It's senior vs. senior as the only two returning medalists from 2009 face off in the 60 meter hurdles - an event where just a single clip can mean the difference between 1st and 2nd. Malvern Prep's Wallace Spencer is the defending indoor champion and has already run a personal best 8.03 @ the PTFCA Track Carnival in mid-February. Spencer hasn’t been beaten all year. Can he break 8? It would be an incredible effort. His main competition will come from Penncrest senior Matt Bundy, whose season best (and PR) 8.11 is within clippin' distance. Bundy was 8th last year, but is a whole lot closer to Spencer than 53 weeks ago.
State College senior Alex Kenney (5th in 2009) has only been beaten by Brady "Flash" Gehret, who is not running this event to focus on the longer stuff - like one and two (and maybe four) laps around the banked oval. Kenney is the only guy seeded under seven seconds. Contenders are few and far between because of his big gap and because so many guys are clustered together with the same times. Is the 6.82 meet (and shared PA all-time) record by Kevin Jones in 2001 in jeopardy? Kenney is the only medalist from 2009 returning this year.
Note: The all-time state best in the 55, 60, 55 hurdles and 60 hurdles are held by one person - 1995 Overbrook grad Dworski Odom - who happens to be a coach at his alma mater. See for yourself.
DO NOT LEAVE YOUR SEAT during the 200 and 400 meter dashes. Penn State-bound Brady Gehret of Altoona, is not only the defending champion and current US#1 in the 200 and US#4 in the 400 - he split the difference between the two distances at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in early February, winning the 300m is a tie US #6 all-time 33.51. (Photo by WingedFootFoto) In head-to-head against Kenney - who was runner-up in 2009 - Gehret was ahead of Kenney by over half a second in the 200. Gehret is the only guy under 22 seconds, but Kenney has been his best competition all year. 21.50 is the meet record by Ernie Terrell in 2001 (Along with the 21.3h by Steel Valley's Clinton Davis in 1983.) Penn Hills senior Brandon Ifill (TSTCA champion) and Cheltenham junior Matt Gilmore (TFCAofGP Meet of Champions winner) have a shot to do damage if given an opening. This race will have a big impact on the team title race for both Penn Hills and Cheltenham. Ozzie Bryan of West Catholic (4th in 2009), Brandon Thompson of Germantown HS (7th in 2009) are the other returning medalists.
Gehret has one second on the field. That is huge. The meet record is 47.65 by Drew Eckman in 2003. But it could be the incredible 46.84 by the great William Reed of Central (Philly) from 1986, that is in Gehret's sites. Gilmore (TFCAofGP MOC winner) and teammate Brandon Bennett-Green of Cheltenham will be the biggest challengers to Gehret. Charles Ross of Abington will be looking to challenge and take points away from Cheltenham. Tom Hopkins of Haverford School (6th in 2009), and Evan Williams of Methacton (8th in 2009) are returning medalists.
Stanford-bound Tom Mallon discovered this year what his coach and many others have known all along - he's a pretty good miler as well as an 800 meter man. So good in fact, that he qualified for the prestigious Millrose Games in the event in late January. He'll be coming off the mile which is sandwiched between the trials and semis of the 60's. But he's aiming to lower his all-time indoor PA best of 1:51.79, which he set in winning the event a year ago. This meet will certainly challenge his strength. Mallon is the only returning medalist in the field. Juniors Kyle Moran of Abington and Andy Flynn of Cumberland Valley are the only guys who have actually run under 1:57 along with Mallon, who was under 1:56 when he doubled in the mile at the Hispanic Games in NY. Mallon and Moran haven’t run the 800 since January 9 when they went one-two in that race. Flynn's 1:56.19 seed time was a two-second PR - indoor or outdoor - run at the recent Eastern States meet.
While Mallon has become a top miler, the one PA athlete in front of him in two races this winter has been Father Judge senior Tom Kehl. They went head to head for the first time at New Balance when Kehl had a breakthrough winning race of 4:13.48, more than three seconds ahead of Mallon's PR in the Millrose-qualifying effort for both athletes. At Millrose, Kehl again got the best of Mallon, but the gap was closed considerably to under a second. Kehl ran the Reebok Boston Indoor Games invitational mile a week later, getting 7th. The meet record is 4:12.61 by Paul Springer in 2007. Nick Scarpello of Central Bucks West, Vince Perozze of Perkiomen Valley (6th in 2009), Tom O’Kane of LaSalle, and Chris O'Sullivan of Saint Joseph's Prep had great races against each other at the Meet of Champions. Will that momentum carry and allow one of them to break up the two man front? To pull an upset on this group of seniors will take a remarkable race by someone else in the field.
If confidence is a fuel, then Foot Locker finalist and TSTCA champion Rad Gunzenhauser has a full tank. He has eight seconds on the field and has been really coming on the past couple weeks. This will be his third 3000 in as many weeks. It's also his third 3000. At the TSTCA meet on February 20th, he soloed to an 8:47.76. A week later at TSTCA Champs, he dropped that to an 8:41.38. And his goal is much lower. Junior Zach Greth of Exeter (Philly Meet of Champs winner), and sophomore Ned Willig of Great Valley are the closest contenders. Senior Nebiyu Osman of Mercersburg (7th in 2009) and senior Brad Hough of West Allegheny (8th in 2009) are only returning medalists. The PA best and meet record is 8:22.65 by Manheim Township's Craig Miller in 2005.
If for some reason your eyes are fixed on the track during one of Brady Gehret's runs, your attention is sure to be drawn away when senior super jumper Carlton Lavong of Methacton is on the runway for either the long or the triple jump. Lavong has never won a state title (2nd in 2009), and he is healthy and has been consistent all season long. Lavong has 14 inches on the rest of the field. But don't feel too bad... because he has over seven inches on the rest of the COUNTRY. The meet record is 24-04.50 by Ron Dickerson of State College in 1989. Lavong has gone over that twice in the same meet, with his 24-11 at the PTFCA Track Carnival standing atop the US rankings. Tom Hopkins of Haverford School (8th in 2009), Rich D’Ambrosio of Malvern Prep, and Gehret are top challengers in this event for top 3 medals. The all-time best is way out there at 26-06.50 by Dion Bentley of Penn Hills, set in 1989. That also happens to be the the national record. With his 24-11, Lavong has secured a place on the all time indoor list. He'd like to move up.
Lavong (5th in 2009) is the nation’s best in this event, leading US#2 by over six inches. In PA, his 49-11 - jumped at the Philly area Meet of Champs two weeks ago, is three feet over the second seed. The meet record is 49-01.25 set by Michael Leatherbury of Girard College in 1985. That mark was the state record until January 9th when Lavong went 49-8 in New York. McDowell senior Pat Cochran is close to 47 feet and is the nearest challenger to Lavong. You'll know when Carlton is jumping. Trust me. And make sure you watch, because any of the jumps could be something very special.
Junior Scott Rushton of Episcopal Academy has only finished 2nd in a meet this season one time, and that was to senior Blake Davenport of Kennett at the PTFCA Track Carnival. Davenport was 6th in this meet in 2009. Rushton is also the only guy in PA over 55 feet this winter.
Seniors James Weiss of Quakertown and Mick Coleman of William Tennent are the only vaulters at 15 feet or above and have gone head to head for most of the season. Weiss won their last meeting at the Philly Meet of Champs. Lanny Buck of Palmerton (7th in 2009) and Beau Whitman of Lasalle (8th in 2009) are returning medalists.
Senior Stephen Lewis of Liberty jumped 6-10 at Eastern States and is one of only three guys above the 6-6 mark. Senior Marcus Blakely of Coatesville has jumped 6-8 while winning most of his meets. Junior Mike McClelland of Trinity (7) has cleared 6-7. Nathan Harriger of Norwin (3rd in 2009) is the only returning medalist.
Cheltenham (4th in 2009) (Photo from Hispanic Games by Tim Fulton, ArmoryTrack.com) has been consistent all season long in this event and has beaten some of the best in the Northeast. With no Abington in the race, it is a great opportunity for them to score big points toward the team title - their ultimate goal. Penn Hills (3rd in 2009) and Central Bucks South are also running for points as well. As the second seed, Northeast HS is also a big contender. The meet record is 1:28.49 set by Glen Mills in 2002. The all-time state best is 1:27.13, run by Simon Gratz in 2005. Cardinal O’Hara (5th in 2009) is the only other medalist from last season.
Cheltenham and Abington (4th in 2009) have gone back and forth as state 1 and 2 all season, and this event may decide the team championship! With their season bests, just .05 seconds apart, these two powerhouse relays are loaded to bring the house down. Penn Hills also has to be considered as a very viable champ in this event and could either help themselves in the team race, or ruin it for the other two. Conestoga (2nd in 2009) is the only other team under 3:25 this winter. The meet and also PA record is 3:18.73 by Glen Mills in 2002. Bensalem (3rd in 2009), Penncrest (6th in 2009), and Chester (8th in 2009) were medalists last year, and also return.
Abington (4th in 2009) is US#3 with their 7:52.70 from Eastern States. They won the Millrose 4x800 against two teams ranked ahead of them nationally. Central Bucks West ran 7:56.81 at Poreda (Lawrenceville NJ), and won by almost 20 seconds that day. Both teams are the only squads under 8 minutes this season. The meet record is 7:48.99 by North Penn in 2008. LaSalle (8th in 2009) ran their 8:04.82 third seed time in a slow heat to win the Philly Meet of Champions. North Penn (2nd in 2009), Bensalem (3rd in 2009), and Holy Ghost Prep (7th in 2009) are the other medalists from last year. The state all time best is 7:47.48 by North Penn in 2008.
Less than two seconds separates Baldwin (6th in 2009) and West Chester Henderson. Penn Hills will look to get some big points without Abington or Cheltenham to race against. Saint Joseph's Prep (2nd in 2009) is the only other medalist from last year. Spoiler alert for the 4th and 5th seeds, Central Bucks South and Altoona. Plans are for South's Tom Mallon to anchor, and for Altoona's Brady Gehret to run the 800 leg. If Altoona enters the final leg with a lead, Wade Endress is as tough a competitor as you will find. Should be a great race.