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State Track Preview: North Penn, Souderton Area gunning for gold

The march to the medal stand could start pretty early for local competitors on Friday, with Souderton Area’s Shamar Jenkins earning the top seed in the boys Class AAA triple jump, one of six field events slated for a 9 a.m. start at Shippensburg University.

“I’m pretty excited, actually very excited,” said Jenkins, who captured the District One title last weekend with a leap of 48 feet, 11 and a quarter inches. “As far as competition, it’s pretty up there. I know Brian (Kaufmann of Upper Dublin) jumped a 47, so that’ll be a challenge.
“(Ahmir Johnson of) Wissahickon, (Strath Haven’s) Dayo Abeeb — I know they can perform as well so it’s looking pretty good for states.”
It all gets underway at 9 a.m. Friday, with finals in the field and preliminaries on the track. Day Two of the PIAA State Championships are set for Saturday, again beginning at 9 a.m.
“I’m definitely looking forward to states. I know the competition’s gonna be very close,” said Big Red’s Stephen Scott, who, along with Jenkins, helped power Souderton to a fourth-place finish at districts.
Scott is a No. 2 seed in the 300 hurdles.
“I definitely want to improve on my fifth place from last year. The guys who finished ahead of me definitely deserved it but I know in my heart I was better than fifth place. I didn’t have a clean race that day so I really wanna come back and finish higher than fifth.”
The North Penn girls were second in the state last year in Class AAA and again have quite a group making the trip to Shippensburg.
“We have all these events that we qualified for and we were able to perform really well in all of the events (at districts), which looks good for states,” said senior standout Mikaela Vlasic, who anchors the top-seeded and defending state champion 4×8 squad and is also seeded second in the 800 and is a member of the fourth-seeded 4×4. “I think I’ll be able to run three events and Uche (Nwogwugwu) will be doing three events (including a state title defense in the 400).
“Looking at how we did at districts, we’re still able to hold strong.”
The Knights are also seeded fourth in the 4×1, an event that has Cheltenham looking for a third straight state gold, and also Souderton Area is expected to medal, seeded eighth.
Cheltenham is going for a third straight team title, led by Chanel Brissett, the defending champ in the 100 hurdles. Cheltenham has the second-ranked 4×4 and Brianna Smith is the No. 2 seed in the high jump.
MaryGrace Rittler is seeded fifth in the 3,200 to give the Panthers a chance at points in the distance. Alexis Crosby has the third-fastest time in the 400 going in and Bria Barnes the eighth fastest.
“I hope it’s really nice, really hot, because that triggers really fast times,” Brissett said.
Upper Dublin’s Madison Langley-Walker will be competing in four events this weekend, going in as the No. 1 seed in the 300 hurdles. Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s Taylor O’Brien is the favorite in the high jump.
Others ones to watch in AAA girls include: Pennridge’s Kouri Peace (100), Norristown’s Jonae Cook (100) and Abington’s Kelly Jawork (1,600).
On the boys side, Central Bucks West’s 4×800 relay is in position for a gold.
“Coming out of districts with a win is kind of a confidence booster going into states,” said the Bucks’ Jake Claricurzio. “You never know what the competition is gonna bring to the table and you have to be able to run with them.”
Pennridge, North Penn and Abington are also expected to medal in a stacked 4×8 relay.
Hatboro-Horsham’s Nicholas Marino aims to make the final push to a state gold — last year he earned the silver in the Class AAA pole vault.
Others to watch in Class AAA boys include: Cheltenham’s Will Griffen (3,200), CB West’s Joe Manetta (200) and La Salle’s Noah Walker (javelin).
Over in Class AA, Dock’s Austin Kratz is the top seed in the 100 dash and Phil-Mont Christian’s Caleb Johnson is expected to take the prize in the pole vault.
Springfield Montco’s Sydni Stovall (400) and St. Basil’s Sophia Barnett (100 hurdles) provide some local flavor in the Class AA girls.

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