursville Area, Bethlehem Catholic, Scranton Prep, North East, Union City and Paul Robeson are all right there, with St Basil’s academy coming off their uncontested qualifying win at Districts rounding out the top ten.
Photo of Methacton's Ryann Krais and Gwynedd's Taylor Bumpas by Don Rich from 5/19 District 1 AAA 4x400. Yep, Gwynedd's quick in that race too, but the 4x800 should be their best chance for gold.
By Aaron Rich
4x100: This will be a close one. The top 5 teams are within .24 seconds of each other. Pocono Mountain West is a tenth of a second ahead of the competition with a time of 48.29. The next four teams are Upper Darby, J.P. McCaskey, Harrisburg and Penn Hills. Perfect exchanges will be the key to a gold medal.
By Aaron Rich
4x400: Easton is the clear favorite of this race. They have, after all, run a very fast 3:51.77. They also happen to by anchored by Chanelle Price (In photo by Don Rich from 2007 Penn Relays Carnival), with a 400 meter best of 54.55. Methacton, and their very respectable 3:53.40, is also in the hunt, with anchor Ryann Krais and her 56.33 best. Also hoping for a spot in the top 3 are CB West and Norwin. Throw out the charts if Price and Krais get the baton at the same time.
By Hannah Granger
4x800: This year’s 4 x 800 field is led by Gwynedd Mercy Academy, the previous AA powerhouse team from District 1, just bumped up to the AAA division this year. Following close behind in an extremely tight pack, separated by only 2 seconds, includes Greater Latrobe, Hatboro Horsham, Easton Area, Unionville, Conestoga, and Council Rock North. Any one of these teams may take home the gold this Saturday. Could a strong anchor leg by Easton Area’s Chanelle Price bring them the title? This might come down to an exciting anchor’s race. 14/25 have already hit the SQS. It’s stacked. Gwynedd was the top PA team at Penn, so they handle pressure as well as anyone.
By Aaron Rich
4x100: The team to beat in this relay is Aliquippa, who has run 42.7 this year. They are .7 seconds ahead of the next team. Challenging for a top 3 spot will be Danville, 43.41, McDevitt, 43.53, and Mifflinburg, 43.66.
4x400:Trinity is the favorite in this race with a time of 3:23.80. On their heels is Milton Hershey, 3:24.70, who has the psychological edge, having beaten Trinity at the District 3 Championships. Rounding out the top 3 is Montoursville.
4x800: Two teams stand out ahead of the pack and should challenge each other for gold. Carver E&S, 8:02.62, and Lakeland, 8:03.43, are 4 seconds ahead of the nearest competition. Other teams competing for a top 3 finish are Lakeview, Tamaqua and Fairview.
4x100: With only .04 seconds separating the top 2 teams this race will come down to which team has the better exchanges. Altoona has run a 42.35 this year, and J.P. McCaskey posted a 42.39. Also looking for a spot on the podium are North Penn and Cumberland Valley.
4x400: The top 3 teams have dipped under 3:20 this year, so we are in for a very exciting meet-finale race. Cedar Crest leads the way with their 3:18.50. They are followed by Neshaminy, 3:19.23, and Harrisburg, 3:19.55. J.P. McCaskey could also make a run for a top 3 finish.
4x800: Several teams have the ability to come away with the gold in this one. Team strategy will be a huge factor in this race, but if it comes down to a race between the anchors, Rotz, from Central Dauphin will be the one to beat. North Penn (in photo by Don Rich) leads the way with a 7:48.30, followed by Central Dauphin, 7:50.03, and Baldwin, 7:50.80. Other contenders are Coatesville and Cumberland Valley.
By Hannah Granger, Radnor HS & Aaron Rich
By Hannah Granger
800: Kelsey Seymour, Central Cambria’s newest headline maker, and St. Basil’s Kathleen Davies head the very close 800 heat sheet with the first 11 girls all between 2:17 and 2:19. It looks like an open race, with no decisive favorite yet. Davies will be tripling this weekend, forgoing the 3200 to focus on the shorter, faster events.
1600: Last year’s 1600m runner up, Kacey Gibson of Neshannock is seeded 9th going into the race this weekend. She handily beat St. Basil’s Kathleen Davies last spring, but it looks like it will come down to a battle this year. Both runners have been posting fast times this season, and will be aided by other top seeds, Lindsey Shertzer of Lancaster Mennonite, Heather Weiss of Tulpehocken and Steph Fulmer of Saint Pius. Lancaster Mennonite's Lindsey Shertzer, who was right with Millhouse until the last 150 meters of the District 3 3200, has opted for the 1600. Don't be surprised to see her battling the entire way at the front.
3200: Central Cambria’s Carly Seymour and defending AA State Champion Kara Millhouse of Boiling Springs, both top the list with State leading times in this event this season. Coming off her strong cross country season, and just recently a 7th place finish at Penn Relays in the 3000, Seymour will be looking to improve on her 3rd place finish from last year. The PIAA State meet record of 10:33.61 set in 1980 by Donna McLain of East York HS looks particularly vulnerable with these two duking it out up front. Watch the individual strategies on this one.
By Hannah Granger
800: The PIAA State meet record of 2:05.47 set in 1980 by Kim Gallagher of Upper Dublin HS has never looked so vulnerable. Chanelle Price’s (photo by Don Rich from PTFCA Indoor) 2:04.96, US #1, this February enroute to her win at the Indoor State meet, has her on the fast track (pun intended?) to the Easton junior's ultimate goal of breaking 2:00 and into the Olympic trials in 2008. Chester's Shaniel Chambers will be right there to give her a run, followed closely by Kelly Langans, Abby Huber, Taylor Bumpas, and a group of girls seeded right around 2:15. This is a race you do NOT want to miss this weekend. It will be one for the record books.
1600: Running in her first PIAA Track State Championship meet, the Shippensburg homeschooler, Neely Spence (photo by Don Rich) tops the mile field with her 4:57.38. Under 5:00 with Neely this past weekend includes a resurgent Sarah Morrison from Chambersburg and Liz Kearins from Central Bucks West, the 2nd and 3rd seeds respectively. Look for Heather Giovagnoli and Ali Nolan, also from District 1 to take a stab at the 5:00 barrier as well. With 13 girls running 5:10 or better, all 8 medals are up for grabs in what could be one of the deepest mile fields PA has seen in years.
3200: Laura Crofford is back again in the 3200, looking to improve on her 2nd place finish last May to Strath Haven’s Lisa Vienneau. Seeded 1st by 13 seconds, she heads a District 1-deep field. District 1 brings in 7 runners this year, headed by Carly Hamond at 10:44, Kate Ross, and the Radnor duo of Liz Milewski and Hannah Granger. Also included among the top seeds are Northgate’s Sarah Klinvex and Jordan Jenkins from New Oxford. The depth this year is outstanding with 22 already achieving the SQS. There could be a serious attempt at the State record, and weather depending, will lead a large number of these girls under 11:00.
By Aaron Rich
800: This two-lapper features the top 800 meter runner in the state. Jamar Jones, Carver E&S, has run 1:51.94 this season. He is 6 seconds up on the next fastest AA runner, Trevor Binford- Walsh, Moravian Academy, with a time of 1:57.55. Other runners hoping to break into the top 3 are Jordan Donaldson, Tussey Mountain, Noah Palicia, Lakeview, and Ben Hatch, Bellwood Antis.
1600: The runner at the top of this closely stacked group is Mike Podlesnik, from Meyersdale Area. He has posted a 4:22.88 this year. He is 2 seconds ahead of the next 3 runners, who also have a chance at gold. They are Chris Snyder, McConnellsburg, Ben Hahn, Smethport, and Nate Turner, Jenkintown.
3200: The favorite in this race has to be senior Ben Hahn, Smethport, who has run a very fast 9:09.75 this year. He’ll have the prelims of the 1600 the day before, but his nearest competition sits 12 seconds back. Michael Stolar, Mercyhurst Prep, has run 9:21.40. Jim Spisak, Bishop McCort, should round out the top 3.
By Aaron Rich
800: Andrew Rotz, Central Dauphin, and Andrew Lobb, East HS, lead the way in this race with times of 1:53.15 and 1:54.13 respectively. Rotz was an All-American in this event last year, and will use that experience to his advantage in winning gold. Another runner to watch is Khaliff Featherstone, Gratz, who has only run 1:56.39 this year, but who has 48.08 speed in the 400.
1600: Jason Weller (in the 3200 with Springer at D1), Boyertown, and T.J. Hobart, Baldwin, lead the charge with a pair of sub-4:13 times, 4:12.26 and 4:12.30 respectively. Weller, the 2006 XC State Champion, will have run a fast 3200 prior to this race, and that may be a factor if it comes down to a sprint finish. Other runners looking to make the top 3 are Nick Hilton, Exeter, and Trevor VanAckeren, Liberty.
3200: This race belongs to Paul Springer (Photo by Don Rich). The 2006 Footlocker Finalist has run a spectacular 8:49.84 already this year. That time is a full 15 seconds ahead of the next challenger, Jason Weller, who will also be running the 1600. Don’t count out front-runner Kyle Dawson, Coatesville, who won’t be conceding an inch to Springer or Weller.
By Chris Roe and Aris Polites, Conestoga HS
Javelin: Casey Wagner is top seed in the event after coming off of a nice PR at districts. She will have to hold off meet record holder Karlee McQuillen (In photo by Don Rich) to take gold. Karlee leads the state with the best throw of the season.
Discus: Top seed Lindsey Guldin is the top returning medallist but Alanna Owens will look to take gold here as well as in shot put.
Shot Put: Bayard Rustin’s Alanna Owens and Shante Evans look to go one-two in this event.
Javelin: Returning medallists and top seeds Kimberly Hanslovan, Laura Rycek, and Leah Ulizio have all gone over 140 feet this year.
Discus: Top seed Karen Shump is coming off of a PR of 154-00. She is also top seed in shot put. Kim Kanala has been hot lately in the high 140s and Corrine Free has also gone over 140 this year. Forgoing softball this season seems to have helped her practice time and energy for this event.
Shot Put: Karen Shump has been a powerhouse in this event all year. She will look to defend her title from last year and break the state record of 50-01.25 which is only 9 inches over her PR.
Javelin: United's Eric Skedel has thrown over 200 feet multiple times and has proven to be one of the best javelin throwers in the country this year.
Discus: Last year’s silver medallist Joe Kovacs of Bethlehem Catholic has gone over 180 feet twice this season and his throw at districts was the second furthest in the state this year.
Shot Put: The only two returning medallists, Kovacs and Denes Veres are top two seeds and will fight for gold. Though Veres placed 2nd last year compared to Kovacs’s 7th, Kovacs’s seed mark is well above Veres this year.
Javelin: With Whitehall's Andy Fahringer recently injured at districts in an attempt to break the district record, sophomore Justin Shirk of Central Dauphin will be the only returning medallist and is top seed after throwing a season best 201-00 at his district meet.
Discus: Fahringer will attempt to repeat as the State Champ in discus. He was 20' below his season best at District the day after his injury in the javelin. If he recovers sufficiently, he'll challange. Top seed Wes Banks will be looking to take home gold here as well as in shot.
Shot Put: Zane Parr is entering as top seed after coming off of a very nice PR at districts, but Wes Banks has been hitting near or above 60 feet all season and was the indoor state champ.
By Michael Schmittlein, Conestoga HS
The girls’ AA sprints should be good with Schuylkill Valley junior Devan Coon headlining the list of runners. In the 100 hurdles, Rachel Houseknecht, Hughesville, enters as the 2nd seed but has the fastest AA time in that distance this year. Meanwhile, Christa Rogers of Quaker Valley is seeded 1st with a seed time under 15 seconds. Freshman, Shanae Bailey, Swenson, is the top seed in the 100 but all that separates her from the 5th seed is .09 seconds. Close behind Bailey are Erin Guty (Trinity), Carnie Smith, Brittne Perkins, and Julia Koloski. Devan Coon is the front runner in the 400. She enters the event seeded 2 seconds faster then the 2nd seed Nicole Powell and Jenna Fatica. Coon, will then try to double in the 200 where she has the top seed at 24.71 again ahead of Bayard Rustin’'s Nicole Powell and 100 runner Shanae Bailey of Swenson. In the 300 hurdles, Amanda Seigworth is the top seed at 45.25 seconds. Tesa McKibben enters with the second fastest time in the state so far, but is seeded 6th. Anthonia Ballard and Chloe Albright are also seeded under 46 seconds in the race.
The girls’ sprints will be dominated by two main runners, Methacton's Ryann Krais (in photo by Don Rich) and Laurel Highlands' Breehana Jacobs (in photo by William McBride). Krais enters the 100 hurdles seeded at 13.89, over half a second faster then the second seed Layne Baggett. Ryann is also the top seed in the 300 hurdles, ahead of Meagan Duncan and Kayla Hennessy, who are both seeded under 44 seconds. Meanwhile, Breehana Jacobs is the top seed in the 100, 200, and 400. In the 100, Jacobs is the defending champion and top seed ahead of Jasmine Russ and Anyssa Barbour. In the 400, Jacobs is seeded ahead of both last year’s state champion Ije Iheoma and Shaniel Chambers. In Breehana’'s final race, the 200, she enters as the top seed with Anita James and Ije Iheoma close behind.
The AA Boys’ sprints will feature a bunch of close races. Zach Dow enters the race as the top seed ranked 8th in the state, 1st in AA. Close behind him are Keenan Michael and Jacob Librizzi ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively in AA. In the 100, Davon Moore is the top seed at 10.89 seconds, and the only one under 11 seconds. Behind Moore is Lamar Mclean who is ranked 15th in the state. The 400 should prove to be a great race with a lot of fast times. Entering the race three people have run under 49. The top seed Derek Moye is seeded at 48.63 ranking him 3rd in the state tied with 4th seeded Austin Perron of E&S who was the indoor track champion. Also under 49 seconds is Gary Bush. The 300 huddles also should prove to be a good race with Jacob Librizzi, the top seed, and Keenan Michael separated by only .04 seconds. Also, close behind them is William Altman. In the 200, Derek Moye is the top seed at 22.31, .03 seconds ahead of 2nd seed Eric Woodruff. Currently Moye is ranked 9th in the state.
In the guys’ sprints, Jarrett Eaton enters both hurdle races as the top seed. Behind him is Pete Selby 3rd in the 110 hurdles, 2nd in the 300 hurdles, and Brice Myers 2nd in the 110 hurdles. Also, Isacc Schatz seeded 13th in the 300 hurdles is currently ranked 2nd in the state. Meanwhile, the 100 should prove to be a good race with the top seed AJ Alexander and the 2nd seed LaMont McWilliams separated by only .05 seconds. In the other sprints, Brandon Bing (in photo by Don Rich) will attempt to win the 200 and 400. He enters the 400 seeded 2nd behind Simon Gratz Khaliff Featherstone who has the fastest time in the state at 48.08 in a race in which he wasn't pushed. Challengers also include Chad Sargeant and Joshua Potts. In the 200, Bing has the top time in the state but is seeded 5th. Juan Steward seeded 14th, has the second fastest time in the state, is just .01 seconds behind Bing and should provide a close race along with AJ Alexander and Alex Pensyl.
Be sure to catch Devan Coon at States
(Oh, never mind, you won't).
By Don Rich
Don't let her seemingly diminutive stature fool you. This girl is pure power. Pistons for legs. A heart for competition. And a taste for training that would punish most who would dare to make the attempt.
And it all comes together in a sprint package known as Devan Coon.
This Schuylkill Valley HS junior has always had talent. She has played basketball since the 3rd grade... "It's more or less my love." But basketball has now taken a back seat to her growing love for track. It's a love that her competitors will see as more than infatuation. It's the real deal.
After a freshman year in which she created high expectations for herself with two seconds place States finishes in the 100 and 200, she hit a bit of a slump as a sophomore. But Coon's slump was still pretty good, where, at States, she took 5th in the 100 (12.26) and 3rd in the 200 (25.09). Both were improvements on her freshman year. But spend a few minutes talking with; or should I say 'listening' to her passionate rapid-fire answers; and you quickly get the sense that those times and those places were not nearly enough. This athlete wanted a lot more.
So prior to the start of the 2007 track season, she signed up with a personal trainer at a Philadelphia sports fitness center and makes the trip three times a week... all in the name of becoming as good as she can become. "I want people to look at me and see that I'm training hard and to show them that I want to be the best of my ability as a competitor."
In addition to her regular practice with pickups, intervals and speed training, Coon seems to relish the workouts at the Philly facility. "There's a special treadmill that I run on and I do Plyometrics. I go two times a week on the treadmill and do one day of plyometrics." She even has a treadmill workout for the 400 which consists of 30 seconds at 12 mph, with 30 seconds rest, then 15 seconds on with 45 seconds rest, followed by 20 seconds on and 20 seconds off, all repeated 12 times.
As with any athlete worth their salt, Coon set a goal for the season.
Well, after an incredible performance at 5/12 the Firing Memorial Victory Meet and last weekend's PIAA District 3 Championships, she has some serious goal-resetting to do. She had been aiming for her county record in the 200. "I surprised myself." She broke the county record for the 200 at the Firing Meet after going under 57 seconds in the 400 the week before at the Shaner Meet. "I'm pretty pleased with that one."
Another goal HAD been to run consistently in the 24's for the 200. Well, her two days at Ship for District 3 showed that she has the stamina to hold up to the trials of that race, along with the 400, 4x100 and 4x400 -- all the races she is aiming to do at States.
Her 24.41 in the prelims on Friday at District 3 shattered the District AA record of 25.11 which had been set the year before by Mary Dell of Boiling Springs. The time also would have broken the AAA District 3 record of 24.42 which is held by Hyleas Fountain (Lower Dauphin, 2000). Coon came back later in the afternoon to run 24.89 in the semis. And then, with a day's rest, she won the finals in 24.71 to go with a solo PR in the 400 of 56.54. She also helped her team to 3rd place finishes in the 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
Coon thinks that her best event, which also happens to be her favorite, is the 200. "The 100 is not my race. I'm good at it, but I feel like I'm slow out of the blocks. With the 200, if I'm slow (out of the blocks), I still have another 100 to do my best."
And the 400 is growing on her. But it took some pushing by her parents and coaches to convince her that it was a distance at which she could excel. "I was never going to win the argument with them over the 400, but now that I've run it so much, I've actually grown to like it. Plus, it helps my 200."
As for States, Coon used the District 3 meet as a tune-up and test. "It is a hard weekend both weekends, but even though it's tough, I have the stamina to do it."
While the AA State Meet record of 23.85 (Lauryn Williams, Rochester), is a good one, don't be surprised to see Coon surprise herself once again. And if she doesn't get it this meet, or this summer, this is one athlete you'll see going after the record books again in 2008. She'll keep making the trips to her Philly training center through the summer and into her senior year.
"I feel like you have to have high expectations, and once you start achieving, then you have to set new goals. That's what I've been doing."
On second thought, you better keep the record books open and the eraser ready this weekend.
Devan Coon by the numbers
2005 PIAA State Champs: 2nd in 100: 12.38, 2nd in 200: 25.84 (25.70 semi)
2006 PIAA State Champs: 5th in 100: 12.26, 3rd in 200: 25.09
2007-04-21 46th Leonard Stephan T&F Classic 25.04
2007-05-04 78th Annual Shaner Meet 24.96
2007-05-12 Firing Memorial Victory Meet 24.68
2007-05-12 Firing Memorial Victory Meet 12.08 PR
2007-05-18 PIAA District 3 AA Championships (24.41 PR prelims, 24.89 semis, 24.71 finals)
2007-02-24 2007 PTFCA Indoor State Championship 57.60
2007-05-04 78th Annual Shaner Meet 56.90
2007-05-18 PIAA District 3 AA Championships 56.54 PR
By Don Rich
This is rare air. There are now two Pennsylvania pole vaulters who are not only reaching for PIAA meet and state records, they're reaching for a state title. Both are seniors, good friends, tough competitors, and well aware that they are not the only ones who could win the AAA championship because there are quite a few other talented vaulters over 15'. So they're all about taking care of business first, and letting the rest take care of itself.
Hatboro-Horsham's Joe Berry and Daniel Boone's Justin Germani finished 1st and 2nd, respectively, at the Penn Relays Carnival. It was Berry's first time over 16' and his clearance of 16-03.25 set a meet record. Berry hasn't been below 16' since. At District 1 on Saturday, Berry cleared 16-03 and set another meet record, after PRing two weeks prior at 16-04. He has been on a steady progression, going higher and higher this season, inch-by-inch, just like his main rival Germani.
2007-04-21 Great Valley Relays 015-06.00
2007-04-26 Penn Relays Carnival 016-03.25
2007-05-03 31st Trojan Track Classic 016-04.00 PR
2007-05-18 PIAA District 1 AAA Championships 016-03.00
2007-04-07 6th Bruce Dallas Invitational 014-06.00
2007-04-14 19th Pan-Ram Invitational 015-00.00
2007-04-21 46th Leonard Stephan T&F Classic 015-01.00
2007-04-26 Penn Relays Carnival 015-05.00
2007-05-04 78th Annual Shaner Meet 015-00.00
2007-05-04 34th Boathouse Sports Baldwin Invitational 015-06.00
2007-05-07 Pottstown Track & Field Classic 015-00.00
2007-05-18 PIAA District 3 Championships 016-02.25 PR
According to Germani's vault coach Lance Atkins, steady improvement, a little at a time, is the way to approach such a difficult event.
A wrestler-turned-vaulter, Germani has been vaulting since middle school. Atkins says Germani was into roller skating, inline skating... and "basically jumping off things..." So pole-vaulting kind of fit into that mold.
Germani cleared 12-6 his freshman year, and was up to 13-6 as a sophomore when he hit a plateau. By his junior year, he was at 14-6 once, and over 14' several times. So coming into his senior year, he told Atkins that he didn't want to have any regrets after his senior year. Atkins told him he'd have to jump three times a week. "He worked on the basics, his run, working on his plant. He worked on the event all summer and through the winter."
Atkins says that the work started to pay off in February, and that since then Germani has been no lower than 14-6, and over 15' consistently.
Germani's record jump of 16-02.25 at District 3 broke the long-standing District (and former state) record of 16-2 that had been set by Reading's Mason Ternay in 1989. Germani had cleared 16' prior to setting the record on his 3rd attempt. For Germani, breaking a Ternay record had a little extra meaning. "He was a guy my coach coached, so that is exciting. He was like a mentor, so to get to where he was and beat him, that's special."
But Atkins says that there was a little more side motivation involved as well. As he relates the story, a local newspaper in Berks County wrote an article three years ago on pole vaulting in Berks county called "Chasin Mason." The article apparently failed to mention Germani. "Justin cut it out and taped it to his computer and vowed he was going to get the record. He got it."
Germani is looking forward to the competition at States, not just because of the anticipated battle of the heights with Berry, but because the pole vault is staged right in front of the main stands. "It gets me more pumped up." Germani would not be surprised if it took 16-5 or more to win this weekend.
Atkins says that states will also be a chance for Justin to even his "friendly competition" score with Berry. "Right now, I think it's 3-2 in favor of Joe. Penn put Joe ahead, and as far as I'm concerned, Justin couldn't have finished second to a better guy."
Atkins knows both Berry and Germani will be ready. "They're confident, and in this event, confidence in everything. Just watch Justin at the end of the runway. He just goes. He doesn't stand there and think. That's confidence. And it takes practice to get to that point."
For the record, the new PIAA AAA mark was set just last year. It's 16-02 and was courtesy of Jared Jodon of Laurel Highlands. So enjoy the show. Bring oxygen, this is rare air.