* Shippensburg University is the home of the PIAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
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AAA Boys 4x800m Relay Preview
There is something special about the 800 meters and Pennsylvania. Penn State has been called 800 U -- deservedly so, with the Nittany Lions' success at the distance -- and the 4x800 relay finals at Shippensburg are always amazing.
When Central Bucks South set the still standing state and NFHS record of 7:33.48 in winning the 2009 AAA title, the Titans finished second in their heat in a relatively pedestrian time of 7:53. This weekend, there will be no holding back - or using a different lineup in prelims - for the 25 teams on the track as it is one and done in all of the distance races.
Last year, Lewisburg Area claimed gold in 7:53 as only three teams went sub-8:00. That shouldn't be the case this year as 12 AAA schools broke the barrier to earn the right to race in Shippensburg.
With no prelims, expect the racing to be tight as no ground will be given. State College won the state indoor title as the only team under 8:00 and has more than a 4.6-second edge on the outdoor championship field, based on district performances, with its 7:49.35 effort.
Haverford Township was the fastest of six District 1 teams going sub-8:00 last week and is next in line on the season list with a 7:51.13 to finish fifth at the Penn Relays. Expect Butler, which qualified fourth fastest at 7:56.26, to be amongst the teams to run faster this weekend as standout CJ Singleton did not run in the WPIAL final but said he will be on the track for the PIAA distance relay race.
AAA Boys 1,600m Preview
The conversation starts and stops with the Archbishop Wood senior, and the crowd at Shippensburg likely will talk about his every move for quite some time. And why not?!?!?!
He broke track legend Jim Ryun's record for the fastest mile in a HS-only race. No collegians. No pros. And that record lasted almost 67 years.
Not afraid to take a race out fast ... and keep going, Martin will put himself in front, and everybody else will fall in behind in the fast heat. No prelims this year. Just a fast final.
Expect Butler senior CJ Singleton to be glued to Martin's shoulder once the field merges at the break line. The NFHS record of 3:59.51 belongs to AR holder Alan Webb, while the state meet record of 4:07.32 is Drew Magaha's.
One has to expect Martin's name to be listed next to both of those records come late Friday morning ... and there should be an abundance of cell phone videos to choose from when it's time to preserve another historic run by the future Virginia Cavalier.
AA Boys 1,600m Preview
In last year's 1,600-meter final, Carson McCoy of Deer Lakes edged Schuylkill Valley's Luke Seymour for gold. The seniors are back again this weekend, with Seymour having a better time in district competition and McCoy leading the AA yearly list and being PA#5 overall. More than half of the field bettered the SQS last week, but McCoy (4:13.19 to win at the Butler Invite) and Seymour (4:16.53 to win District 3) are the only entrants to have gone under 4:20 so far.
AAA Boys 3,200m Preview
Butler senior CJ Singleton proved at the WPIAL meet last week that he can handle a heavy workload of top-flight races and ask for more. The new state meet format/schedule fits him to a T in 2022, with the 1,600 as the opening event Friday and this 3,200 kicking things off on Saturday.
Expect a large pack, including Singleton, sophomores Ryan Pajak of Ringgold and Drew Griffith of Butler, senior Weber Long of Greencastle-Antrim and juniors Matthew O'Brien of Susquehannock and Aidan Hodge of Hempfield (3), to be positioned at the front when the real racing starts maybe with 1,200 meters remaining.
It could be a long drive to the finish for the winner, with a final time of sub-9:00 very possible.
AAA Boys 800m Preview
This event could be the most spectacular of the weekend, with no prelims to sort things out and eliminate any slow-moving kicker from the final. Archbishop Wood's Gary Martin and Butler's CJ Singleton will start on the rail in the inside alley of the fast heat, while Jacob Puhalla and Central Bucks West's Carter Fitzgerald will have the inside position in the outside alley.
Puhalla, a Moon Area junior, kept Singleton at bay for the entire second lap in the District 7 final, registering the fastest qualifying time and a PR of 1:51.49. Martin ran 1:49.68 in an open 800 with some pros on April 8, while Fitzgerald threw down a 1:50.50 at the SOL National Conference meet.
The state meet record of 1:48.72 was set in 2015 by former Cheltenham star John Lewis. Interestingly enough, Martin finished one place ahead of Lewis in that fast open 800 at Upper Moreland.
Almost all of the top qualifiers are scheduled to run legs on their teams' 4x800 relays at the conclusion of the morning session on Saturday. Singleton also will have opened Saturday's schedule with the 3,200.
Two of the state's fastest so far in 2022 - Sean Adams of State College and Quinn Worrell of St. Joseph's Prep - missed the cutoff for the faster heat and are lined up in the inside alley of section 1. A medal-worthy time might come out of that first race.
Expect to see a decent amount of elbow, arm and hand contact as those in the "hot heat" will try to get to the rail and in the front. An opening lap of 53 seconds isn't out of the question for the second section of this time-based final.
AAA Girls 800m Preview
Prior to the South Hills Classic early in 2021, Mia Cochran didn't have a big meet 800 on her running resume. The future Arkansas Razorback has changed that over the past year and a half, using her deceivingly fast turnover to turn in some quality times. She has a pair of 2:09.5 races to her credit this year and has enough speed to close out a sweep of the distance events in AAA.
However, the field is fast and young. Five of the six fastest district qualifying times were recorded by freshmen or sophomores.
Haverford Township's Olivia Cieslak has the fastest seed time of 2:11.39, which she needed to turn back a loaded District 1 field that had the first eight easily run faster than the SQS of 2:18.47. The ladies from District 1 will have the edge in numbers in the battle with Cochran. This one is tough to call.
Photo Credit: Tony Morales/New York MileSplit
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AAA Girls 1,600m Preview
Mia Cochran has piled up the travel miles in her senior track season at Moon Area, hitting a number of out-of-state events. In many of those, including her most recent trip, the Arkansas signee lined up for the mile.
Friday's PIAA 1,600 will feature Cochran in top form as evidenced by her triple at WPIALs and a PR mile two days later. A year ago, Cochran won the AAA title in 4:51.01.
Expect fellow seniors Olivia Haas of Blue Mountain and Olivia Walter of Mechanisburg to provide a strong challenge.
AAA Girls 3,200m Preview
With three Class AAA XC titles under her belt, Mia Cochran is definitely at home on the track in longer multi-lap races. However, up until two weeks ago, the Moon Area senior didn't have a big meet 3,200 on her resume in 2022.
A 10:30.26 in a last-chance meet and her 10:48.06 run to win another WPIAL gold appears to have Cochran ready to defend her PIAA title in the midst of an attempted triple at Shippensburg. She is currently second on the 2022 state rankings, just seconds behind Class AA defending champion Jolena Quarzo.
If Cochran should falter, there will be talented runners all around her, with 16 in the field having gone sub-11:00 at districts. Greencastle-Antrim's Claire Paci turned in her season-best 10:38.10 to win at District 3, which qualified the maximum of eight runners. Olivia Walter, Caryn Rippey, Lydia Tolerico and Marissa Pritchett joined Paci in running faster than the defending state champion in district competition.
It's going to be a good one.
AA Girls 3,200m Preview
A year ago, Jolena Quarzo of Brownsville Area joined older sister Gionna as a PIAA champion at 3,200 meters. Now a junior, Jolena is a big favorite to repeat in Saturday's opening race, having run sub-10:30 indoors and out and being the only state qualifier under 11:00 last week. The defending champion is comfortable running in front and expect her to take the lead from the gun.
This medal stand could be one of the few throughout the weekend not to include a senior. The qualifiers who bettered the SQS last week include six juniors, three sophomores and a freshman.
AAA Boys 400m Preview
Lebron Bessick of Coatesville got himself some breathing room at the top of the AAA 400 charts with his District 1 victory and second sub-48 effort of the year. He only has two big meets to his credit in the 400 in 2022, but both are high quality efforts.
The closest to Bessick on the yearly list and the state qualifiers is Cumberland Valley's Luke Noss, whose District 3 winner of 48.18 also was a PR run. Junior Colton Lynch of Shamokin Area is the fastest non-senior headed to Shippensburg thanks to his District 4 win.
AAA Boys 110m High Hurdles Preview
Demaris Waters has been very busy and very fast in the 110 high hurdles in 2022.
Qualifying for his first PIAA finale, the Harrisburg senior heads to Shippensburg as the hands-down leader on the performance chart, registering four sub-14.00 clockings prior to claiming the District 3 final in a season-best, PA#1 and US#31 13.83. He finished second to Class AA favorite Jake Rose at the PTFCA indoor state meet before grabbing fourth at the Adidas Track Nationals.
South Western's Bernard Bell finished second to Waters in each of the District 3 races and occupies the No. 2 spot on the 2022 Class AAA list at 14.40. He is also one of only three non-seniors in the top 12 of the PIAA performance list.
AA Boys 110m High Hurdles Preview
Fresh off a resounding District 4 title race, Jake Rose of Southern Columbia is a strong favorite to repeat his 110-meter high hurdle crown in Class AA.
As a freshman in 2019, the Penn commit was fifth fastest in the prelims but was unable to finish his semifinal race. COVID fast forwarding to 2021, Rose was the quickest in all three rounds en route to the gold medal in 14.10. His fastest time heading to Ship is last week's winning 14.00 effort.
District 3 top finishers Michael Carlson of Bermudian Springs and Danny Britten of Trinity are the only other AA hurdlers under 14.7 this year, with Carlson the second fastest in last week's meets at 14.61.
AA Girls 300m Hurdles Preview
A year ago, Nora Johns of Quaker Valley had the AA state lead and was the fastest at the district level heading to Shippensburg. The then sophomore held form and claimed the PIAA title, finishing just a handful of hundredths of a second off her 2021 best. Fast forward to today, and the Quaker hurdler is No. 1 in AA by almost a second, having won the WPIAL finale by almost the same margin. District 7, by the way, occupies the top four spots on the PIAA performance list. One of track and field's most difficult events might have a PIAA repeat champion in Johns.
AA Girls 400m Preview
Back for a third run at the AA 400 gold is Montoursville Area's Lily Saul. In 2019, Saul qualified, while last year she finished second over one lap and added a sixth in the 800, too. The senior leads the yearly list (and district qualifiers) by almost a second.
Working to close the gap is Laurel freshman Tori Atkins, who opened the season with a big win at the South Hills Classic and has continued to improve. Four other underclassmen - Kanai English Bey of West Catholic, Mylee Harmon of Redbank Valley, Olivia Haley of Wyalusing Valley Area and Anna Dunn of Towanda - were amongst the eight fastest at the district level as a total of 10 qualifiers bettered the SQS last week.
AAA Girls 4x100m Relay Preview
Slick baton work can beat pure speed and often does in the 4x100-meter relay. Thus far in 2022, Cheltenham has been able to incorporate both elements into state-leading times in the one-lap relay. The Lady Panthers turned in a pair of quick times in winning the District 1 race, passing their way to 48.03 in the prelims and 47.83 in the final. Cheltenham has been in this position before as their 2016 foursome has the PIAA meet record at 45.78. Twenty-three of the 29 teams lining up for this event met the SQS, and eight are from District 1.
AA Boys Javelin Preview
Wyoming Area's Drew Mruk has performed at a high level all year in the javelin. The junior right-hander has thrown 187-0 or farther in each of his five big meets, a mark that would be a solid No. 3 heading to the Class AA finale. However, his District 2-winning mark of 210-6 is the best in PA by 12 feet and US#4. He also hurled the 800-gram spear over 200 feet on his other legal throws last week. At this year's Penn Relays, Mruk was the first American HSer in finishing third, while Ligonier Valley senior Miles Higgins was next and only about 2 feet behind at an even 190-0. Higgins also reached a PR of 198-6 just over two weeks ago.
AA Girls Shot Put Preview
Emma Callahan has been one of the top shot putters in Pennsylvania and the country for several years now. She topped 41 feet indoors and out as a freshman and now is a 50-foot performer.
Despite those numbers, the Shenango senior does not have a PIAA gold medal to her credit. That certainly will be rectified Saturday morning as she enters the shot competition with a 6.5-foot advantage over the state's next best AA shot putter, Justley Sharp of Homer Center. In District 6, Sharp hit a PR 44-2, with that mark almost 3 feet farther than her next best throw that day.
The Nos. 3, 4 and 5 throwers on the PIAA performance list are another 5 feet back.
Callahan's PR of 50-8 on her last throw in the WPIAL final moved her up a notch to US#2. The 16-year-old state meet record of 50-10.75 is definitely in jeopardy.
AA Girls Discus Preview
The balance of power this year in the AA girls discus definitely resides in western PA. Five of the six throwers over 120 feet in 2022 are from districts 6, 7 and 10.
Homer Center's Justley Sharp had the meet of her life at the District 6 champs, hitting a PR 142-1 with 2 other throws at or longer than her previous big meet best. The junior was fourth in the discus - and shot - at last year's state final.
Emma Callahan of Shenango and Sydney Hale of Riverside (7) went 1-2 at the WPIAL meet and are 3rd and 2nd, respectively, on the yearly list as the only other AA discus throwers over 130 feet.
AAA Girls Discus Preview
More often than not, Elizabeth Tapper is juggling two, sometimes three events at a meet. Saturday morning at Shippensburg, the multiple-event state qualifier will have the luxury of concentrating on just one, an event where she has become one of the top performers in the country.
The Hempfield Area (7) junior reached out to 163-9 last month and on two other occasions threw at least 150 feet, a mark that is Tapper's alone in Pennsylvania in 2022. Ericka Jackson of Harrisburg moved to PA#2 with a 148-3 toss at District 3, while Alex Pancoast of Unionville was the third state qualifier throwing over 130 feet a week ago.
AAA Boys High Jump Preview
The sky has definitely been the limit in 2022 for Shippensburg high jumper Dakota Arana. Last year's AAA state champ and a 6-8 jumper, the senior slipped over 6-11 at the site of this weekend's championships and then a T-US#5 7-0 at Millersville University on back-to-back weekends in April. His only loss was in late March. His advantage on the season performance list also is an amazing 7 inches for those headed to the PIAA finale. Coatesville junior Drew Domurat is the only other HJer to have met the SQS on the road to Shippensburg.
AA Boys High Jump Preview
Two of last year's AA HJ medalists return in Josh Dreves of Grove City and Noah Gunderson of Annville-Cleona, with Gunderson being one of four district champions in 2022 having cleared 6-5 or higher last week. In addition to his 6-5 to win District 9, Union-Allegheny Clarion Valley sophomore Hayden Smith got over 6-9 at the Redbank Invitational two weeks ago. He was ninth a year ago in his initial high school campaign. It could be wide open with the champion decided on misses.
AAA Boys Pole Vault Preview
Justin Rogers has flown higher than any Pennsylvania pole vaulter ever has.
A year ago, the future Virginia Cavalier cleared 15-6 for PIAA gold. Since mid-January, Rogers has topped 17 feet on three occasions. He also is undefeated outdoors and was victorious at the Penn Relays. All indications are the Hershey senior will be on the top step of the awards podium this weekend. By the way, the state meet record is 16-6 and has been on the books for 10 years.
Butler senior Tristan McGarrah heads to Shippensburg with a brand new PR of 15-7 and the No. 2 spot on the yearly list. Breckin Swope of East Pennsboro and Ian Dorefice of State College also topped 15 feet in district competition.