SOL Track & Field District Preview (5-18-17)

Denny Dyroff highlights the SOL athletes who will be competing in this weekend’s District One meet, which will pit a pair of powerhouse SOL teams on the girls’ side in Cheltenham and North Penn.

By DENNY DYROFF

When the 2017 District 1 Class AAA Track and Field Championships get underway Friday at Coatesville High’s stadium, the temperature is expected to be around 90 degrees.

Fans in the stands will be counting on a breeze to cool them off.

Meanwhile, Cheltenham’s girls team will be looking for the Bri’s to keep them hot – that’s Bri as in Bri-anna Smith, Bri-a Barnes, Bri-elle Lewis -- and don’t forget Chanel Bri-ssett.

Cheltenham, the Suburban One League American Conference champion, will be looking for its fifth consecutive District 1 Class AAA title and, based on the meet’s seeding, has to be considered the favorite.

But, nothing can be taken for granted.

North Penn, the Suburban One League Continental Conference champion, is also loaded. Based on the seedings, the Knights are only a few points shy of the defending champion Panthers.

The top eight finishers at districts score points – ranging one point for eighth to 10 points for first. Both North Penn and Cheltenham have a lot of entries in the top eight seeds.

Cheltenham has the top seed in four events, second seed in two, two third seeds, one fourth seed, two fifth seeds and one seventh seed.

North Penn has two first seeds, two second seeds, two third seeds, three fourth seeds, two sixth seeds, one seventh seed and two eighth seeds.

Additionally, both squads have other qualifiers outside the top eight who are capable of moving into scoring position.

“We’re looking for our fifth straight championship but it’s going to be a fight with North Penn,” said Cheltenham coach Kelly Jensen. “When I score it out one way, I actually have them winning.

“It depends on how people run. It also depends on who they run where and the same with us – especially with the relays. It will be interesting to see who is where. It’s going to be like a chess match.”

Dealing with line-ups is a coach’s concern.

“The kids don’t have to deal with all this,” said Jensen. “Our kids just have to perform well – and they always do. This team has a good maturity level.

“They know it’s five in a row but we don’t talk about it. At the end of the day, we just want them to compete as hard as they can – and have fun.”

The Panthers’ athletes who are seeded in the top eight are: Brissett (first, 100 hurdles and 200; second, 100); Mary Grace Rittler (fifth, 1600; seventh, 3200); Barnes (first, 300 hurdles; second, 400; fifth, 200); Alexus Crosby (third, 400); Smith (fourth, high jump); 4x100 (first) and 4x400 (third).

“Winning five in a row is definitely motivation for us,” said Brissett, who will run for the University of Southern California next year.

“It’s been our goal all year.  I think we can definitely do it. My individual goal is to get a personal best in the 100 hurdles -- and hopefully a personal record in the 100 or 200.

“I got my p.r. in the hurdles last year and in the 100 and 200 my sophomore year. I’m hoping that this year I can be faster than my 10th-grade me. My best race – and my favorite race – is the 100 hurdles.”

North Penn is super strong in the relays with top seed in the 4x800 and second seeds in the 4x100 and 4x400. The Knights’ top individual qualifier is Uche Nwogwugwu, who is seeded first in the 400 and fourth in triple jump.

“We’re real excited about districts,” said Nwogwugwu, who is heading to the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. “Last year, we finished second to Cheltenham. It was pretty close.

“We’ve been looking at this year’s seeds all week. MileSplit says we’re going to lose by six points. At this point, it can go either way. It’s going to be a fight.

“Being seeded first in the 400 adds extra pressure – but I’m used to it. I definitely think it will take a sub-55.0 to win it. Triple jump is more of a fun event for me. I go more for my personal best.”

Nwogwugwu will be running in the 4x400, the open 400, the 4x800 and also competing in triple jump.

“In the 4x800, we’re trying for the win,” she said. “In the 4x400, we’re trying to beat them (Cheltenham) or at least get second. It’s going to be a really close meet.”

The Knights’ other girls seeded in scoring position are: Ariana Gardizy (fourth, 1600; sixth, 3200); Dela Matthews (third, javelin; sixth, discus); Mikaela Vlasic (third, 800); Kathleen Stevenson (third, long jump; eighth, 200); Natalie Kwortnik (fourth, long jump); and KC Carelli (seventh, javelin).

The Suburban One League’s other top-seeded qualifiers are Abington’s Kelly Jawork (first, 1600; second, 800); Central Bucks South’s Valery Przekop (first, high jump); Wissahickon’s Cala Lejman (first, pole vault); Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Taylor O’Brien (second, 300 hurdles and high jump); and Pennridge’s Kouri Peace (second, 200; eighth, 100).

On the boys’ side, only seven SOL teams have more than one qualifier seeded in scoring position.

One of these schools is Council Rock North with Ryan Campbell (first, 3200; 12th, 1600) and Tim Haas (third, 1600; seventh, 3200). Rock North’s other distance ace Brian Keller is seeded fourth in the 1600 and 12thin the 800.

Council Rock North could field a really strong 4x800 but that’s not in the works for this weekend.

“Last year, we ran a loaded 4x800 and just missed the school record,” said Rock North coach Dave Marrington.  “This year, we’re running our sophomores in the 4x800.

 “We wanted to win SOLs so we had guys quadruple last week. With our team, SOLs is a team effort and districts is strictly individual.

“Ryan Campbell really wants to get to states. We look at districts as the first round of states. We’ll run, try to conserve energy and feel good. Ryan’s not going to run the 1600 this weekend. He’ll focus on the 3200.

“Tim Haas is not sure which event he’s going to do. We’ll talk about it more during the week and he’ll decide on Friday. Third in the mile (1600) is hard to pass up.

“The 1600 was a surprise. He had never broken 4:30 and then he ran a 4:20 at the conference meet. He dropped 10 seconds in one race. He ran an incredible race.”

Next year, Haas and Keller will be teammates at Northeastern University in Boston.

“Brian is in the same boat,” said Marrington. “He could run the 800 or the 1600. Actually, we have a lot of guys who have qualified in multiple events.”

Other National Conference qualifiers in top eight position are Truman’s Sayyid Saunders (second, 100; third, 200); Bensalem’s Yobani Moreno (third, discus); Neshaminy’s Rusty Kujdych (second, 3200) and Unter Barnett (third, javelin); and Pennsbury’s 4x800 (second) and Nasam Robbins (second, 110 hurdles).

Other top qualifiers from around the SOL are: C.B. West’s 4x400 (first), 4x800 (first) and Jake Claricurzio (third, 800); Hatboro Horsham’s Nick Marino (first, pole vault); Pennridge’s Alex Dimon (first, 110 hurdles), 4x400 (second) and Matt Ludlow (third, triple jump); Souderton’s Shamar Jenkins (first, long jump and triple jump), Stephen Scott (second, 300 hurdles; third, 110 hurdles) and Conor McMenamin (third, 3200); Wissahickon’s Cameron Christopher (third, 400) and Ahmir Johnson (second, triple jump; third, long jump); and Upper Dublin’s Brian Kauffman (second, long jump) and Michael Henning (second, 400).