Denny Dyroff’s track and field notebook features UD’s Madison Langley-Walker, Truman’s Sayyid Saunders & Souderton’s Cara Jackson.
By DENNY DYROFF
If, prior to last fall, Madison Langley-Walker had accumulated any sports-related clothing based on her school colors, her wardrobe might include apparel from the St. Louis Rams, the University of Michigan or the University of Delaware – blue and gold.
Now, it might feature apparel from the Arizona Cardinals, the University of Alabama or Oklahoma University – red and white.
After two years of registering stellar track and field performances wearing the blue and gold of Cheltenham High, Langley-Walker is now wearing the red and white of Upper Dublin High.
“Our family moved from Cheltenham to the Upper Dublin area last year,” said Langley-Walker. “It was a hard transition at first because I had a lot of friends at Cheltenham. But, it didn’t take me long to make friends at Upper Dublin. And, I still see my friends from my old school at track meets.”
Langley-Walker may have changed schools and changed colors, but she did not change her habit of winning events at the highest level.
The Cardinals’ versatile junior took first in the 100-meter hurdles and second in triple jump at the prestigious Colonial Relays in Williamsburg, Virginia. She was first in long jump and fourth in the 400 at the Lady Knights Invitational at North Penn.
Last weekend at the Second Annual Jim Kelly invitational at Hatboro Horsham, Langley-Walker swept the hurdles events when she placed first in the 100 hurdles and first in the 300 hurdles.
“Madison has had very impressive early season,” said Upper Dublin coach Matt Dwyer. “She’s been great.
“Last year, she had a tremendous season at Cheltenham. She came here for this school year and did very well in the indoor season. At indoor states, she won triple jump at 40-4 and was third in long jump with a personal best 19-1. She was also third in the 60-meter hurdles.”
Langley-Walker said, “I was happy with my indoor season. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger with the workouts I’ve been doing. I jumped farther than I ever did before. And, I got a p.r. (personal record) in hurdles.
“The workouts with coach Dwyer have gotten me stronger. I do a lot of endurance-based workouts. I do 200 hurdles and 250 hurdles. I also do hills to work with my speed.
“Outdoors, I had a good meet at the Colonial Relays – first in 100 hurdles and 4x100 and second in triple jump. I haven’t had any p.r.’s yet – but I’m getting close.”
Langley-Walker is coming off a stellar outdoor season in 2016.
In triple jump, she was first at both the Suburban One League American Conference Championships and the District 1 Class AAA Championships and fourth at the PIAA Class AAA Championships. In long jump, she won gold at leagues and districts and bronze at states.
In the 300 hurdles, she took first at leagues and districts and 24that states. In the 100 hurdles, Langley-Walker was second at the American Conference meet at Plymouth Whitemarsh, third at the District 1 meet at Coatesville and 16that the state meet at Shippensburg University.
Even though Langley-Walker is just a junior in high school, she is a long-time track and field veteran.
“When I was little, I used to run club track – 100, 200 and 400,” said Langley-Walker. “As I got older, I did hurdles and then long jump and triple jump.
“I started track when I was seven with the Youth All Stars in Glenside and I went on runs with my mom. Both my mom and my dad did track at Delcastle High in Delaware. Then, my mom competed for Alabama A&M.
“I enjoyed running and jumping right from the start. I started liking more events as I got older,” she said. “My favorite event is triple jump. There is a lot of technique in triple jump.
“I’ve started talking to a couple colleges but I’m nowhere near making a choice, I do know that I want to be a sports psychologist.”
Right now, Langley-Walker is ranked first in Pennsylvania in 300 hurdles (43.45) and triple jump (39-8.5), third in 100 hurdles (14.24) and fourth in long jump (18-5.5).
Another Suburban One League athlete who is ranked high in the state in both track and field events is Truman’s Sayyid Saunders. The versatile junior is ranked second in the state in the 200 at 21.80 -- topped only by Coatesville’s Terrance Laird at 21.07.
Saunders is also ranked 18thin long jump (21-10) – an event in which the top two are SOL athletes. Souderton’s Shamar Jenkins is first at 23-0 and Upper Dublin’s Brian Kaufmann is second at 22-9.5.
The Truman ace has already logged some impressive finishes at invitational meets.
At the Seventh Annual Bensalem Invitational, Saunders placed first in both the 200 and 400 and also snagged the silver medal in long jump. He was also gold medalist in long jump and 200 at the 30thAnnual Council Rock Kiwanis Invitational.”
“Sayyid’s first invitational meet this year was the Kiwanis Invitational at Council Rock,” said Truman coach Justin Kloc. “He went against the top runners in the state and won with a time of 21.8. And, it was a cold, late-March day.
“Another highlight for him was the Bensalem Invitational. He won the 200 and the 400. He had never run the 400 before that meet. He’s really more a 200/400 runner than a 100/200 runner.”
Saunders is also a top-flight football player at Truman.
“Last year was my first time on the track team,” said Saunders. “I did track in middle school but then didn’t run my freshman year. I’ll do football all four years.
“In my first invitational meet last year, I ended up coming in first in the finals of the 100 and I took second place in the 200. That’s when I found out how fast I was.”
Saunders finished the 2016 season on a high note.
At the Suburban One League National Conference Championships, he was gold medalist in both the 100 and 200. At the District 1 meet, he took third place in both events. At the PIAA Championships, he placed seventh in the 200 and 13thin the 100.
This year, he most likely would have been one of the top sprinters at the Indoor State Championships – if Truman had an indoor team.
“Sayyid’s early-season times are even more impressive considering he had no indoor season,” said Kloc.
Saunders said, “If we had indoor track, I’d be where everyone else is now. Everyone came into the season ready while I’m just starting to catch up.”
Kloc said, “Sayyid’s starts still need some work – especially in the 100…in the drive phase of the 100. In the 200 and 400, he can make up for slower starts. He’s already qualified for districts in the 200. Sayyid also has become a really good long jumper.”
Saunders may be a good jumper, but the sprint events are his forte.
“Sayyid has really good form in the sprints,” said Kloc. “And, he’s a really strong runner – his physique, his body. He’s a good meet runner and a good practice runner.”
When asked why he is such a good runner, Saunders replied, “It’s just natural speed. I run fast in meets and in practice. The 200 is my better race because I have that extra 100. I’m better with my finishes than with my starts.”
There is another standout sprinter in the SOL – a speedy runner whose success came as a surprise to her coach. That runner is Souderton senior Cara Jackson.
“Cara is an awesome kid,” said Souderton coach Mike Feliciani. “She’s a really hard worker – very detail-oriented.
“She started her track career here as not one of the best sprinters. She was nowhere on the list for the 200. Now, she holds the school record – the 25.40 she ran last year at districts. Last season, she won our ‘Spirit of the Indian’ award.”
Jackson’s late development as a track runner might have to do with the fact that soccer was her primary sport for a long time.
“I played soccer since I was really young,” said Jackson. “I was on the travel team at Harleysville F.C. My dad wanted me to do track when he saw how fast I was at soccer. Over time, I realized track was my main focus. I stopped playing soccer my sophomore year.”
Jackson explained the shift in her sport preferences.
“With track, I like being able to just run,” she said. “I like to be free and run – no ball to dribble, no strategy to follow.
“I like the sprints – 100, 200, 400, 4x100 and 4x400. I prefer the 200. With the 200, I like the acceleration of the first 100 and then having the backstretch where I can open up.”
Feliciani said, “Every year, Cara gets stronger. She has shown consistent improvement. She’s a hard worker and a team player. We really like having her around.”
So far in the young 2017 season, Jackson has excelled in the 200 with gold-medal performances at the Sixth Annual Whippet Invitational at Downingtown West High and the Rustin Invitational at Bayard Rustin High in West Chester.
She was also runner-up at the 33rdAnnual Pennsylvania Track Classic at Plymouth Whitemarsh High.
She also placed first in the 100 at the Whippet Invitational and second in the event at the Haverford Invitational at Haverford High and the Rustin Invitational. Additionally, she placed fourth in the 400 and was on the bronze-medal 4x400 team at this year’s Haverford Invitational.
Last year, Jackson captured the bronze medal in the 200 at the Suburban One League Continental Conference Championships. A week later, she finished ninth in the 200 finals at the District 1 meet and missed a state meet berth by a fraction of a second.
“I ran a 25.4 in the prelims and set a school record,” said Jackson. “Then, I ran a 25.6 in the finals and missed making states by one place.
“I need to work more on my acceleration. I have trouble getting through my drive phase. Making states is definitely one of my goals for this season.”
Jackson also keeps her legs busy with another activity.
“Ever since grade school, I’ve been dancing with the Denise Gucwa School of Dance in Lederach,” said Jackson. “I do ballet, tap and modern.”
Jackson, who is one of Souderton’s officers in the National Honor Society, is heading to West Chester University on a track scholarship in a few months.
“I’ll run the 100, 200 and 400 at WCU – especially the 200,” said Jackson. “I plan to major in elementary education and special education.”
Before then, Jackson will be focusing on her spring track season. Currently, she is ranked 13thin Pennsylvania in the 200 and 23rdin the state in the 100.