5 Biggest Surprises from the 2024 PTFCA State Championship

The 2024 PTFCA Indoor State Championship was one to remember. With an unprecedented number of incredible efforts, you may have overlooked a lot of other outstanding performances.

Here are five surprises from this year's indoor state meet. 

Sophomore Carter Smith wins 800m run state title:

Where did Carter Smith come from? 

The Mifflin County Sophomore seems to have appeared out of thin air, shutting down big names like Zack Zerbe (Governor Mifflin) and Gabriel Cuffey (Archbishop Carroll) to claim the PTFCA Indoor State 800m title. 

Smith made a decisive move to take the lead with 300 meters to go and didn't look back. He crossed the line in a US No. 11 time of 1:52.83, an unbelievable 2.4-second personal best. 

Smith entered the state championship meet with a seed time of 1:55.23, which is still impressive for a sophomore. However, with guys like Michael Woolery (Episcopal Academy), the returning 800 indoor state champion who ran 1:51.54 outdoors, Smith may have been overlooked by most.

That didn't deter the young middle-distance runner, making for one of the most surprising performances of the day. 

Above: Watch Carter Smith claim the 800m crown.


Hayden Smith raises the boys high jump state meet record to 6-11:

Hayden Smith (Union-Allegheny Clarion Valley) winning the PTFCA Indoor State high jump title was no surprise, as the clear favorite entering the meet. However, the surprising part of his performance was the improvement of 2.75 inches upon his previous indoor PR to claim the indoor state meet record.

Hayden Smith has been one of PA's premier high jumpers since the 2022 outdoor season, where he won his first PIAA State title. He went on to defend his title in 2023. Smith has never won or even competed at the PTFCA Indoor State Championship during his stellar career.

Smith began heating up this indoor season with his 6-8.25 at the Youngstown State High School Meet, a strong indoor personal best for the senior. He carried that momentum to the state meet.

Smith beat out Joachim Johnson (Episcopal Academy) and Ty'Shawn Ewings (Harrisburg) at 6-8, allowing him to pick the next height. In a bold move, he raised it to 6-11, just a quarter of an inch above the previous indoor state meet record. In an unexpected effort, Smith cleared 6-11 in his first attempt. 

Above: Watch Hayden Smith clear 6-11. 


Milena Sciullo snags the high jump and triple jump state titles:

Milena Sciullo (Grove City) wastes no time establishing herself as one of PA's top jumpers. She entered the state meet with the top seed in the high jump (5-7) and triple jump (38-1). So you may be wondering why it is surprising that she won these events. 

Let's unpack a few things. Sciullo is just a sophomore who has never competed in a state championship meet. She also had to compete in two fields of veterans with athletes like Sara McConnel (River Valley), last year's indoor state high jump champion, and Nataly Walters (Palmerton Area), last year's indoor state triple jump third-place finisher. Not to mention the countless other returning state medalists in both events. 

The fact that such a young athlete with no prior state championship meet experience could win two competitive events and not be distracted by the intense atmosphere was impressive.

Sciullo cleared 5-5 to win the high jump after covering 39-2 to win the triple jump. Sciullo's triple jump effort was a personal best, moving her to the US No. 22 spot.  

Above: Milena Sciullo on her double titles.


Ade Lloyd drops a near-second PR to upset a loaded 400m dash field:

We knew Ade Lloyd (Harriton) had the potential to be one of the top finishers in the 400m dash, but we never expected to see him drop a 0.93-second indoor personal best to take the win.

Lloyd ran a patient race, moving into striking distance of the leaders on the back stretch of the final 400m. Using the last turn's bank, he was able to slingshot himself around Abington's Luke Coleman and catch Imhotep Institute Charter's Jayden Horton-Mims at the line.

Horton-Mims was the favorite coming into the race with a US No. 7 seed time of 47.60. Meanwhile, Lloyd was seeded almost a second (0.74 to be exact) behind. That didn't stop the ambitious Lloyd from shocking the crowd in Happy Valley. 

Above: Watch Ade Lloyd's patient kick to earn the 400m state title.


Haverford Township's Olivia Cieslak, two surprises in one:

Olivia Cieslak (Haverford Township) needs no introduction. As one of the top middle-distance runners in PA and the country, it was interesting not to see her name on the 800m entry list. Especially because she was the US No. 1 in the event before the state meet. 

Cieslak, who also ran the mile, didn't run the 800m to keep her legs fresh for the 4x400m relay. Here's when surprise number two comes into play. 

Haverford Township's Riona O'Neill, Alyssa Bloxton, and Ava Cavanaugh got the stick to Cieslak in 2nd place. When Cieslak got the handoff, Friends' Central's Avery Lewis, the top sprinter in PA and one of the top in the nation, also received the baton. 

In the unique showdown between one of the top distance runners and sprinters in PA history, Cieslak came out on top, moving up to first place and winning the 4x400m relay for Haverford Township, splitting a 55.28. The team's final time was a US No. 13 time of 3:53.50.

As for Lewis, credit is due. The 4x400m relay was her 4th event of the day after winning the 60m dash in 7.26, the 200m dash in 23.73, and the long jump in 20-8.75, a new state indoor meet record. A historical quadruple that led to Friends' Central winning the team title with 38 points. 

Above: Haverford Township Girls on winning the 4x400m relay title.