Isaiah Brooks believes he can go where very few his age have gone before.
Shannon and Mary Malone, on the other hand, are very familiar with the path they are following.
All three, along with Springdale’s Emily Lelis, took major strides on the road to Shippensburg and beyond with dominating performances at the Mars Invitational.
Big Jumps in Bunches for Woodland Hills Sophomore
A year ago, Brooks topped 22 feet and placed 13th in the PIAA Class AAA long jump as a freshman. The eyes that he didn’t open in 2012 saw the light even brighter this winter when the Woodland Hills standout pushed his PR past 23 feet in an indoor meet at Edinboro University.
Those feats pale in comparison to what he unleashed on the field at Mars and what he hopes to achieve in 2013. Brooks won by more than 2 feet and added more than a foot to the state lead with a third-round leap of 23-7.5, which also broke the invitational’s oldest meet record of 22-8 from 1972.
“My main goal was to get a 25,” Brooks said of a distance that has been achieved by just a few sophomores as the national record for 10th-graders is 25-2.25 from 1964 and then matched in 1990. “My last jump that I had I tried to get it, but it didn’t work out so well.
“I’m going to states this year for it. My goal is to place in states, to get that first gold medal as a sophomore.”
What made Brooks’ achievement special and his goal not that far away is the consistency in his other jumps. Opening at 22-10.75, the sophomore went 23-1.25 before turning in the event winner and then added rapid-fire leaps of 22-6.5 and 23-0.5 in the final.
“It felt good,” Brooks said of his new PR. “My coach told me to kick out my feet a little more. Doing (23 feet) two times in a row, I felt like I had a good mark and was doing everything I had to do that was correct.
“Everything came together. I got my steps down once again, and it got me where I am now. I hit the board perfectly.”
The speed that Brooks displayed down the runway also paid dividends on the track as he finished fifth in the 200-meter dash in a PR 22.67 and was third in the 400 in another lifetime best of 51.04.
“(Twenty-five feet) was my goal,” Brooks emphasized. “I didn’t get it today. That’s next week’s goal.”
Malones Repeat History with Distance Double(s)
Having their names at the top of race results is nothing new for the Malone sisters of North Hills. Despite having pulled off the feat many times along with their older sister, a 1-2 finish probably was a little more special in this invitational – Shannon only returned to competitive running last Tuesday after a stress fracture, and the sisters were able to 1-2 twice in the same day with state-quality performances.
“We just hear each other,” Mary said of knowing when her sister Shannon is close by during a race. “We know our breathing so well because we run every day together. I know it’s Shannon, or she knows it’s Mary coming.”
Shannon, who cracked 5 minutes for the first time following older sister Margo to victory and a meet record at Mars in 2012, led a pack of four through the opening laps of the 1,600. Aside from Mary stumbling heavily on the second lap after being clipped on the heel by another runner, all of the excitement was reserved for the final 100 meters when the Malone sisters battled side by side for the gold medal.
“Mr. (John) Wilkie kept telling me I was in shape to break 5,” Shannon said of encouragement she received from the retired North Hills coach prior to ending a seven-month layoff. “In the back of my head, I was like there’s no way am I breaking 5. (Running 4:57.3 on Tuesday against Brianna Schwartz of Shaler Area) definitely was a boost of confidence.
“I really think the cross-training I did over the winter with the swim team helped me. That made me stronger. I was a little surprised with the times.”
Neither sister gave ground nor gained much in the closing meters of the 1,600 as Shannon reached the finish first in a PA#3 4:56.77, with Mary inches behind in 4:56.88.
“I knew she was right behind me,” Shannon said. “I knew she was going to come up and bolt next to me. I was getting really nervous trying to hold her off. It was great to have her alongside me.
“Mary is doing amazing this season. She is really improved. I know how Margo felt now trying to hold me off.”
Hours later in the 3,200, Shannon again took to the front and started to distance herself from Mary and the rest of the field after about three laps. The senior then began to gamely pursue a meet record set in 2010 by Hampton graduate and current William and Mary All-American Elaina Balouris.
Shannon’s 10:53.75 is now PA#4 but missed the record books by about 1.5 seconds, with Mary again second in a PA#8 11:08.42.
“It was a little challenging,” the winner said of working past slower runners at race’s end. “Mr. Wilkie always tells us if you are lapping anyone, just use them like a competitor and bolt past them so that helped a lot.”
Lelis Clears Barriers Unexpected and Expected
For Lelis, Friday’s nearly ideal conditions – a 70-degree day with sunshine and nary a breeze – should have been a perfect opportunity to climb up the state rankings. In the 100 hurdle final, it wasn’t long before she and the other competitors realized that personal bests were not in the works.
Two flights of hurdles were not placed correctly on the track, causing the two-time state champion from 2012 and her pursuers to change their race strategy and lead legs.
“It messed everyone up, it wasn’t just me,” said Lelis, who was first in 15.21. “I had to go over with my left leg twice instead of my right leg the whole time. I felt really good until that, and I think that affected my time a lot.”
In the 300 hurdles, nothing was going to get in the way of the Springdale junior as she distanced herself from the field, cruising to a PA#4 44.03 clocking that also broke a meet record by nearly a second.
“I feel like I was a little behind (in the 300s), but today I think I broke through some barriers,” she said. “I felt really good.
“You really can’t run fast unless you (lead with either) leg. I used to always just do my right leg, but now I do both legs. I feel like I’m a lot better. I just do whatever leg comes up and just go over it.”
In other highlight performances, Hampton’s Gina Alm is now PA#3 in the girls 800 after a fast start resulted in a 2:14.05.
“I’m really happy with it,” the junior said. “I was hoping to go a little faster, but I’m thrilled.
“I was shooting for a 63 (for the first lap because) in my dual meets I’ve been going out a little too slow and my times weren’t as fast as I’ve wanted them. So I knew I wanted to go out fast. I think I got a little excited, but it was fun.”
In the field events, Anthony Bauccio of Gateway is now PA#3 after his 57-11.5 victory in the boys shot put. With a PR by more than 2 feet, the senior was a runaway winner, with the nearest thrower 10 feet behind. Lydia Dennis of host Mars Area claimed the horizontal jumps as her PA#3 18-3 long jump topped four others over 17 feet and a 37-1.5 effort won the triple jump by just 2 inches over Jessica Farrell of Shaler Area.