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Toss-Up: Methacton’s John Keenan shines at District 1 Championship

CALN >> The learning curve for John Keenan has more resembled a straightaway.

In his first year throwing javelin, Keenan has achieved championship status at a fast pace. He continued to hit his stride Saturday at the District 1 Championships, where the Methacton junior won the Class AAA event and qualified for next weekend’s PIAA Championship Meet.

Keenan threw a personal-best 178 feet on his fifth try. He was the only AAA competitor to hit that state-qualifying mark, the next best the 177-6 reached by Conestoga’s Aidan Krumbolz.

“My throws started out all average,” Keenan recalled. “They weren’t where I wanted to be. But I knew what I needed, and the adrenaline built up. I’m happy to represent Methacton.”

Ironically, Keenan’s performance in baseball — he played shortstop and impressed with the quality of his throwing the ol’ horsehide — during the spring months got people encouraging him to switch sports. A sprinter and jumper for the Warriors his sophomore season, Keenan picked up a javelin on the first day of practice this past spring.

“I progressed quickly,” he recalled. “Each week my technique got better, and the distances got better each week. But I still feel I can throw better.”

He will attempt to do that at Shippensburg for the PIAA Championships. Keenan will be joined in the state competition by Boyertown’s Evan Gianetti, who placed fourth at 172-10 on his second of four registered attempts.

“Reaching 180 would be nice,” he said. “The competition will be good there.”

After winning three gold medals on the track at last weekend’s Pioneer Athletic Conference meet — the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 — Liam Conway pinned his hopes for a return visit to states on the middle-distance race. It paid off for the Owen J. Roberts junior, who placed second by less than a half-second.

Owen J. Roberts’ Liam Conway was second in the 1,600 at the District One Championships Saturday. (Barry Taglieber — For Digital First Media)

Conway crossed the line in 4:16.89, trailing winner Matthew Scarpill of Central Bucks South’s 4:16.45.

“I was going to focus on one event for states,” he said. “Especially with the heat.”

It was another advance from the middle of the pack for Conway, who went 11th in Friday’s qualifier with a time of 4:30.10. He got to second place after three laps, but was unable to catch Scarpill on the fourth one.

“I thought about it,” Conway said. “But that’s a risky strategy. Sometimes there’s a move up front.”

For his return trip to states, Conway is hoping for cooler weather conditions similar to Saturday’s. He recalled last year’s  blistering state meet being run under conditions duplicating Friday’s.

“I’m not used to it,” he said. “This weather is so much better. It was good to have only the one preliminary Friday.”

Stephen Chapman will be in the field at Shippensburg after placing fifth in the AAA boys’ 300 intermediate hurdles. The Spring-Ford junior ran a 39.90 even while having to make an adjustment in his footing.

Spring-Ford’s Stephen Chapman placed fifth in the AAA intermediate hurdles. (John Strickler – DFM)

“The third hurdle, my steps were off and I struck it too much,” he recalled. “I felt good until the fifth hurdle, where I went over with the wrong foot.”

Chapman had qualified for the district final by winning his Friday heat in 40.05. The heat was marred by two runners falling — one of them Matthew Lenahan of Hatboro-Horsham.

“That heat was crazy,” he recalled. “I had been talking with the kid next to me (Lenahan) before the race. He fell because he hit too low on his leg.”

The Boyertown 4×800 relay team of Josh Endy, Cy Evans, Dominic DeRafelo and Payton Stanziani qualified for states with a timely showing Saturday. The Bears placed seventh in the Class AAA final, but their state qualification was assured by running four seconds below the PIAA’s standard.

“We put in a ton of time in practice,” DeRafelo, the team’s third leg, said after the final. “Every race, the team’s gotten closer.”

The foundation for the 4×8’s success was started back during the winter track season. Its goal of qualifying for the state meet fell short by a second or two, but the team sensed back then good things could be achieved.

“We worked to get back to states,” DeRafelo said. “We kept putting it together, focusing on our times.”

The Bear quartet ran primarily between sixth and eighth places in a final where the top six were assured automatic spots at states. But its clocking of 7:57.77 topped the state-qualifying mark of 8:02.04 — a time headed by nine schools.

“Today was our best by five seconds,” DeRafelo said. “I knew as soon as Josh took off we were good. Cy stepped up hard, and when I ran we had a pretty good time. Then our anchor (Stanziani) brought it home.”

Saturday’s cooler weather conditions — overcast and temperatures in the 60s, compared to sunny 80-degree temps Friday — played a part in the team improving on the 8:09.62 it ran during Friday’s heat.

“We run better when it’s cool,” DeRafelo said. “A lot of times, we do better on the second day of a meet, getting nerves out of the way.”

Bolstering Methacton’s stable of state-meet qualifiers was Michael Clark, who placed seventh in the AAA 800 with a time of 1:56.23. His time was exactly two seconds lower than the split he ran in Friday’s qualifying, where he placed third in his heat.

Upper Perkiomen freshman Tyrese Reid placed seventh in the AAA long jump. He cleared 21-2 on the second of his six attempts, three of which exceeded the 20-foot mark.

Perkiomen Valley’s Joshua Magee placed seventh in the AAA 110 hurdles with a time of 15.62. The state qualifying time for the event is 15.10.

Other high-finishing PAC competitors were Spring-Ford’s Jacob McKenna and Chad Smiley.

McKenna was 12th in the AAA 3,200 with a time 9:39.73. Smiley also went 12th in the AAA pole vault, his best jump 13-0.

NOTES >> The top six finishers in each Class AAA event earned berths in the state meet. Additionally, anyone finishing seventh or eighth who met the PIAA standards for their events also qualified.

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