We all know the inevitable performances that were destined to happen at the state meet. Lailah Campbell, Kaddel Howard, Ethan Black, J.P McCaskey and Abington's 4x400s, etc... But how many of us saw some of these stellar races, upsets and state records coming? I can't guarantee that any of us can see the future but, I can break down some of the biggest surprises from the 2023 PIAA State Championships.
Dale Hall AAA 1600m Champion
In a stacked distance field, nobody expected Dale Hall to come out on top but he proved to be Friday's fastest. As we approached the championship, Hall was quietly peaking at all the right times. In the 1600m final at the state meet, he ran a massive seven second PR to complete the upset.
"I don't know if it's entirely sunk in yet," said Hall in an interview following the race. All the talk heading into the big weekend was Drew Griffith VS. Brian DiCola and all eyes were on them. Even so, Dale Hall absolutely stole the show.
Cieslak goes 2 for 2 winning 1600m and 800m
Now, Olivia Cieslak she was the favorite for the 800m heading into the state meet. Yet, in the 1600m she was on the outside looking in when it came to victory. "I knew I definitely had a shot," said Cieslak after victory.
Cieslak seized the lead after 800m and never looked back. When it came down to the final lap, it was anybody's race and she pulled away from the competition winning it in 4:49.01.
Luke Coleman's Arrival as the AAA 400m Champion
Luke Coleman hit all the right strides at all the right times.
He certainly proved me wrong, after not making it into the top 8 boys listed in my Boys' Sprints PIAA Preview. Despite that, he had two of the most electric races of the state meet in his 400m prelims and finals races.
He had the second fastest prelim time of 47.91 heading into the final. When the spikes were on for the final, one lap later Coleman came out the victor in a new state leading time of 47.26.
Coleman sprinted to a gold medal finish in the final. He even started off their championship 4x400m relay with a 46 split to help secure a second gold for Abington.
Evelyn Bliss Shatters State Record
A 15 year old record and a 15 foot PR for Evelyn Bliss at the state meet.
"I can't believe it. I knew I had potential but I was just going out to see what I could do," said Bliss after being donned with the gold medal.
We all knew she was poised for victory. But she shocked everybody after a massive PR which catapulted her further into the PA history books. With her champion's throw of 170-2, she sits at the current US No. 2 and PA No. 3 All Time.
Upsets in the 2A and 3A Boys Javelin
Keeping with the theme of javelin, Tyler Arnold had the second best throw of 2A heading into the weekend.
Going into their final attempts, Arnold was sitting in third place. He left it all out there with one final heave and nailed a huge 10 foot PR to win it with 205-4. This put a significant gap between him and the rest of the field, making him champion. Side note: he also had a podium finish in the high jump after clearing 6-2. An absolute athlete.
On the 3A side, Peter Bellomo had a few javelin titans to take down in order to claim his gold. Drew Mruk has led the state and nation all season long.
Bellomo came into the weekend seated third overall with his district finish. On his first throw in the final round, he threw a big 6 foot PR of 214-3. Through the next couple of throws, nobody would come close to this distance and he secured victory.
Aidan Hodge Wins 3A 800m From 1st Section
Aidan Hodge was on the radar for being able to throw down some really fast times on the track. His victory comes as an upset as he came in seeded lower than the rest of the competition. For Hodge to become champion, he would have to win it from the slower section.
With an uphill battle ahead of him, Hodge unleashed the fastest bell lap of the day and won section 1 by over 2 seconds. When it was all said and done, the fastest section couldn't match Hodge's triumphant two laps. Hodge was crowned champion with the state's second fastest time of the season of 1:52.17