Durnell has busy day as Penncrest clinches title

LOWER MERION — After he completed the anchor leg in the 4 x 400-meter relay at the Central League Championships Wednesday at Lower Merion’s Arnold Field, Penncrest’s Dion Durnell spotted a chair in the infield and immediately sat down to relax.

The chair was not his, but that did not matter. Durnell needed to sit down.

Running five races in less than five hours, as Durnell did, will wear out even the fittest of athletes, but Durnell’s exhausting performance was worth it as the senior captain was handed the Bob Jesson Trophy that goes to the Central League team champion.

With Durnell, Daniel Fisher and Evan Emanuel leading the way, the Lions piled up 161 points to put the finishing touches on a championship season.

Durnell won the 200 and teamed with Nick Reyes, Trevor Gasiorowski and Fisher to win the 4 x 100 and set the school record with a time of 42.72 seconds. Durnell was second in the 100 and joined James Teal, Emanuel, and Soham Kamat to take silver in the 4 x 400.

In all, the Lions won five events to wrap up the team title, which included an 11-0 mark in the regular season. The boys award 10 points for each win in the regular season and also score the championship meet to determine the overall champion. The girls champion is decided in the regular season, but that will change next year.

The Penncrest coaches wanted to pull Durnell out of the 200 so he would be stronger for the 4 x 400, but Durnell nixed that plan.

“I love that race,’ Durnell said. “It’s sweet and I’m finally starting to get it. I can see how I should run it.’

Fisher and Emanuel are coming on strong, too. Fisher won the 100, was second to Durnell in the 200 and ran anchor on the 4 x 100. He is running track for the first time since his freshman year.

“The coaches got me in shape,’ said Fisher, who is headed to Indiana, Pa., to play football. “That’s been the difference for me. The workouts the coaches have put me through have prepared me for this.’

Emanuel won the 800 in 1 minute, 54.56 seconds. It’s the second time the senior ran under 1:55 in the last week. He ran 1:54.14 last Friday to finish fifth at the Henderson Invitational. Wednesday, Emanuel took the lead early and never relinquished it.

“I’m more comfortable running in front,’ said Emanuel, who is headed to Temple. “It allows me to open my stride up. When I have guys ahead of me I tend to shorten my stride up. When you’re in the pack you’re fighting for space and you really can’t open up. The best 800s are when you can open up your stride.’

The victory was especially sweet because many of the Lions missed the second day of the Delco Championships last Saturday because of the senior prom.

“This was very important to us,’ Fisher said. “Me, Dion and Nick missed the finals of the 100 and 200 so we wanted to come here and do well.’

Elsehwere on the boys side, Upper Darby’s Donovan St. Louis won the 400 and teamed with Jared Carter, Akeim Thomas and Temidayo Kamson to take the gold in the 4 x 400. Mason Weh breezed to first in the 110 hurdles. Marcques Gibbs won the triple jump and Nataar Henderson took first in the shot put for the Royals.

Connor Holm, Minning, Peter Cooke and Andre Kelly of Radnor won the 4 x 800. Haverford’s Stephen Pierce was first in the discus. Colin Waitzman captured the pole vault. Andrew Marston of Conestoga won the 1,600, while teammates Nate McLachlan, Andrew Diehl and Martin Dorsey were first in the 300 hurdles, high jump and long jump, respectively. Jonathan Perlman of Lower Merion won the 3,200 for the third straight year.

The Penncrest girls had the same objective and also went home with five gold medals. The two most impressive performances were turned in by junior Diana Dunn in the 800 and freshman Tara Higgins on the anchor leg of the 4 x 400-meter relay.

Dunn won the 800 with a career-best time of 2:19.93, which earned her a trip to the District One Championships and put a huge smile on her face.

“I’m so happy I broke 2:20,’ Dunn said. “That’s kind of been a barrier for me. Hopefully this will prepare me to run a good time at districts and hopefully make states.’

Higgins was 15 meters behind Strath Haven’s Sunny Chen with about 200 meters to go. That’s when she kicked it into high gear to help the Lions win the Larry Simmons Trophy, which goes to the winner of the 4 x 400, for the first time.

“I was mad,’ Higgins said. “I didn’t want to lose.’

Higgins teammates were impressed with the rookie’s final burst.

“She was savage,’ senior Briana Artis said.

Junior Alicia Collier won the 100. Senior Katie Arbogast was first in the 400 and teamed with Mariah Kozub and Zoe Gable to win the 4 x 100.

Strath Haven and Haverford also had big days. Rachel Vresilovic won the javelin for the third straight year to lead the Panthers. Breana Fisher was first in the javelin. Junior Naima Okami won the 3,200. Semaje Harper claimed gold in the 100 hurdles.

For Haverford, senior Kaila Cannon won the long and triple jumps for the second straight year and the third time in her career. She also won both events as a freshman in 2012. That was part of a big day in the field events for the Fords. Maddie Santoro won the high jump. Caliegh Connell took the pole vault in a vault-off. On the track, Athena Pilato, Sara Curran, Sadie Gold and Marissa Donohue recorded their best time of the season (9:47.48) to win the 4 x 800.

Elsewhere, Val McLaughlin of Ridley captured the 200-meter title. Victoria Robinson of Upper Darby was first in the 300 intermediate hurdles. Nina Gambacorta of Garnet Valley won the shot put for the second straight year. Maura Henderson of Harriton won the 1,600.

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