It's hard enough coaching four members of a relay when they're just friends and members of your track team. But coaching three sisters adds a whole new dimension. For the 2A Girls 4x100 champions from Quaker Valley, it obviously worked. Katia, Dakkia and Aleeda Kimbrough combined forces to get the stick to anchor Christa Rogers on both Friday and Saturday, and running identical 48.56's each time, firmly established a new AA PIAA record.
Katia Kimbrough ran leadoff for Quaker Valley.
She also tried the Shot Put this year, throwing over 30'
(Photo by Karen Ward)
The lead-off was run by senior Katia, the only one who will not return in 2007. She hands off to her sophomore sister Dakkia, who passes to freshman sister Aleeda, who gives the baton to sophomore Christa Rogers. Yes, that Rogers... as in Jasmine, who won two individual state titles in 2004 when she won the 100 meter dash and tied the state record in the 100 meter hurdles at 14.37.
Quaker Valley assistant coach Bill Viccari says the sisters do the "normal" sibling rivalry thing... and Christa comes from a military family upbringing. Katia describes Dakkia as the joker of the group, and littlest sister Aleeda as the "calm and cool one." She says she shares those traits with both her sisters. But when it comes time to race, the sisters and Rogers are all business.
The idea of going for the state AA record of 48.70 set by Milton Hershey in 1999, was introduced to the girls early in the season by head coach and athletic director Jerry Veshio. The problem was in finding quality competition in AA. It's difficult to know how you're progressing as a unit when you win every race by a lot. A good clue about their readiness for the 2005 state meet came at the Baldwin Invitational on May 5th. Racing against AAA teams, Quaker Valley ran 49.12 and finished 2nd to a very strong Penn Hills team that would go on to win state silver. Katia says the race helped their confidence.
They went into States weekend thinking they were the team to beat having only been pushed once all year. Viccari says that even though Lewisburg was the #1 seed, all the girls realized that Milton Hershey was actually the team to beat if they hit their hand-offs.
Nerves were not a problem for any of the girls. Katia says she and her sisters have run together during the summers with the River City Elite, a USATF club team. "And Aleeda (the freshman) was ready. She has seen me here and she has seen what it was like." And a big race was nothing new for Katia. As a sophomore she won silver with the 4x100. As a junior, she took 4x100 bronze and 3rd in the open 100, as well. The only potential glitch was a little worry about a hamstring problem that had bothered her for the first half of the year. But, according to Viccari, she was near full strength by season's end.
The girls came out Friday ready to roll, and did... running their first 48.56, setting a new PIAA AA record, and sending a message to Milton Hershey that they were there to run. Milton Hershey had the 2nd best qualifer at 48.69.
To relax Friday night, the girls went to the party that had been organized, went back to their rooms, talked a little and got ready to race. Viccari says Katia runs lead-off for a reason, "...always getting us in position to push for the lead by the second leg and exchange."
They were especially pumped up on Saturday, in large part because they knew their main competition would be coming from Milton Hershey. And it had been Milton Hershey's 1999 record they had broken on Friday. They kept to themselves during warmups, but they knew Milton Hershey was ready to come at them with their best effort.
Running leadoff, Katia did her job by gaining on the Milton Hershey girl from the stagger start. The first leg gets to watch the final two exchanges, and Katia has great confidence in her sisters and Christa. "Seeing my sisters' handoffs and seeing Aleeda pull away on the curve, I knew we had it."
Quaker Valley 48.56, Milton Hershey 49.01. The time would have been 4th in the AAA prelims and 4th in the AAA final.
Katia says that as she rejoined her teammates near the finish line, "we experienced every emotion in the book – crsying, screaming, smiling, laughing."
Viccari thinks their 2nd 48.56 was the better of the two races, and that the wind on the backstretch took down the second split a bit. His only worry came when Christa looked back a little at the third exchange because she thought she heard Aleeda say 'slow.' "Christa is extremely fast with a running start." And Aleeda had been running up on Christa during practices and a move was made to adjust for that. "But it worked," says Viccari.
Viccari sees Roger's future as an individual champion as well, after her 4th place finish in this year's 100 Hurdles in 14.88. "If she gets out of the blocks better in the future, she could push for the 100 hurdle and/or 100 dash title as well."
And she'll definitely continue as Quaker Valley's anchor on the 4x100, which could be even faster in 2007, when Dakkia, Aleeda and Christa will be rejoined by Cheronda Craig, who had medaled on Quaker Valley 4 x 100 as a freshman and sophomore and who also runs sub 12.8 for the 100.
Katia has now graduated. She hopes to go on to college and also to continue to race, but has not yet made a college commitment. In fact, she's still looking for the right opportunity. Because she wants to get into the fashion business, she knows her choices may be limited. "But I am happy to be out of high school and I'm ready to take on college."
The anchor was Christa Rogers, younger sister of 2004 100/100 Hurdles champion Jasmine Rogers
(Photo by Karen Ward)
Simon Gratz was the first team in 34 years to sweep three relays at the PIAA State Championships. That year, it was Wissahickon doing the honors in the 440yd, 880yd and the 2-mile relays. Team scores were not kept, but Wissahickon would have cleaned up with 52 points with four 1st's, a 2nd and a 5th.
And not surprisingly, that Wissahickon squad had their own Khaliff Featherstone, one Don Betterly, currently an assistant coach at the school. Betterly anchored two of the winning relays, but as he admits, didn't have to come from behind. "I always got the baton in the lead, so all I did was run for my life and hope not to let the other guys down." Betterly was a young junior (16) when they swept, and says he almost lost the two-mile relay to Dave Lapp (Coatesville assistant coach), after going out in a 52 second split, and ultimately finishing with a 1:56.0 leg. His 30 yard lead had been cut to five.
Here is how Wissahickon fared that year:
2nd 100yd - Leon Hill 10.1
1st 440yd - Don Betterly 49.2
5th High Jump - Kirk White 6-4
1st 880 Relay 1:29.2- Ernie Cupid, Tony Bishop, Mark Beck, Leon (Bunker) Hill
1st Mile Relay -3:19.4 Ernie Cupid 51.1, Tony Bishop 49.7, Leon Hill 49.8, Don Betterly 48.9
(three days later, they ran 3:16.1, converted to 3:15.0m at the outdoor Meet of Champions sponsored by the TFCAGP at Franklin Field. Betterly anchored in 48.2y (47.9m). At that time, it was the fastest ever run by Philly area High School)
1st 2 Mile Relay 7:51.6 - Dana Howe 2:00.9, Brad Perry 1:55.3, Cliff Zimmerman 1:59.4, Don Betterly 1:56.0
And no, they didn't run gravel all the time. But the surface was not the forgiving, athlete-friendly surfaces of today. At Franklin Field, it was a "State Of The Art" Tarten surface. States were held at Penn State in the stadium before they tore out the track. It was six lanes of "Recoton", basically recycled tires and asphalt. "Not great,", says Betterly, "but the central location made it convenient." The only artificial surfaces they ran on were Franklin Field, North Penn's track for districts, starting in 1972, and States. "We thought it was great any time we got to change out of the 5/8" spikes."
That shows you how special the Simon Gratz trifecta is... it took 34 years for a repeat.
This was Brad Miller's time in the spotlight. But being the twin of one of the best runners in PA history has not dampened his competitive spirit. An injury his sophomore year cost him throughout that winter and spring. And a lost shoe early in the race hurt him his junior year at the state cross country championships. But he persisted. And trained harder and with more consistency than he ever had. The result was a 3A 1600 meter championship that was within 1.1 seconds of someone else's (you get one guess) PIAA AAA record, and just plain fast. A 4:10.43 will win most every year. Miller said he felt good most of the race, and that only the final 300 meters presented a challenge to keep his race pace. After running a 9:09 and change at his league championships, there was speculation that Miller would pick the longer distance as his best shot at an individual state title, something he said had been a goal of his since his freshman year. But when Miller heard that Unionville junior Paul Springer had sprung a 9:03-point at his district meet, he says the mark "scared me away from the 32. I felt the 16 was my best chance to win a state championship." He says his brother's state record of 4:09.33 was in the back of his mind, but it wasn't a goal. "I wanted to go out in 2:05-2:06 and come back in under 2:04. I came out to win the race." Brad did not seek nor receive any advice from his injured brother. But he did get something else from him... his spikes. "I did wear his spikes for the first time yesterday and today. I guess there was magic in them, or something. I felt better than I have in the past few races in my other shoes." Brad says he is simply relieved to get a state championship. "He (Craig) was the only one who could have beaten me in the state, and he was injured, so I won." You'll have to follow Syracuse next year to follow Brad, and Wisconsin, to follow Craig. If you missed this four-year show, you missed one of the great stories in PA prep history. It's not often that a single family has multiple state champions, let alone low four-minute milers with range to 5K and possibly beyond.
Brad Miller kept the AAA 1600 title in the family. Craig has two, and now Brad has one.
The scary part about AA Shot Put champion Allyn Laughlin's throws that have gone over 50 feet this year is that her technique has not been nearly as good as it should be. But that doesn't bother Laughlin, other than knowing that when it all comes together, she could really pop a big one. She threw 50' on the nose earlier this season, and then topped that on her very first throw in the prelims at States. "I came up here and said I really just want to PR. Even Friday, I was excited by my PR in the Discus." Recently, she hasn't focused on the Discus, instead drilling on the Shot in preparation for States, Nike and Junior Nationals. "When I got in the circle, my heart was beating, and I was so nervous. But I've been there before. I took a deep breath, went to the back of the circle and took a deep breath, and it was over 50' and close to the record." Her next throw was the worst of the series. Her last was over 49'. Entering the finals, she got into a rhythm again and her first throw was over 50-04 and she had a new PR... "it was good." A 49 followed and as she began to think about her upcoming final throw at a state meet. Laughlin got serious. She followed her usual routine, and threw. "My coach said it was probably my worst throw technique-wise of all my series, but I just put everything I had into it. He said my glide was not good, my left foot was hanging, but that I really just struck the ball really well. It was all power." 50-10.75! Laughlin is hoping that with or without perfect technique, she can pop a bigger one at either the Nike Outdoor Nationals or USATF Junior Championships. "My coach always says you have the chance of popping one a foot or two over what you are consistently throwing. When I first threw 50, I was consistent at 47. Now I am consistent at 48-49-50, so now if I pop one, hopefully it can be a 52. We'll bypass 51 and go straight to 52." And depending on how juniors go, she may just go right through to Junior Worlds and right into college.
Allyn Laughlin set the AA Shot Put record with a throw of 50-10.75
Thrower Karen Shump, a Penncrest sophomore, successfully defended her 3A Shot Put title. However, she didn't have the same luck on the softball diamond as she did in 2004. Immediately after hitting a season-best throw of 47-06.75 in the Shot Put, it was off to Media to be the starting pitcher on her school's softball team. In 2004, they advanced to the state title, but this year, it was a 3-1 loss to keep them home. No rest for the weary, though. After a bite of dinner, it was back to Shippensburg, where after a restless night of sleep, Shump didn't have her best day in the Discus, an event she has worked more on this year, than last. Her 125-11 was good for 4th. She had thrown 133-00 earlier this season, a mark that would have won by over three feet. For the 2nd year in a row, Shump had to fend off a strong challenge from Hempfield's Samantha Fetter in the Shot Put, who threw 46-00.25. Fetter said she was pleased because it was a PR, but felt she could have thrown further. She was probably the only one in the group who liked the rain... "I guess I'm kind of different that way." Shump, on the other hand, had the rain to blame for the strangest foul of her career. On her very first throw, as she tucked the shot under her chin, it slipped out the back and dropped on the other side of the line. Foul. "That won't happen again," she said.
Karen Shump repeated as AAA Shot Put Champion (photo by Megan Zeller)
3A Boys champion Caesar Westbrook of JP McCaskey, said he had been pumped for the Triple Jump since Districts and the opportunity to jump in better weather. Lucky for him, he got the afternoon session on Friday. His leap of 48-09.75 was not only a PR, it was a school record. His main competition came from two Parkland athletes, John Carelli and Tyrone Faverey. All the action came in the prelims. Westbrook had gone 48-01, when Faverey popped one at 48-04.75. Then came Westbrook's big jump, which was followed by a 48-06.25 by Carelli. The pop was gone from everyone's legs in the finals, but the fun of seeing three over 48' in the same flight is something to savor. Westbrook will next go to Golden West in California... "I'm not done yet. This is only states, but that is national. I can't wait for that."
Caesar Westbrook lead two others over 48 feet in the AAA Triple Jump
Union City senior Natalie Clickett had reason to celebrate after her three-peat in the 2A girls Discus. She had a huge PR of 153-04 (over 8'), and her brother, Justin, who was a Discus state champ in 2003, witnessed the entire event. Justin had only been able to make dual meets in the past, so his presence was appreciated by his sister. Clickett credits a rededication to both physical and mental preparation for her improvement. "I came in wanting to win it more than any other year. And one of my goals was to make my brother proud, and I think I achieved that."
Natalie Clickett three-peats in the AA Discus. (photo by Megan Zeller)
It was a weekend of firsts for Erin Hannon and her 3A Bradford teammates. Hannon had come into the meet, amazingly having never won an outdoor title. She walked, or shall we say, jumped her way to two. Starting with Friday morning's rain, Hannon was the only one above 5-4, clearing 5-07 for the High Jump win. In the afternoon, with improved weather, she scored her seeding, and placed 6th in the Long Jump with a leap of 17-09. She was halfway to her long-term goal of earning four state medals. On Saturday morning, she got her 2nd individual crown by going 39-07.75 in the Triple Jump to beat rival and good friend Rachel Gehret of Altoona by over four inches. And in the 100 Hurdles finals, she ran a PR of 14.98 to finish 5th. It was her first time under 15 seconds in the event. Her 27 points were important, because a sophomore teammate, Sarah Lonzi, had finished 5th in the morning's 3200 run for four points of her own, which when added to Hannon's 27, gave them 31 and a tie with District 1's Strath Haven. The state title was the first-ever for a Bradford girls' team.
Erin Hannon took 1st in the High Jump and Triple Jump, and 5th in the 100H and 6th in the Long Jump.
Sarah Lonzi contributed big points for co-champs Bradford with a 5th in the 3200