Power grabs gold in 3,200, highlighting PAC-10 effort at district meet

CALN — Paul Power ran the race of his high school career in the 3,200 meters, posting a 9:15.51 to capture the gold medal with a personal best in the opening race during the closing day of the District 1 Track and Field Championships at Coatesville High School Saturday.

Power captured the only gold medal for the area boys.

More impressive than his win in the 3,200 was how he dominated the talented field from start to finish. Less than 100 yards into the race, Power raced out to take the lead, at one point stretching it to nearly 100 meters, and then crossed the finish line still well ahead of the field.

Last year Power didn’t even make it to districts in the 3,200.

“I’m just really tired now, but in the moment right now, it was probably the best race of my life,’ he said shortly after crossing. “It just shows that all the yard work I put in from one year to the next finally paid off. I struggled a little bit towards the finish, but I made it before the others.’

“Paul Power all alone out front and with an impressive, stellar field,’ the announcer kept yelling across the stadium. Power was so focused, he didn’t hear those ongoing loud praises throughout the nearly 10-minute race.”I heard my teammates yelling, ‘˜they’re about 10 back,” he said with a rare smile. “Then a couple of laps later, ‘˜they’re about 30 back.’ Then ‘˜they’re about 60 back.’ And then, with about two laps left, ‘˜they’re closing, they’re closing.’ So I knew I had to bear down. But going out early was the only way I could do it because I knew I couldn’t out-kick them at the end, I knew I had to out-distance myself early and make them come and get me. And I held on.’

And after the local boys didn’t medal in the three events on the opening day Thursday, a slew of area medalists made up for that on the final day.

Spring-Ford senior Bryan Leacraft captured the silver medal in the javelin with a 181-1, beating his twin brother Brandon Leacraft for only the third time in their four-year high school careers. Brandon wasn’t far behind, winning the bronze with a 180-0. Penncrest’s Evan Sing won it with a 194-8.

Upper Perkiomen junior Eli Soto also medaled in the javelin, placing sixth with a 172-6, even holding off Boyertown’s Elijah Shalaway. Shalaway, who has been right up there with the Leacraft twins as the area’s top trio and was seeded second behind Sing, didn’t quite have it on this day, placing seventh with a 166-3.

Boyertown’s Dylan Eddinger had a standout day too on the track, winning the bronze in the 800 with a 1:55.30, while also taking fourth in the 1,600 with a 4:17.21. Eddinger will go on to states and was the lone double medalist among the local boys.

“It felt great,’ Bryan Leacraft said. “All the times he has beaten me made me want to go harder and harder, to drive and strive to be better.’

Maybe there is even more competition between twins than just sibling.

“I believe it’s even, but any competition makes you want to become better,’ Bryan Leacraft said.

Brandon Leacraft, who also took fourth at states last year, wasn’t too happy with his day.

“I hurt my back on my second warm-up throw,’ he said. “I only took three warmups because my muscles in my back flared up. I hurt two muscles in my back earlier in the season so I was just trying to at least get top three.’

And if anybody was going to snatch that silver from him, it might as well have been his twin brother.

“Won’t happen again, though,’ Brandon Leacraft said with a grin. “We still do have states.’

Shalaway, who placed fifth last year, made no excuses.

“Bad footwork, I just wasn’t in a groove today,’ Shalaway said. “I wasn’t throwing like I should have been throwing. It’s just really a letdown.’

Phoenixville junior Sean McGinnis also medaled in the 800, placing fifth (1:55.35) and qualified for states.

But Power, coming in as the top seed in the 1,600, put too much of his energy into the 3,200 and finished ninth in the 1,600 and missed qualifying for states in that mile.

Perkiomen Valley senior Joe Adighibe won the bronze medal in the long jump with a 21-11 1/4.

Pope John Paul ll sophomore Joe Kleinot also medaled in the long jump, placing sixth with a 21-3 1/2.

Pottsgrove senior Devon Fink medaled in the 300 hurdles, placing sixth with a 40.53.

Soto was the lone medalist for Upper Per this year, moving up from the 11th seed to sixth and from his 163-0 seed distance to 172-6.

“It feels great, makes me feel that my work has paid off,’ Soto said. “I’ve been trying very hard. I was six feet away from states. I was trying very hard to get to states this year, but I couldn’t. I’m looking forward to next year and to putting the work in over the summer.’

Eddinger had a lot on his plate for that hot afternoon. First he ran the 1,600 for a fourth-place finish, and not that much later the 800 for the bronze.

“Sure, I’m happy,’ Eddinger said after the 1,600. But he didn’t look it all.

“Well, it’s not a district championship,’ he said with a smile. “But that’s all right. There was a lot of bunching up, boxing out through that whole race. It was kind of a difficult one.’

So why not skip the 1,600 for the 800, which is his favorite and where he was seeded third?

“No, never considered not doing both,’ he said. “Running in two events doubles the chance of going to states. And we’re already halfway there.’

And then Eddinger added the other half easily with that 800 bronze.

“It’s a hot day, but it’s still a fun day,’ he said. “I’m in states for both now and that was another one of the goals along with winning the championship. Of course, I wanted the gold in both events. Who doesn’t? But I had fun in both races and ran good times.’

And if the Vikings Adighibe doesn’t win, he’s not happy either. He came in seeded third in the long jump and matched that with a third place finish, but was shy of his seed 22-0 by a quarter inch.

“I’m upset,’ Adighibe said. “I wanted to better my distance. I ran a warmup for about 30 minutes and got really warmed up, but the hot weather got to me. So I’m upset. But I’m going to states, so I did qualify.’

Pottsgrove’s Fink, who had been the most consistent hurdle standout this season, was just happy he made it here. He took a bad spill in the 300 at last week’s league championships.

“No, that didn’t bother me today,’ Fink said. “After I fell it was like more of a push for me to go harder. I was here for the 110 hurdles last year, but didn’t make the finals. This year just the 300 hurdles. I didn’t make states in it, but it was still a fun experience to make to the finals.’

It took Power a while to cool down from that 1,600 ninth finish. Not physically, but in his mind. Finally, about an hour later, a little smile had come back.

“I tried to come back, but I couldn’t,’ he said. “I was tired, but I feel I could have stayed in the mile a little bit better. Mad? No. I just wanted to have a couple of good races today and I think I did that. And I rather get first and ninth, then finish fourth and fifth.’

And as long as he is going to states in the 3,200, all is OK.

Kleinot, who only started with track in eighth grade, was the PJP boys lone medalist but didn’t qualify for states.

“I’m pretty excited I made it here,’ Kleinot said. “I did want to get to states, but this place is pretty good. And I’ll be back next year. We come from a really good conference and to be one of the few here feels great.’

And not only was McGinnis the Phoenixville boys lone medalist, but he made a giant leap from his 22nd seed to fifth and a state qualification.

“I’m excited, it’s a wonderful feeling,’ McGinnis said. “I never, ever thought I’d even be here about six months ago. And now here I am, on the stand. And going to states. To be at states representing Phoenixville, that makes me extremely proud. I can’t wait to put on my Phoenixville jersey next week.’

For some it was there first time here, others their last chance to qualify for states. And for some, like Pottsgrove senior and distance standout Derek Lopez, a sentimental goodbye.

For four years Lopez was the heart and soul of the Pottsgrove cross country team that made it to districts and states every year and finished high. But districts in track wasn’t as easy for him. Now he was here one last time, placing 25th in the 3,200 (9:50.30).

“My last high school race,’ he said wistfully moments after the race. “I missed districts last year by about three seconds, so my goal for this year was to qualify for districts in track, and that’s what I did. I just wanted to come and have a good time.’

Methacton junior Jeff Kirshenbaum, the Warriors’ boys lone qualifier in any event for this final day, placed 11th in the 3,200 (9:35.55).

NOTES — Perk Valley senior Raymond Friend placed 21st in the 3,200 (9:46.01). Perk Valley junior Frankie MacGregor was 29th (9:55.48) and Owen J. Roberts junior Abe van Helmont finished 33rd (9:57.83). In the 800, Perk Valley junior Jeff Montgomery placed 24th (4:32.11). In the 300 hurdles, Owen J. Roberts senior Nathan Smith placed 10th (40.76). Spring-Ford junior Colin Crosbie was the area’s lone qualifier in the 400 and placed 11th (1:31), 10 spots up from his 21st seed. In the 800, Pottsgrove senior Sean O’Brien placed 19th (2:02.77). In the 1,600, Perk Valley junior Jeff Montgomery placed 24th (4:32.11). In the 300 hurdles, Owen J. Roberts senior Nate Smith placed 10th (40.76). Methacton junior John Lozinak was right behind him at 11th (40.76). No area teams made it to the finals in any relays. Cheltenham won the District team title (62 points); Spring-Ford was the area boys’ highest team finisher at eighth (24) in a field of 50 teams; with Boyertown second-highest at 19th (13).


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