SHIPPENSBURG – Ty Fluharty saw a familiar enemy pass him on the runway.
The Riverside High School senior had maintained a top-10 position in the men’s 3,200-meter Class 2A race on Saturday in day two of the PIAA Track and Field Championships, but with one lap to go, he launched into overdrive. That’s when he decided he wouldn’t let Palisades’ Thomas Smigo – who passed him earlier in the race – beat him.
Smigo had finished ahead of Fluharty in Friday’s 1,600-meter race and in the fall PIAA cross-country final. That day, however, Fluharty refused to lose that battle. Buffalo’s entry finished with a time of 9:20.37 to take third place, moving one spot ahead of Smigo.
“Thomas Smigo passed me…and I was like, ‘I’m not letting him go this time,'” Fluharty said after stepping into the medal stand for the second time in two days. “Somehow I found that latest report, and I went there.”
The extra motivation proved effective, as Fluharty set a personal best of 13 seconds and broke Riverside’s program record by eight seconds. It happened just a day after he broke his own school record in the 1,600 meter race.
Although it has become almost commonplace for Fluharty to break records, the sentiment has certainly not aged.
“I love everyone,” Fluharty said. “This one is special because I didn’t expect to get it. … Going into this year, I was hoping to run a 9.28. Running a 9.20 – it’s crazy.
MOON AREA’S PUHALLA MEDALS TWICE
Jacob Puhalla crossed the finish line on Saturday afternoon on day two of the PIAA Athletics Championships and shouted “Nationals!”
His three teammates – Tyler LaChapelle, John Yasonick and Ryan Kopay – from the Moon Area Boys’ Class 3A 4×800 meter relay team immediately embraced him as the Tigers celebrated what ended up being a fourth-place finish in the ‘event. More important to them at the moment, however, was the fact that their time of 7:55.38 broke the 7:58.24 threshold to qualify for the New Balance Outdoor Championships in Philadelphia in mid-June.
“Most of us want to run it – let’s see if we’re going to run it,” Puhalla said. “But now at least we know we can go to nationals and race there.”
The Moon Area relay team’s time also marked a school record, breaking the one they had previously set in the first few weeks of this season. And that was just over a week ago when the group ran the 4×800 meter race in 8:00.01.
Yasonick said Puhalla “believing in” him and his teammates gives them “so much hope” and allows them to perform at the level they do.
Less than two hours later, Puhalla finished fourth in the 800 meters with a time of 1:53.05.
Puhalla, who said he initially misjudged the pace of the race, said he was “a bit” disappointed with his performance, especially with his eyes on the top three ahead of the event.
“I was able to catch up on the backstretch and get into (good) position for the last 200 (meters),” he said. “But by then it was a bit too late.”
Puhalla’s dissatisfaction with an individual fourth place finish is just as good an indicator as the talent he possesses.
OLSH’S VOTOUR WINS ‘A LITTLE REDEMPTION’
A year after being unable to compete in the PIAA Athletics Championships due to a hamstring injury, Antonio Votour took advantage of the opportunity for this go-around.
The junior Our Lady of the Sacred Heart finished the Class 2A 110 meter hurdles on day two of the PIAA Championships with a time of 15.20 to take fifth place overall in the competition. Votour also set a personal best, bettering his previous mark by 0.08 seconds – set in last week’s WPIAL final.
“It really hurts (to have missed the PIAA Championships last year),” he said. “But this year it’s great to come back. You know, (get) some redemption (and) show everyone who I am.
Votour mainly credited OLSH coach Roger Kowal for the progress he has made throughout this season.
“He’s my mentor,” Votour said. “He’s great. We just train every day.
Heading into Friday’s preliminary round, Votour said his goal was simply to hold onto his eighth-seeded spot. So being able to gain three places in the final round was even more rewarding.
But now the bar is undoubtedly higher as he enters his senior season next year.
“I plan to win,” Votour said. “I plan to win next year. There’s a lot of hard work, and there’s a lot more to come, (but) I plan to come back here and get that gold medal.
BEAVER FALLS OVERCOMES ADVERSITY
A day before leaving for the PIAA track and field championships this week, the Beaver Falls 4×100 meter relay team each dyed a lock of hair the same shade of brown.
Inspired by Quadir Thomas, the band felt the move would show a sense of unity on a large stage. It was just another example of how the four Tigers – Thomas, Demeitris Taylor, Michael Blackshear and Richard Singleton – have come together since first time as a midseason relay team.
On Saturday, that team chemistry paid off as the unit finished fourth in the Class 2A 4×100-meter relay with a time of 43.51.
“We didn’t even know we would have a 4×100 team until two meetings before WPIAL (championships),” Taylor said. “So I’m glad these are the boys I run with here.”
Thomas, who said he was “just proud” that he and his teammates qualified for the PIAA Championships, also placed sixth in the 400 meters with a time of 50.37 later in the day. Although he won a medal, Thomas’ time was just short of his personal best of 49.98 — a mark he set in Friday’s preliminaries.
His time came after missing four weeks earlier this season following a pulled right hamstring he suffered during the indoor track and field season.
“It’s kind of special to still be able to come here and race,” Thomas said, “knowing that you’re barely 100 per cent.”
OTHER BEST BOYS FINISHERS:
- Alden Wetzel, Riverside — Third place in the 400 meters class 2A (49.83)
- Maxwell Hamilton, OLSH — Fifth place in the 800 meters class 2A (1:55.82)
- Donovan Jones, Central Valley — Fifth place in the 200 meters class 3A (21.94)
- Riverside (Ty Fluharty, Noah Zelch, Brody Barton and Alden Wetzel) — Seventh place in the 4×400 meters class 2A relay (3:29.31)
- Teddy McHale, Riverside — Eighth place in the Class 2A pole vault (13ft, 6in)