SOL Boys/Girls Track & Field Notebook (5-31-18)

This week’s track and field notebook features the SOL’s gold medal performances at the PIAA Class AAA  Championships. (Sayyid Saunders photo provided courtesy of Kathy Leister Photography)

By DENNY DYROFF

The Suburban One League does not name an “Athlete of the Year” for boys’ or girls’ track.

If you wanted to select unofficial SOL track and field “Athletes of the Year” for 2018, it would be an easy task – Truman’s Sayyid Sunders, who captured three gold medals at last weekend’s PIAA Class AAA Championships, and Upper Dublin’s Madison Langley-Walker, who returned from the state meet with one gold medal and three bronze medals.


Saunders, the Tigers’ stellar senior, arrived for the two-day meet at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium as the top seed in the 200 at 21.65. He clocked the fastest time in the prelims at 21.82, the fastest time in the semifinals at 21.76, and the fastest time in the finals at 21.40.

In the 100, Saunders ran a 10.86 in the prelims, a 10.75 in the semifinals and the winning time of 10.62 in the finals.

Saunders also teamed with James Koliyah, Badr Fask and Terence Rogers to win the gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay with a time of 41.55.

“My times were okay,” said Saunders. “My best race was the 200. I was close to a P.R. (personal record). I had a really good race – especially coming off the curve. No one was pushing me.

“In the 100, my start was a little slow. I just didn’t get out of the blocks as fast as everyone else. Our 4x100 ran a good race.”

Prior to the meet, Saunders said, “My goals for states are first in the 100, first in the 200, and first in the 4x100. Goal times are 10.4 or 10.5 in the 100, 20.7 in the 200 and 41.2 for our 4x100.”

Place goals were met but just one of the three desired times were achieved by the SOL’s top sprint ace.

“I was more concerned with getting gold medals than I was with the times,” said Saunders, who is headed to South Plain Junior College in Texas to study exercise science. “This season really was everything I wanted. Three gold medals is great. It’s the way I wanted to go out.”

Saunders hopes to keep his season going by competing at the USATF Junior Outdoor Championships at Hayes Track at the Haugh Complex Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, from June 15-17.

But, there is a problem.

While many of the SOL schools are located in middle-class and upper middle-class areas, Truman is not. Truman’s athletes come largely from blue-collar areas and finding money for sports camps, personal trainers or travelling out-of-state for competitions is not often easy.

“I’m going to run in Junior Nationals – if I can raise the money,” said Saunders. “I need to raise $2,000. So, I made a Go Fund Me page. It’s on my Facebook. It’s starting to take off.”

Saunders has already reached more than half the needed $2,000 goal. If you’re a track fan – or just someone who wants to help a young athlete – consider making a pledge/donation at https://www.gofundme.com/5lu8xbs.

Upper Dublin’s Madison Langley-Walker travelled to Shippensburg last week with a bagful of impressive seeds -- first in the 300 hurdles, second in triple jump, and fourth in the 100 hurdles and long jump.

She held her seed in the 300 hurdles and took the gold medal at 41.94. The Cardinal senior also claimed bronze medals in the 100 hurdles (14.07), long jump (18-10.75) and triple jump (38-11.25).

“Triple jump was Friday and it didn’t go as I planned,” said Langley-Walker. “My phases didn’t go well. Either I was missing phases or my stepping phase wasn’t as it should be. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t break into the 40s.

“In the 100 hurdles, the finals were a disappointment. My start was good, and I was in the mix. In the middle, I got more aggressive. I hit a hurdle and that threw me off. I’m pretty good at coming back but the first-place girl was too far ahead.

“Long jump wasn’t how I pictured it. I was hoping to jump in the 19s. But, I had to worry about the 300 hurdles, which were run around the same time – running the hurdles and getting in my jumps. And, it was really hot. My best jump was the 18-10.75 in the trials – not that good because I had jumped 19-2 the week before at districts.”

Fortunately for Langley-Walker, she matched her seed in the 300 hurdles—and successfully defended her state title.

“I was more motivated for the 300 hurdles because I hadn’t got a gold medal in any other event – and knowing that I was defending state champion,” said Langley-Walker. “I ran a 42.5 in the trials –just making sure I made it through. Then, I ran a 41.94 in the finals and got a P.R.

“What was good – I got out fast. I was able to go around with my right leg. I was able to come down quick and get speed. On the last few hurdles, I was able to lead with my right leg and that really helped.”

Langley-Walker has accepted a scholarship to run for Oklahoma University.

“I chose Oklahoma because it felt right,” said Langley-Walker. “I went there for a visit and felt really comfortable. It felt like home. I think that the coaches there will be able to take me to another level.”

Council Rock North’s Kate Donnelly won the gold medal in high jump with a height of 5-7. It was the same height cleared by runner-up Taye Dairo from Central Dauphin and bronze medalist Brianna Smith from Cheltenham.

The final standings showed just how important every jump in the meet is. Donnelly ascended to the top of the podium at the award ceremony because she finished with fewer misses.

Obviously, no one succeeded at a height above 5-7. Donnelly was clean (no misses) all the way to 5-7 and then cleared that height on her first attempt. At the District One Championships the week before, Donnelly jumped 5-5 and placed second behind Smith, whose best jump was 5-7.

At this year’s PIAA Track and Field Championships, Central Bucks West accomplished something that no school has ever been able to do. The Bucks won the state title in both the boys’ and the girls’ 4x800 relay.

In the boys’ meet, Central Bucks West’s foursome of Brian Baker, Ben Bunch, Luke Fehrman, and Jake Claricurzio arrived in Ship as the fourth seed and emerged with the gold medal. The Bucks logged a 7:59.12 in the trials and came back in the finals with a winning time of 7:42.95. The Bucks successfully defended their state title in the event and posted the second-fastest time in the country.

“We led off with Brian for the first time all season,” said West boys’ coach Greg Wetzel. “We wanted to get out in front, stay in front and have the firepower on the back end. Brian ran a 1:54.4, which is right around what he ran last year. He was the best (state meet) returning leadoff from last year.

“Ben ran a great split at 1:58 and kept us in the lead the whole time. Ben ran unopposed and still ran a very aggressive race – even though he struggled a little bit down the final 50.

“Luke split a 1:55. He also ran very courageous. He was able to get out fast enough that no one could sit on his shoulder. Luke was smart enough to get out quickly, so no one would gain ground. He built the gap a decent amount.

“Jake got the baton with a pretty sizable lead, but two of the best runners in the state were behind him. Ephrata’s Tyler Shoe went out in 50 or 51 and tried to catch him – but didn’t. Pennridge’s Matt Eisler maintained the gap. Jake went out pretty much under control. He knew his job was just maintain the lead and get the win. He pulled away convincingly in the last 200.”

In the girls’ 4x800, West’s foursome of Stephanie Hiltpold, Emmi Simon, Piper Wilson and Vanessa Barrow captured the gold medal with a clocking of 9:13.71. It was a race that fell into the bizarre category.

“Stephanie was near the front coming off the first lap,” said C.B. West assistant coach Kevin Munnelly. “A girl hit her in the hand and our baton went 10 meters into the infield. She ran and got it but was in last place at the pass.

“Emmi ran a 2:14 split and made up about six or seven places. Then, Piper ran a 2:18 and picked up a few more places. She took us to second behind Butler High.”

Barrow, who is headed to the University of Pittsburgh, closed on the Butler anchor but still trailed with 25 meters left. Then, the Golden Tornado’s anchor Liz Simms collapsed around 10 meters from the finish line. That opened the way for Barrow to cross first and secure the win for the Bucks.

“Vanessa just wasn’t going to quit,” said Munnelly. “She was coming on to the Butler girl. Then, the Butler girl started to struggle. The crowd was loud, and she might have sensed Vanessa coming. Then, she fell 10 meters before the end of the race. Vanessa crossed first and split a 2:14.

“Being in a position to win wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t use two different girls in the trials on Friday. We used Lexi Gartenberg and Darby Roth in the trials. That allowed Emmi and Stephanie to have fresh legs for the final. That’s what happens when you are the District One cross country champions and are able to go six deep in the 4x800.”

Cheltenham also came back from the state championship meet in Shippensburg with a gold medal.

The 4x100 foursome of Bria Barnes, Ciani Fleming, Alexis Crosby and Ni Asia Williams, crossed first with a clocking of 46.80. The Panthers ran a 47.59 in the trials.

“We didn’t run our ‘A’ relay on Friday,” said Cheltenham coach Jerome Lowery. “We wanted to run a team fast enough to go through to the finals. We only needed a 48 to make it through. We used sophomore Ahliyah Allen in place of Ni Asia. We did the same thing at districts and that line-up ran a 48.3.”

The Panthers’ “loaded” line-up came through in a big way.

“I always told the girls they could run a 46,” said Lowery. “When the gun went off, Bria got out so fast and so hard and then Ciani ran faster than she usually runs. She handed off to Alexis and that was our best leg. Alexis owns that last curve. We’re really going to miss her next year. This is the fourth year in a row that Cheltenham won the gold medal at states in the 4x100 – and it’s been four years with Alexis.

“Her handoff to Ni Asia was really good too. We had all the sticks down. This was definitely our season best. It was our first time to run a 46 all year.”

Neshaminy’s Rusty Kujdych came into the meet seeded second in the 3,200 behind Butler’s Noah Beveridge while Council Rock North’s Ryan Campbell had the fourth seed.

When the dust settled at the end of the final, Kujdych had the winning time at 9:04.98. Beveridge was runner-up at 9:08.02 and Campbell, who was diagnosed a few months ago with Celiac disease and restricted to a gluten-free diet, was bronze medalist at 9:15.96.

Kujdych, who has won back-to-back District One titles in the 3,200, completed the distance race trifecta this year with state titles in cross country, in the 3,000 in indoor track and the 3,200 in outdoor track. He was bronze medalist in the 3,200 at last year’s big meet in Shippensburg.

“This year, I was one of the favorites, so it wasn’t intimidating,” said Kudych, who will run for Georgetown University next year. “This year, I knew I’d be in control.

“I changed my strategy a bit this year. I knew the competition well and I knew I’d be leading all or most of the race. I went out in 67. It wasn’t crazy fast, but it wasn’t slow either. I set the pace most of the way. I went through the mile at 4:37. Ideally, it would have been five seconds faster, but the conditions were not as I hoped for. It was really hot and humid – really exhausting.

“So, I didn’t want to push the pace too much. I started my kick with three laps to go. That’s when Beveridge and I separated from the rest. Lap seven was pretty hard. I was quite tired heading into the last lap. That’s when the adrenalin kicked in. Beveridge was there the whole race. I didn’t separate from him until 400 to go.”