UPPER PROVIDENCE >> The answer was quite obvious.
Things were about as good as they could be for the Owen J. Roberts boys track team this weekend. The Wildcats took numerous big individual performances and parlayed them into a much-coveted team title at the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s championship meet at Pope John Paul II.
There was no discounting the impact Liam Conway made by winning his own “Triple Crown” of the 3,200, 1,600 and 800 — the latter in an incredible come-from-the-middle-of-the-pack victory on the final lap — or Aidan Hayward, who uncorked a long-distance first-place throw in the shot put. But as demonstrated by another comeback run by the 4×400 relay team, OJR’s team championship very much emphasized the “team” concept.
“This was the culmination of everything,” Conway said after he and the team took a victory lap around the PJP gridiron. “We came so close in the past – this is the fruition … the happiest sporting experience. There’s no better way to see it pay off like this.”
Owen J. ended up with 128 team points, effectively outdistancing second-place Methacton (97) and third-place Perkiomen Valley (91). That spread owed much to the quantity of other-color medals won by Wildcats — particularly in the 1,600.
Conway remained the race’s champ with a 4:21.65 clocking ahead of teammate Kyle Malmstrom (4:22.02). Linus Blatz added a fifth, and Andrew Malmstrom a seventh, to give Roberts 24 of the 39 points available in the event.
“One of the things I love about this weekend is, everyone has his role,” OJR head coach Tim Marcoe said. “It’s a total team event. You may have your ups and downs, but you just go out and do your best.”
Conway and Kyle Malmstrom produced another 1-2 finish in the 800 — that after Conway ended up in the middle of the pack at the start, then worked his way into the lead with about 100 yards left. Conway finished with a 1:56.66, edging out Malmstrom’s 1:56.81.
“After the 1,600, my legs felt sluggish,” Conway recalled. “For the 800, I wasn’t in top shape. But they were running 24 seconds at the start, so I knew things would slow at the end. That drove me to be fast at the end.”
The 4×400 finale saw OJR’s first runners (Kyle Malmstrom, Matt Muthler, Zach Kartos) going back and forth at the front of the field. Conway got the baton with the team running around second place, and he engaged his trademark “kick” during the last curve to finish off a 3:28.93 run that beat Boyertown (3:30.78), Perkiomen Valley (3:30.91) and Norristown (3:30.94).
“That was the icing on the cake,” Conway said. “I knew what my relay partners were capable of doing. I got the stick in perfect position.
“I wanted to give everything I had at the end. I needed every bit of energy I had.”
The “team” aspect fueled Hayward’s 50-foot-plus toss of the shot, making him the lone entrant to surpass that mark. He went 51-1 on the final try, after enduring two early fouls, to claim a new personal record by several feet.
“My best before was 48,” Hayward said. “I wanted to score team points. I kept everything the same, and trusted what I can do.”
Hayward added a second in the discus, and Scott Honicker produced a similar result in the 110 high hurdles, for Owen J’s next-highest finishes.
Jacob Howard just missed winning three gold medals in the jumping events. But the Pottstown senior continued his birthday celebration — he turned a year older Friday — by heading the long jump and coming in a close second in the high jump.
Howard went 20-8 in the long, ahead of Upper Perkiomen’s Tyrese Reid (20-4) and Pottstown teammate Anthony Brown (20-0½). His 5-10 high jump equalled Boyertown’s Ethan Michaels, but Michaels won out by virtue of making fewer attempts to clear the mark.
“I was just hoping to place for districts,” Howard, winner of the triple jump Friday, said of his expectations for the PAC meet. “I figured somebody else would win.”
Michaels, who hit 5-10 on his first try, will be making a first-ever trip to the District 1 meet.
“If I can place in the top eight, I’ll be happy,” the Boyertown sophomore said.
Methacton’s runner-up team showing was headed by gold-medal performances from Alex Yablonski in the 110 high hurdles and Pat Maloney in the discus. They meshed with Chris Huber’s win in the 300 intermediate hurdles Friday.
Yablonski clocked a 15.37 in the 110 highs, It was close to a one-second improvement on a practice run he made Friday.
“I had a 16.34 running by myself,” he said. “Today, I felt faster. I feel I have a good chance to improve at districts.”
Maloney’s 149-7 discus throw was admittedly not near his personal best. But it was good enough for gold with OJR’s Hayward going 145-3.
“It’s 10 feet off what I usually throw,” he said. “I want to go 165 or in the 170s. It didn’t feel right, but it got the job done.”
Boyertown’s Jamison Moccia distinguished himself by dominating the sprint races. The Bear sophomore won the 100 with a time of 10.95, and he headed the 200 by going 22.42, nipping Norristown’s Austin Montgomery (22.43).
NOTES >> In other field action, Pottstown’s Alex Caballero won the pole vault by clearing the bar at 13 feet. … Phoenixville’s Sean O’Neill was champion in the 400, his 50.27 run topping the 50.60 of Upper Merion’s Frank Dalton. … Spring-Ford won the 4×800 relay (9:42.42) while Perkiomen Valley took the 4×100 (43.85). … His four-gold weekend was a first-ever performance of that magnitude for Conway, who indicated he’s leaving his options open for which races he will run at districts.
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