Rivalry meet between Pottsgrove, Pottstown goes Falcons’ way

LOWER POTTSGROVE: The best way to add a little heat to a cold and rainy day like Wednesday is to square off against a crosstown rival.

Pottsgrove and Pottstown lucked out that way this year, with their 2015 Pioneer Athletic Conference track and field opening dual against each other at Pottsgrove High School Stadium.

Pottsgrove swept Pottstown, with the Falcons boys winning 102-47, and the girls holding off the Trojans, 98-42.

Pottstown may not quite have the Falcons depth, but the Trojans put up a fight in every event.

The Pottsgrove boys won all but the 4×100 relay in the running events, also won all the jumping events, led by Devon Fink with three wins. Fink crossed first in the 300 hurdles (40.6), the 110 hurdles (15.5) and won the triple jump.

Dakari Rome and Derek Lopez each had two wins, with Rome first in the 100 meters (11.6) and 200 (24.4), Lopez winning the 1,600 (4:47.2) and the 3,200 (10:30.9).

Ernest McCalvin led Pottstown with two wins, taking first in the shot put (38-7) and the javelin (136-7), while Alex Huma won the discus (114-4½).

The Pottsgrove girls also won every running event, led by Amia Slade with two wins, crossing first in the 1,600 (6:30.6) and the 800 (2:45.6).

With the girls running first in every event, Pottsgrove freshman Melina Graves opened the cold day by giving the Falcons their opening win, crossing first in the 300 hurdles (54.4).

“I was really scared and I’m surprised I won,’ Graves said, shivering, but all smiles. “It’s a little cold, and the rain is getting in your face so it slows you down. But it’s the same for everybody.’

Pottsgrove football standout Devon Fink is just as outstanding on the track as he is on the gridiron and finished way ahead of the field in the 300 hurdles for the Falcons’ boys first win.

“The weather is bad, but I’m so ready,’ Fink said. “I’m going after the Pottsgrove record. And as a team, we’re really in a race to win the PAC-10 championship and wanted to get started.’

Even with Pottsgrove being a considerably smaller school compared to many in the league, the Falcon boys are always in the hunt.

“Everybody on the team works hard, and we have heart,’ Fink said, pounding his chest.

Fink is one of many standout Pottsgrove football players who always seem to be some of the best sprinters and hurdlers.

“Because our athletes do more sports, and track makes you better in football, and vise versa,’ he said.

And just when it looked like the Pottstown boys might win the second event of the day, the 4×800, with Trojans distance standout Justin Beasley-Turner seemingly the unbeatable anchor, the Falcons’ Sean O’Brien overtook him down the stretch. O’Brien also later won the 800 with a 2:14.3.

“It’s pretty bad weather out here isn’t it,’ O’Brien said. “But we had a strategy today. I just let Justin pass me, then passed him at the end. That was the strategy. Of course, we’re more known for our cross country, so our distance is usually pretty good in spring track. And Pottsgrove really needs to get the points in distance because we know Pottstown is better in sprints than they are in distance.’

Beasley-Turner was thankful to be back competing.

“It’s been a while since we had a meet, and it’s a good start,’ Beasley-Turner said. “Practice started about three weeks ago and we only got one full week of work because of the weather. But we did our best to recover this week. I was feeling strong at the end, but he picked up. He’s a great runner and he showed it. I really enjoy running against Pottsgrove. I train with some of their distance runners and we’re friends.’

Beasley-Turner had a full day again, with four mid-distance/distance events.

“I just want to work hard and get my name in the record book,’ he said. “I want to break a record at the high school. I don’t care which one it is, I just want to break a record.’

And then it was back to the sprint events, with the Falcons’ Asmerrae Jones winning the girls’ 100 with a 12.9.

“I thought I was going to do less good because it was so rainy, but surprisingly I ran a personal best,’ Jones said. “It’s my last season, I’m ready to break records. I look forward to the day when we run Pottstown every season, every year. This is my last one, I’m kind of sad.’

Rome then won the boys’ 100 for the Falcons.

“It’s more exciting to win the sprints against Pottstown because they have a really good sprinters,’ Rome said. “It felt really good to win this.’

There is not only a crosstown rivalry for Rome, there is also a family rivalry.

“My cousin also runs track for Pottstown,’ he said.

The cousins ran in the same race in the 200, with Dakari Rome winning again, and his cousin, Nykes Rome, crossing fifth.

“I loved running against him in that 200, it motivated me,’ Nykes Rome said. “But we’re family, we root for each other. Yes, even when we run against each other.

“I hope Dakari has a great season, and I hope he hopes the same for me.’

The Falcons distance group is, of course, led by their cross country standout Derek Lopez, who ran away with the 1,600 win to start his afternoon, then added his 3,200 win near the end. Cross country has him used to less than ideal conditions.

“We all came in very hopeful, we want to go far this year,’ Lopez said. “I feel like some people are writing us off because we’re a smaller school, lacking something. But we’re coming back strong. We’re running for each other, we run tougher. And we have a lot of heart.’

Falcons junior Erin King won the girls’ 400 (1:07.1).

The Falcons’ Kylif Underwood is a key member of the cross country team. But here he was sprinting the 400 and promptly winning it easily with a 53.7.

“The 400 is tough, but I love the 400,’ Underwood said. “The 400, the 4×400, that’s my heart. In middle school I was in track in eighth grade and they pulled me into cross country. But the 400 is what I love.’

There is another Carter on the rise, proven in the girls’ 100 hurdles. Kerri Carter, younger sister of former Falcons football standout Brent Carter and former high jump standout Damon Carter, who died to tragically from epilepsy just after graduating three years ago, won the event with an 18.7.

“Yes, there have been a lot of Carters, but there are more to come too,’ she said with a smile. “I love coming from such a long line of Carters. And it’s fun running against Pottstown.’

Diana Randleman has turned her talents from the basketball floor to the track and won the girls’ 3,200 with a 28.3.

“You need a lot of speed to be a point guard, and track helps that,’ Randleman said. “I like both sports, but I like basketball a little better.’

Even though the dreary conditions may have tried to get in the way, it couldn’t match the motivation facing their nearest neighbors.

“The girls always get excited for this meet,’ said Pottsgrove girls coach Mike Romeo. “The weather is not great, and with that the times are not always great to look at. But what I liked about today was that every time we were in a close race against a girl from Pottstown our girls fought and came out on top. As bad as the weather was, it was a fun meet.’

The new Pottstown girls coach Corri Speakman, a former standout at Exeter and Kutztown University who still looks like she could be one of the young runners, got to coach her first dual meet.

“I was nervous coming in, this being my first time as the head coach,’ Speakman said. “But the girls did well, I got right in the groove of things, and I am very excited. We have a young team and we now know what we need to work on at practice.’

Pottstown boys coach Mary Ann Hill has been doing this for 24 years while Pottsgrove boys head coach Larry Rechtin has her by a couple of years with this his 26th season.

“There were never any thought of postponing the meet,’ Rechtin said. “The weather was on and off, but we’re happy to get it in. And we always love running against Pottstown. They have awesome kids. It’s a fun rivalry. The kids like it, they know each other. It’s still tough to see what we’ve got but today was good. From what I saw, we’re decent enough in every one of our events to compete. We’re hoping to make a run for it (a league championship).’

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