Central Bucks West senior Brian Baker struggled to catch his breath but had no problem finding the right words as his victorious teammates gathered near the finish line of the Class 3A 4×800 relay in the District I track and field championships Saturday at soggy Coatesville.
“That was a test,” Baker said between gasps to teammate Ben Bunch, “and you showed up!”
The squad’s 7-minute, 54.50-second finish ensured its spot in next week’s Class 3A PIAA championships at Shippensburg.
Bunch, a junior, ran the leadoff leg but took a tumble just after the starter’s pistol fired.
Jockeying for position led to jostling, which led to a bloodied Bunch on the ground and a second pistol shot, signifying a restart.
“There was definitely some pushing at the start,” Bunch said. “Everyone had high emotions. I just had to bounce back and I wouldn’t want any other three guys to back me up.”
Bunch was tentative after the restart and fell to last place as the group came around the second turn.
“I was like, ‘I gotta go!’ ” he said. “So I kicked it in. It’s a district meet, so you have to be ready for anything.”
Bunch got to third or fourth place before he passed the baton to junior Owen Shields, who filled in for Jake Claricurzio, a team leader who had a conflicting event.
Shields moved up to second place and passed the baton to fellow junior Luke Furman, who had his opponent right where he wanted him.
“I was glad when I had somebody out ahead of me because I do like to chase,” Furman said. “I think I run better that way.”
Furman took the lead and Baker, who will run along side Claricurzio at Virginia Tech next year, did the rest.
“The start was really rough,” Baker said. “It happens sometimes. It’s part of the sport. I told my guys at the beginning that this is a test and we have to step up.”
When Girard College junior sprint phenom Thelma Davies runs at the district championships, the wisest eyes aren’t always affixed to the track.
Barring injury, a fall or an act of God, victory is rarely in doubt.
Speed is assured, so the next thing to check is the anemometer, the device used to judge wind speed.
Friday afternoon, Davies set a district record in the Class 2A 200-meter trials and would have also bested her own district record in the 100 meters if not for a wind that was slightly over allowable limits.
After Davies won the 100 (11.87 seconds) and 200 meters (24.43) again on Saturday, an event judge told media members, “I don’t know the time, but the wind was legal.”
Saturday’ rainy conditions weren’t conducive to fast times, but next week’s forecast calls for plenty of sun, which means all eyes on the anemometer once more.
“Today was rainy, but I’m happy that right now states are supposed to be 80 degrees,” Davies said. “I’d rather it be a rainy districts than a rainy states.”
Trust the Process
Stephen Curry turned Madison Langley-Walker into a Golden State Warriors fan, but her strategy on the track is more in line with Joel Embiid.
“All my goals in my events are doable if I just trust the process,” the Upper Dublin senior said after winning the girls’ Class 3A 300-meter hurdles.
Langley-Walker, who will compete at Oklahoma next year, was a busy athlete this weekend, claiming gold in the triple jump Saturday (38 feet, 6.75 inches) and silver in the long jump (19 feet, 2.25 inches) on Friday.
The process entails listening to her mother, Tanya Langley-Jackson, and her coach, Matt Dwyer.
“When it comes to jumps, pouncing like a pony, which means high knees down the runway so when I hit the board I’m upright and can launch in the air with my hands up, and fold like a chair when I land,” she said. “And for hurdles, it’s trusting my speed and not worrying about anyone else’s time.”
Last year, Girard College sophomore Donovan Sanders was a freshman who came into the 400 meters as the boys’ 2A top dog.
Just a pup back then, Sanders took the bait when competitors pushed the pace early, which meant he tried to keep pace and eventually ran out of gas.
He finished second then.
This year, Sanders stayed composed when Dock Mennonite’s Ni Halstead made a push before the second turn.
Halstead, who finished fourth, passed Sanders, who stayed at his own pace.
Not long after, Sanders finally kicked into a gear the other runners just didn’t have, finishing in first place at 50.11 seconds. His teammate, Taahir Bloodworth, a junior, finished second at 52.07.
“It’s tempting to strain and try to push past them then and there, but I know I have a long race to go,” he said. “I knew I’d catch him around the turn.”
He added, “It’s mainly from my coach [Diamond Woolford] telling me to stay relaxed and no straining.”
He also finished second to Austin Kratchman of Dock Mennonite, who finished at 21.04 seconds in the 200 meters.
“Last year I wasn’t as disciplined,” Sanders said. “I saw them coming up on me and I started straining and died in the last 100 [meters].”