The owner of several of Pennsylvania’s top performances from the 2012 season, Drew Magaha of Upper Moreland appeared to be a cinch for gold in Saturday’s Class AAA 1,600-meter run.
Admittedly having walked a fine line for weeks between state-record times and being healthy enough to compete, the defending champion started with the field before slowly moving off the pace and finishing last in the field of 12.
“It’s my last race as a senior, and winning it would have been great but you have to take something more valuable from it,” an emotional Magaha said. “I learned a lesson. It was a hot day, and I’ve done pretty impossible things before but now I’ve got to just slow down and see the bigger picture to get the lesson involved.”
Diagnosed in late January with mononucleosis, Magaha missed the foundation-building weeks of a middle-distance runner’s track season. Remarkably, he still bettered the all-time state record in the 800 on April 20 at the Abington Jack Armstrong Invitational.
He covered the two laps in a blistering 1:48.82. That time would have won Saturday’s AAA two-lap race by more than three seconds.
“I think I was in the wrong race,” Magaha stated matter of factly of his focus during the run to Shippensburg. “I probably should have focused on the 8. It’s taken way too much out of me in the last few weeks. That (1,600) last week was pretty much as best as it’s probably going to get.”
Magaha was hospitalized in the weeks after his record 800 and lost 18 pounds. Despite the physical setbacks, he again made headlines on the track last week.
At the District 1 championship meet, the University of Pennsylvania recruit stormed home in the 1600, flashing across the line in 4:08.94. Hours later, he finished at the back of the 800 field in a manner similar to his four laps around the all-weather surface at Seth Grove Stadium.
“I thought that I learned it after I got mono that you can’t always fight the world, and I made the same mistake again … running that 4:08 last week and not doing as well as I wanted to in the 800,” said Magaha, who was the state’s fastest this year at 800, 1,500, 1,600 and the mile. “Today, I needed to learn it again.”
In Friday’s qualifying, Magaha ran in tandem with eventual champion Tom Coyle of La Salle as the duo separated themselves from the rest of the field. Magaha eased up before the finish line to cross a close third in 4:18.54 and earn his spot in the final.
Coyle noted afterward that Saturday’s final would be fast, alluding to Magaha’s state meet record of 4:07.32 in 2011 as proof of the ability of the pre-meet favorite.
“The heat mixed with a lot of stuff going on in my life, right now it was more important for me to take a lesson from it,” Magaha said.
Despite the struggles Saturday, Magaha said he would compete again this year, running the 800 at the New Balance Nationals in North Carolina.
“I might not win, but I’ll take another lesson from it,” he said. “And until I get healthy again, until I gain that 18 more pounds, I’m going to learn as many lessons as it takes.”