It’s hard to tell what drives Penn Wood’s Dennis Manyeah. His motivation changes from day-to-day and stems from many sources.
Take the District 1 Track & Field Championships for example.
Manyeah was out of sorts when he arrived at Coatesville Area High School. The team bus arrived later than planned, which meant Manyeah barely had time to check in for both the boys Class 3A high jump and 4 x 800-meter relay preliminaries, let alone warm up for each event.
Since the two events were conducted simultaneously, Manyeah was naturally stressed out. Yet that wasn’t the only thing bothering him that day. Manyeah was carrying a much heavier burden, one he kept to himself until recently.
The night before, his mother, Juah Quiah, who Manyeah said suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, was taken to the hospital.
“My mom has been sick since I’ve been in the ninth grade,” said Manyeah, who was born in Monrovia, Liberia and moved to the United States when he was two. “It’s just something I cope with. Sometimes, I don’t run well because I’m worrying about her and sometimes I use it as fuel.”
On that day, Manyeah used it as inspiration, but not for himself.
“I had to drill that stress out of my head and do whatever I could for my team,” Manyeah said. I couldn’t let those guys down.”
He didn’t. A highly motivated Manyeah went out and had one of the best days of his career. He won the high jump with a personal-best leap of 6-8. He also ran a 1:58 leadoff leg to help the Patriots advance to the 4 x 800-meter relay final the next day, where they would finish fifth and qualify for the PIAA Championships.
A week later, a driven Manyeah came through again at the PIAA Championships. He took second in the high jump at the PIAA Championships and teamed with Todd Jackson, Inerji Sirleaf and Talus Gaymore for sixth place in the 4 x 800 and seventh in the 4 x 400, a performance that solidified his selection as the 2017 Daily Times Boys Track Athlete of the Year.
Joining Manyeah on the All-Delco first team are: James Abrahams (Haverford); Dayo Abeeb and Cooper Driscoll (Strath Haven); D’Amonte Bell, Keon Rantin and Semaj Robinson (Glen Mills); Ethan Cook (Bonner & Prendergast); Peter Cooke (Radnor); Liam Galligan and Philip Shovlin (Springfield); Braheem Bishop and James Jackson (Chester); Ryan James (Cardinal O’Hara); Sam Linder (Haverford School) and Evan Wildermuth (Penncrest).
Manyeah, Rantin, Galligan, Wildermuth and Bishop are repeat selections. Bishop earned first-team All-Delco honors for the first time as a sophomore in 2015. The others were first-team selections last year. The All-Delco team was selected after consultation with county coaches.
Manyeah’s drive to be great began as a freshman, when Penn Wood coach Lenny Jordan entered him in the high jump at the Glen Mills Invitational during the indoor season. It was a life-changing moment.
The winner that day was Upper Darby’s Cecil Simpson, who would go on to win the boys Delco indoor title and jump 6-6 to win the Central League outdoor crown. Manyeah finished tied for second with Coatesville’s Jonathan Jones, but received the third-place medal because Jones had fewer misses.
Manyeah jumped a modest 5-10 that day, yet was both thrilled and motivated.
“The two guys who finished ahead of me were amazing,” Manyeah said. “They were great jumpers. I told myself that I have to stick with this because I want to be that good someday and if I keep jumping and I keep running I can be where these guys are.”
Manyeah underestimated himself. Neither of those athletes won a state medal. He has five, including the three he won in May. Manyeah also was on Penn Wood’s 4 x 400-meter relay that finished fourth in 2016 and the 4 x 800 squad that was fifth in 2015.
The three medals this year came on the heels of a third-place finish in the high jump at the indoor state championships with a personal-best leap of 6-8.
“I have to be honest,” Manyeah said. “I look back on the indoor season and I think, ‘What happened? Where did I mess up?’ It was a really bad season.”
Not so much for him, but for the Patriots. Penn Wood placed 12th in both the 4 x 400- and 4 x 800-meter relays. The Patriots medaled in both events the year before. Manyeah took that as a personal affront, which added more fuel to his fire.
“I knew I had to work harder and get better,” Manyeah said.
His drive and work ethic had a trickle-down effect. His teammates got the message and worked just as hard as he did. The diligence paid off at districts and states.
“If you look at the indoor season we were nowhere on the map,” Manyeah said. “We were OK, but nowhere close to a state medal. We put everything we had into getting those state medals in the 4 x 4 and 4 x 8. If it wasn’t for them I would not have gotten three state medals.”
Don’t expect that fire to fade anytime soon.
“I can’t wait to get to college and work at that level,” said Manyeah, who will attend Eastern Michigan University. “I’m really excited about that.”