The Spring Of Surprises Has Begun

A lot can change in a year. But two years? Well, that's a whole new story.

And those stories are already being written this spring through just the first two weeks of the outdoor track and field season in Pennsylvania. Though the season is young, we've already seen a number of breakthrough athletes rise to the occasion in the few meets that have taken place.

Surely, there are plenty more to come.

The coronavirus pandemic cost us the 2020 outdoor track and field season in Pennsylvania and across the entire country. There were very few -- if any -- opportunities for athletes to compete last spring and into the summer. Unfortunately for the class of 2020, that meant a lost senior season of competition.

But for those that remain, like the class of 2021 who went from sophomores to seniors since the last outdoor state meet, they are already proving that they were doing their homework in this long delay in meet action. Many are ready to roll, with a sense of normalcy slowly making its way back into our lives.

Normally we see a natural progression of athletes each year of their high school careers. But in many cases, it's been a long layoff since they have officially competed. Those progressions have been taking place, but it is yet to show up in a results sheet or in the rankings.

Until now.

We got a taste of some of these surprises during the fall cross country season and then a bit more in the winter with a limited schedule of indoor meets in the region.

There were a pair of indoor state records set during the winter, as Chloe Timberg went from good to great in the pole vault, soaring to clear 13 feet, 10 inches. Then there was the emergence of ninth grader Avery Lewis, who leapt to a freshman class national record in the long jump with a mark of 21 feet, 2.5 inches and also showed off some elite-level sprinting chops.

The girls shot put took centerstage in the winter with the likes of Ashlyn Giles, Siniru Iheoma, Emma Callahan, and Isabella Gera putting up the top four marks in the country. Giles capped it off with a national title victory. Gary Martin was a surprise XC state champion, who kept the momentum going in a big way into the winter, running quick mile and 2 mile times along the way. Guinness Brown has become a top-flight sprint threat and 11 freshman girls in total ran XC 5K times under 19 minutes.

In the first two weeks of the outdoor season, we have some full state rankings, complete with many more surprises.

Giles picked up where she left off from the indoor season, putting down a US top ten performance of 47-1.25 in the shot put and also tossing a PA No. 2 in the discus. Gera threw a big 156-2 in the discus during a dual meet. Huntingdon's Amanda Gwinn clocked a state leader in the 100 meters of 12.46, while Cumberland Valley's Riley Ebersole went to PA No. 2 in both the 200 meters (Avery Lewis is at PA No. 1) and the 400 meters (Margaret Conteh leads the state).

On the boys side, State College's Eniayo Ogunranti, in his first high school season in PA, stormed to the state lead in the 100 with a 10.82 at Bruce Dallas. The Cumberland Valley boys -- with the top two ranked quarter milers in the state James Jaisingh and David Williams -- have already clocked two 3:20 performances in the 4x400-meter relay. Greencastle-Antrim's Weber Long went out and ran 4:19 in the 1600, and Schuylkill Valley's Luke Seymour completed a 4:22-1:56 1600-800 double this past weekend.

The best part is that it's just the beginning. We keep rolling along with the season this coming weekend with 14 invitationals slated between Friday and Saturday. The state rankings will almost certainly see another big shake-up and there will be plenty of new (and unexpected) faces rising to PA No. 1.

It is the Season Of The Breakthrough Athlete as the Spring Of Surprises is well underway. So let's sit back and enjoy the next few months.