By Lex Mercado
Like most events in most years, many medalists from the previous spring have moved on and graduated, opening the door for a new group of stars to take their place in the spotlight.
Only one medalist is back from 2013, but the favorite in the field has performed consistently in the past couple weeks at a high level. Ian Corbett of Clarion Area has broken the 11 second mark in the 100 meter dash in six of his last nine races and has a season best of 10.84 from early May. Jhaloni Johnson of Springfield Montco has come on strong in the past few weeks with a 10.86 in his league championship. His district rival Nkosi Pile of Church Farm School pulled up in the final against Johnson on Sunday, and if fit, he will be a contender for the title. He has a 10.92 seasonal best. Six of the top eight in PA are all underclassmen, but will the experience of seniors Johnson and Trinity’s (3) Brandon Kuntz be enough to win it?
The 200 meter dash could be a record breaker. Johnson has already recorded a 21.47 racing against some of the big boys of AAA in his league championship and the class state meet record is 21.78 from two years ago. Being the hunted instead of the hunter is a different challenge, but Johnson’s best is .75 seconds better than the field. Kuntz, Corbett, Andrew Snyder of Camp Hill and Logan Moroney of Karns City have all dipped under 22.50 this season and will be right there to take advantage of any Johnson slip ups. Will 21.78 go down?
The 400 meter dash will feature the title defense of David Bricker of Trinity (3). Bricker battled the wind and cold to be crowned champion last year. In 2014, the sub 50 second barrier has eluded him thus far and despite running his seasonal best at District 3, it was in defeat to class leader and top seed Andrew Miller of Wyomissing Area (49.26 to 50.06). District 12 champion Khalil Williams of Delaware Valley Charter (49.66) and Aaron Tedys of Riverside (7) (49.84) have also broken 50 seconds this season and will contend for the title. Do 5-8 from 2013 rise up or will district 3 dominate?
The 110 meter hurdles could have one of the best head to head matchups of the entire weekend. Donaldo Benjamin of Delaware Valley Charter was a star in the indoor season and has continued that form throughout the spring. Austin Shupp of Palmerton has had a big championship season that has put him top of the class with a 14.27 at his league championship. Out to spoil their party are medalists 5-8 from 2013, including Ricky Fayad of South Side (14.65) and Luke Rarig of Southern Columbia (14.78), both AA top five performers in 2014. Does Shupp’s hot streak continue or will Benjamin cool him off?
The champion did not make it to the state finals, but the silver and bronze medalists in the 300 meter hurdles are back to dual it out once again to stand above the rest on the medal stand. Shupp (2nd) and Quorteze Levy of Washington (3rd) are 1-2 in the class and are both under 39 seconds this season. Benjamin is also a sub 39 second performer. The meet record of 37.47 from 1992 may be a stretch, but with the hot streak that Shupp is on, it could happen if everything falls into place. Will silver or bronze turn into gold for Shupp and Levy or will Benjamin swoop in and take the title?
The district 7 championships saw the rise of Dominic Peretta of Beaver Falls in the 800 meter run. The sophomore took a big five seconds off of his seasonal best, running a national top 25 time of 1:52.72 to win the title. His performance is three seconds better than the rest of the AA division. Jonathan Goodson of Boiling Springs is the only returning medalist entered and he has the 3rd fastest time in the class (1:56.44). Nicholas Scullin of Lewisburg and Andrew Garrett of Delco Christian have broken 1:58 in 2014. Will Peretta thrive on the biggest stage in PA or will an upset be in the works?
Peretta is also entered in the 1600 meter run after breaking the 4:20 barrier for the first time with a five second personal best of 4:19.14. Unlike the 800 meter field, the contenders are much closer to him. Nathan Morgan of Lakeland ran 4:21.16 to win district 2 and Simon Smith ran 4:22.92 to win district 4. Sebastian Curtin of Mercyhurst Prep is the lone returning medalist who has run 4:24 this season. Will someone break Peretta’s dream of state glory or will Peretta have a dream start to his state meet career?
The 3200 meter run will feature class A cross country state champion Griffin Molino of South Williamsport. The junior has had a strong spring, including a big personal best in the 1600 (4:12.93 on April 18) and the best time in AA for 3200 meters (9:19.28). Molino is also the lone returning medalist in the field after finishing 5th last year. Out to beat the favorite is Dominic Hockenbury of Lake Lehman, an 11th place finisher as a freshman, who has run 9:22.61, good for 2nd in AA. Will Molino make it two state titles in his junior season?
Delaware Valley Charter finished 5th in the 4x100 meter relay in 2013, but enters the 2014 meet as the top team with a 42.69 win at District 12. Palmerton have been finding their form at the right time, they now carry the 3rd best time in the division at 43.26. Riverside (2) (43.32) will also be in the mix. Delaware Valley Charter have been one of the best in the state in the relays. Will that consistency translate into state gold?
Along with the 4x1, Del Val Charter will also enter the 4x400 meter relay as a heavy favorite. The Philadelphia school ran 3:20.55 at the Penn Relays, which is five seconds faster than any other AA school in 2014. Riverside (7) and Lakeland have run 3:25 this year, identical to what Del Val Charter ran at a windy District 12 championship meet. Will Delaware Valley Charter complete the sprint relay double or will a long two days wear them down for Riverside (7) and Lakeland to take advantage and snag the win?
Unlike 2013, there isn’t a dominant 4x800 meter relay field in the division. The sub 8 minute mark has eluded the entire division. South Williamsport will enter with the best time in the division (8:02.05) and will have Griffin Molino to bring it home. Wyomissing Area will have Andrew Miller’s 1:55 ability to carry them and have run 8:06.84 this season. Washington is sandwiched between the two at 8:05.84. Will the title come down to the anchors or will four consistent legs be the solution to winning the title?
Chris Stone of Springfield Montco has gone at it with the best in the state in the high jump and pole vault and has come out on top more times than not. 12 months ago, Stone won silver in the high jump and the pole vault. Since then, he’s won gold indoors in both events and won a Penn Relays watch in the high jump.
He enters the high jump as the top guy in the division at 6-9.25. But ready to take advantage of any slip ups are 6-6 jumpers Trey VanAkan of Greenville and Aondofa Anyam of Church Farm School (3rd in 2013). Shawn Lacue of Cambria Heights was 4th in 2013 in what will be an experienced field. Will Stone’s consistency lead to the high jump indoor/outdoor double or will there be a surprise?
The pole vault is a different story for Stone. Although he has cleared 15 feet indoors, his outdoor best this season is a full foot below that. That has opened the door for other contenders to step up to the top of the division. Gus Yahner of Northern Cambria is now the top man with a 15-3 clearance at District 6. Yahner medaled in a tie for 6th last season, but that was with a 13 foot clearance. Damian Owens of Fairview is the other 14 foot vaulter in AA in an event where some of the top guys have failed to make it to the final stage. It’ll be tough to predict who wins this. Will it be current form or previous state experience that prevails?
The long jump will have zero returning medalists, but will have one big mark at the top. Gregory Johnson of Schuylkill Valley has a seasonal best of 22-10 from the opening weekend of the season, but has only competed in the long jump twice since. Tyler Burger of Northwest, Zack Van Dusen of Lakeview and Tyler Carter of Trinity Christian may have the advantage of being on top form at the right time, but 22-10 is a different neighborhood. Can Johnson find that one jump in him to win the title or will Burger, Van Dusen or Carter ride their recent form to gold?
Only one of the Palmerton triple jump duo will compete at states. Jarred Sacks has jumped 46-2 this season to enter the met with the best mark. Blake Over of Northern Bedford returns as the 2013 bronze medalist and just got to the 45 foot mark last week. Michael Somiari of Richland and Brandon Stanback of Bishop McDevitt have both hit 45-10.50 in 2014. This should be one of the closest competitions of the weekend. With four guys so close together, who will find that one big jump to lead them to the title?
The shot put looks like it could be the Luke Lewis show. The Hickory senior has everything to play for after the disappointment of having the best mark in the shot put indoors but didn’t make the finals at indoor states. Joey Mundell of Schuylkill Valley (54-10) and Angelo Lucci of Allentown Central Catholic (52-7.25) will look to pull off a shocking upset should history repeat itself. If Lewis is on his game, the sky will be the limit as to what he can do on the biggest stage. Will Lewis hold his nerve?
In the discus, Lewis enters with the 2nd best mark in the division, trailing Riverside (7) senior Logan Sheridan (160-3 to 159-8). Lewis could have the advantage of his big meet experience and his shot put performances could inspire him to do well in the discus. But Sheridan and lone returning medalist Cody Pavlick of Southern Columbia will be in the mix for the crown. Can Lewis make it two golds?
In the javelin, Michael Biddle of Williamsburg Community will be aiming to make up for being the lone finalist to miss the medal positions last year. He enters 2014 with a mark of 195-7, the best in the AA division. 6th place medalist Matt Reinhart of Berks Catholic is his closest competitor at 191-5. Tyler Hope of Tamaqua will look to carry the Hope family tradition of success in the javelin. He enters with a 2014 best of 187-10. There won’t be a huge wind to slow them down this year. Will Biddle get his redemption for his 9th place last year?