The weather was textbook early-season invitational – gusty winds, cloudy skies and temperatures worthy of knit caps and gloves.
The performances were anything but typical April fare, however, as Shaler Area’s Brianna Schwartz registered a pair of the five PA#1s turned in Friday at the annual Butler Invitational.
Displaying the gritty determination that has marked her young career, Schwartz cleared out a couple places in the meet record book by dominating quality competition in both distance races. The sophomore was a barrier breaker, cracking 5 minutes in the 1,600-meter run and 11:00 over eight laps in taking more than 17 seconds off two invitational records.
“It was pretty tough, but I didn’t really notice it on the last lap,” Schwartz said of battling a strong headwind on the home stretch after closing out a PR 4:54.15 in the 1,600. “I was trying to finish. Overall, it didn’t really affect me that much.
“I was really happy. I wanted to break 5 minutes, and indoor 4:57 (mile) was my best so I was trying to beat that.”
The decisive moment in Schwartz’s wire-to-wire effort came at the beginning of the third lap as she began to pull away from Hampton’s Gina Alm, who was only a step or two back at the midway point.
Alm held on for a PA#5 5:04.00, and North Hills’ Mary Malone ran 5:08.00 in third.
In the 3,200, Schwartz put together a huge negative split performance that left her coaches smiling and trying to figure out how she did it. With Malone in tow early, Schwartz covered the opening 800 in 2:46 and 1,600 in 5:31, with the North Hills star now four seconds back. The pace didn’t change a bit for the winner as she covered the next two laps in 2:45 before shifting gears as the wind gusts took a breather.
A 79-second trip around the seven-lane oval was followed by a 75 for Schwartz in wrapping up another PA#1 in 10:50.51. Malone covered the distance in a PA#9 11:13.68.
“Yeah, it did surprise me,” Schwartz said of her performance. “I wanted to break 11, so I would be happy with anything 10.
“I knew I wanted to save something for the end because I (hit the mile) in 5:31, (and) I knew I would have to push the second mile to be able to break 11. I definitely saved something.”
Unlike Schwartz, Cathedral Prep’s Malik Moffett had the benefit of waiting for any lulls in Friday’s breezes in moving the state lead upward in the boys’ high jump. The last into the competition at 6 feet, Moffett needed at least a pair of jumps at each height except one in topping a quality field (and the yearly PA list) at 6-8.
“I just slowed down, made sure the wind didn’t hit me, waited until the wind was perfect and just went for it,” the winner said of his key to having the upper hand against the conditions and his competition. “I’m really pleased right now.”
Although he shared the state indoor lead this year at 6-9, Moffett was not alone as the bar moved up to 6-4, with Hampton’s Jake Adams pacing the competition at that point with five consecutive clearances. Moffett needed two tries at the height, while Jeremy Jancso of West Middlesex cleared on his third attempt.
Both Moffett and Jancso topped 6-6 on their third jumps. The victory and state No. 1 was Moffett’s with his third-round over at 6-8 before three tries at 6-10 left him wanting more.
“I’m going to get it next time, I’m going to get it next time,” he proclaimed.
Another who performed as if she were in the high jump was Corry Area’s Jaynee Corbett. A Youngstown State signee, Corbett had arguably the top six-throw series of the young season, improving on each of her efforts after an opening foul in dominating the shot put and moving to No. 2 on the 2013 list.
“When I got into those finals, I just knew that I had to let it go,” said Corbett, who set up Friday’s shot performance with a school record discus toss of 126-3.5 in a meet Tuesday at Franklin. “I knew I had to do my best, and once I started getting warmed up and then go farther and farther, I just got mad and just let it rip.”
Corbett’s second-round toss of 39-2.5 was good enough for an easy win, and she led by almost 4 feet after a 39-7.5 in the next round. A 40-9.75 effort came before she reached out to 41-4 and then broke the meet record by a half-inch with a 42-0 finale.
“I was (shocked),” Corbett said of her reaction to her status as PA#2. “What you hope for is everybody knows your name.
“It’s great, that’s a pretty cool feeling. I’ll sleep well tonight knowing I’m second in the state.”
A decisive move with just over 400 meters left in the boys’ 1,600 pushed Ethan Martin of Fox Chapel Area to the No. 2 spot on the 2013 list. An up-and-down opening half – 62-second first lap followed by a 70 – had almost all of the top runners in a tight pack before Martin moved to the lead as the gun was about to signal the final lap.
“The wind was very strong and … I was a little worried because I thought someone’s just going to draft off me and then kick it in,” the winner said. “I thought if I needed to make my move I was going to make it now.
“(Grove City’s Dan) Jaskowak is a 400 closer. I have no chance if that was 100 meters left with him so I had to make my move then.”
The acceleration worked for Martin, with the final result being a PA#2 4:22.34. Jaskowak, the early pacesetter, closed the best for runner-up honors in 4:24.68.
“Considering the conditions, I was happy with the time,” Martin said. “I know Jeff Groh (of Lower Dauphin) ran a 4:21. I was shooting for that, but I’m happy where I am now.”
Content to be part of the pack for most of the 1,600, Martin wanted nothing to do with the group in the 3,200. Right from the gun, Martin put real estate between himself and his two dozen challengers.
“People immediately started to settle down, and it wasn’t a pace I was too happy with because I knew Brent (Kennedy of Kiski Area) was going to definitely want to be a kicker at the end,” Martin said. “I had to make it hurt as much as I could in the beginning, and that just required setting a pretty fast pace.”
Martin was alone at the front through a 2:22 opening 800 and a 4:44 1,600, with Kennedy leading the chase pack two seconds back.
Kennedy soon found his way to the front, and the duo exchanged the lead several times over the final laps, with Martin’s 65-second last lap getting him to the finish in a PA#7 9:28.49. Kennedy was credited with a PA#8 9:29.38.
“At WPIALs last year in cross country, (Brent) outkicked me at the end so I was very worried about the last lap,” Martin said. “I just hung on as long as I could and just tried to stay with him, and I guess I’ve been working on my kick enough to outkick him.”
The other No. 1s came from West Mifflin’s Derrick Fulmore and Cathedral Prep’s 4x100 relay.
Fulmore is 2013’s longest triple jumper in PA after his 45-7.5 topped a field that featured three of the 5 longest marks thus far this season, and the Ramblers sliced a tenth of a second off their season best in passing their way to a 42.91 and the victory over West Middlesex and its PA#2 43.02.
In the 110 hurdles, Gateway's Montae Nicholson ran a PA#7 14.92, edging Fox Chapel's Brandon Mitchell, who went a PA#10 15.01.