'WPIAL's Finest' Drops Nation's Fastest 4x800

Having even the world's best-tasting pizza every single day can get old after a while, right?

Well, for four of the more active Pennsylvania distance runners during a pandemic-altered season, running solo was getting a tad tiresome. They wanted a taste of "There's No I in Team" in the 2021 indoor season.

So on Saturday with no traditional high school team around them, Quintin Gatons, Mike Formica, Colby Belczyk and Carson McCoy donned almost identical white and black uniforms and became "WPIAL's Finest Unattached," blasting a 7:50.60 clocking in the 4x800-meter relay at Youngstown State. Their efforts were worth a wire-to-wire victory in the seven-team race and a time just over 5 seconds faster than the best by a school-based quartet this winter.

"We wanted to take a week away from individual races to have some fun and try to go after the U.S. No. 1 time for the event," Gatons said. "We knew we could at least come close to the time (7:56.03) but went well under it, even though we didn't have anyone around us for any of our legs.

"It was super fun to get out there with some friends and run fast instead of having to take the race so serious as we would have if it were an individual one. We are registered to run it at Adidas Nationals so that should be fun to run it again with competition this time." 

Greensburg Salem's Gatons broke the race wide open in the final 400 of the first leg, and then it was simply Knoch's Formica, Riverside's Belczyk and McCoy of Deer Lakes running against the clock. The unattached squad won by almost 35 seconds. 

Saturday's performance by the unattached teammates was far from the first time they have excelled individually in 2021. Led by Formica's 4:16.77, the group is Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5 in PA in the 1,600, with the Knoch standout and YSU recruit also No. 15 in the nation in the midst of racing five weekends out of the past six. 

McCoy, who closed out the relay with the foursome's fastest unofficial split of "1:54 and change", also is No. 1 in PA in the 800 with his PR 1:56.05 for third in the SPIRE Scholastic Showcase a week ago.