AAA BOYS PREVIEW
By Aaron Rich
In the 400 meter dash, something special could be in store with Brady Gehret, Altoona, cruising to a US#2 mark of 46.39 at his district qualifying race. Cheltenham's Matt Gilmore (47.90) and Brandon Bennett-Green (48.02) will be sure to push Brady to his max and could get under 47.50 themselves.
Gehret is also the odds-on favorite in the 200 meter dash with a time of 21.12 to his credit, but he will have some competition. Corey Brown, Cardinal O'Hara, exploded at the PCL champs with a time of 21.18, only .06 off of Brady's time. Alex Kenney, State College, Brandon Ifill, Penn Hills, and Greg Garmon, McDowell, are all under 21.90 and will be competing for the top-3 places.
In the 110 meter hurdles, Don Pollitt, Hazleton, leads the way as the only one under 14 with his state-leading time of 13.99. Brandon Thompson, Germantown, and Kuwan Scott, Wilson Area, are his main challengers, but might very well need a slip-up on Don's part to take the title.
In the 300 meter hurdles, Kuwan Scott, Wilson Area, and Ptah Osayande, Strath Haven, are the top title hopefuls, with Kuwan given a slight nod as he has gone 37.56 to Ptah's 37.99. Brandon Thompson, Germantown, is the closest challenger with a clocking of 38.09. Dakota Grove, Chambersburg, and Martin Solomon, Chester, are the closest challengers to the top-3.
This year, the 100 meter dash is all about three guys, Eric Thomas, Muhlenberg, Tyler Smith, Norristown, and Alex Kenney, State College. Thomas leads the way with his state-leading time of 10.44. Some distance back is Smith with a 10.59, and Kenney is on his heels with a 10.63. Any one of these three could break out on top for the win. Dillion Holloway, Exeter, and Yamil Echavarria, Reading, aren't too far off should someone get a bad start.
The 800 meter run has all the makings of a legendary race. If conditions are right Tom Mallon, Central Bucks South, (the defending outdoor champ) has a shot at the state record of 1:48.8 set 23 years ago by Paul Vandegrift, Archbishop Kennedy, and current girls' coach at Upper Dubline. Mallon gave it a solid go at Henderson with a state-leading mark of 1:49.61, and depending on his race schedule, will have plenty of competition to push him to the brink of the mark again. Sam Ellison, Upper Dublin, has come a long way in the 800 this year and boasts a PR of 1:52.38. Sam will be sure to push-pull Tom around the track. Luke Lefebure, West Chester Henderson, the surprise indoor 800 champ, has really developed outdoors and boasts a 1:52.60 to his credit, and will also be right there. He shows no fear of the distance, pace or competition. From here the race continues with amazing depth with 10 runners in the race under 1:55. These guys include Sam Negley, Kevin DiFlorio, Victor Costello, Jahquil Hargrove, Hong Cho, Mato Bekelja, Dennis Logan, and Charles Anderson, and they will all be stalking a medal in the 800.
The 1600 meter run has a few entrants who could surprise with a great race. Vince Perozze, Perkiomen Valley, leads the state with his 4:14.86 from the beginning of April. Will Kellar, West Chester Henderson, is just behind in 4:15.04. Either of these guys could go 4:10-4:11 if pushed with the right pace. Tom Kehl, Father Judge, has run 4:15.96 outdoors but lest we forget his 4:11.07 Mile from the Penn Relays. Kehl runs like that this weekend and he could go 4:08 and take the win easily. And Penn isn't his only big race experience - he ran indoors, along with Mallon, in the Millrose Mile.
The 3200 meter run has the potential for a sub-9 effort if the early pacemaking is honest enough. Foot Locker finalist Rad Gunzenhauser, Mt. Lebanon, leads the pack with his PA#2 time of 9:07.33. Ryan Gil, North Allegheny, is only a few ticks back at 9:10.62. Both these runners appear to be peaking at the right time, as their marks came in state qualifying races. Pushing these two will be Matthew Fischer, Unionville, 9:12.17, Reece Ayers, Tunkhannock, Joe Kush, North Hills, and Glen Burkhardt, Unionville, 9:16.25.
In the 4x100 meter relay, Central Bucks South leads the pack with a state-leading time of 42.12. Parkland stands the best shot of beating them straight-up with a time of 42.28. Conestoga and Pottsgrove should also be in the medal hunt. Remember, CB South won the Large School race at Penn.
How fast can they go in the 4x400 meter relay? Eight teams are under 3:20 on the season, but the story is at the front with Cheltenham, 3:13.60, and Abington, 3:15.82. If conditions are right we could see a sub-3:12 time, but a lot depends on the freshness of the athletes. Cheltenham is racing Brandon and Matt in the 400 while Abington has Charles Ross in the race, so the squads should be fresher than in past years. With Gilmore anchoring, the edge goes to Cheltenham for the championship. Behind these two powerhouses the race gets interesting. Penn Hills and Altoona (the defending state champ in the event with the fastest anchor in the state) have gone 3:17.83 and 3:18.02 respectively, so it will be a tight race for 3rd place if all goes as planned up front. Spring Ford, Penn Wood, Cardinal O'Hara, and Chester will also be in the medal hunt late Saturday afternoon.
As always, the 4x800 meter relay is loaded with talent in AAA. We won't see a 7:33 out of this group, but we could possibly see some low 7:40's. Baldwin leads a pack of 6 under 7:50 with a best time of 7:46.99. The others are LaSalle College HS, Penn Hills, Abington, Central Bucks West, and Cedar Crest. The top 22 teams in the state are all under 8:00. The race will come down to who wants it the most down the stretch, as this one is too close to call.
Coronation time in the long and triple? No one counts a victory before the final jump, but the way things look now the only competitor who can beat Carlton Lavong, Methacton, in the long jump, is himself. He is the indoor state champ in both events and has gone 24-5 and 51-00 in each events. Ryan Brumfield, Owen J. Roberts, is the closest competitor in the long jump with a leap of 23-7.25, while Brady Gehret sits at 23-6.5, and is the one who pushed the envelope, and Lavong, indoors. Matt Green, Belle Vernon, (the defending outdoor champ) and Richard Rouse, Penn Hills, round out those over 23' and in contention for a top-3 placing.
In the triple jump, Carlton's best sits over 3' better than Imani Brown, Reading, and Pat Cochran, McDowell, who will likely do battle for runner-up honors.
In the high jump, the top 4 competitors are separated by a mere inch. Indoor champ Marcus Blakely, Coatesville, sits atop the state with his 6-9 leap, but will need all of that and possibly more to keep his title. Ryan Brumfield, Owen J. Roberts, Dan Cason, East Stroudburg South, and Jon Hendershot, Nazareth Area, have all gone 6-8. This will be a fun competition to watch on Saturday.
In the pole vault, indoor champ Mick Coleman, William Tennent, leads the way with his early-May leap of 15-6 and looks good to keep jumping that way. James Weiss, Quakertown, and Chris Williams, Strath Haven, sit at 15-1 and 15-0.5 respectively, and will be battling it out for top honors. Four others are at 14-9 and could have a great day to get into the top-3.
In the shot put, Blake Davenport, Kennett, has been throwing well enough that he is the favorite to put the shot far enough for the win, with a throw of 57-1.5. But Kyle Felpel, Cocalico, is lurking a mere 3.5 inches back and could get up for the win with any Davenport miscue or PR. Jim Budzinski, Holy Ghost Prep, will also be looking for a state medal performance.
Eric Masington, Bensalem, owns the discus this year with a toss of 178-1, nearly 10' ahead of his nearest competition. Kyle Felpel, Cocalico, will be looking for a chink in Eric's armour, as he has thrown 169-00, just last week at his District 3 meet. Chazz Wilks, Cardinal O'Hara, has gone 168-3 and is capable of a runner-up finish with a solid throw. Blake Davenport and Jim Budzinski could also get in for a top-3 finish.
Chris Carper, Altoona, is far in front of his peers with a huge 223-11 javelin throw, improving from week to week - exactly what you want at this time of year. Kyle Hefkin, State College, is the closest challenger with a toss of 210-7. Jim Budzinski, Holy Ghost Prep, could challenge Kyle with his toss of 203-10. If there were a multi event for throws Jim would own it, as he is in contention for medals in all three throws.