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Meet marks the end of a brilliant career

Ryann Krais will defend three titles at the PIAA track and field championships.

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - When Ryann Krais leaves Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium tomorrow for the final time, it will be an emotional occasion for the Methacton senior.

"I'm definitely excited about the meet," Krais said of the two-day PIAA track and field championships, which start this morning. "I'm not excited that it is my last high school meet."

For Krais, the meet signifies the end of an illustrious high school career.

One could argue that the 18-year-old is the most versatile girls' track athlete to come out of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

She owns Class AAA state-meet records in the 100-meter (13.73 seconds) and 300-meter hurdles (41.46). The UCLA signee is the meet's three-time defending intermediate hurdles champion. She is the two-time defending long-jump champion, and she won her first 100 hurdles title last season.

In addition to defending her titles, Krais will compete in the high jump this weekend.

"My main focus is the 300 hurdles," she said. "It would be fantastic to do well in those other events. But the 300 hurdles is the one I'm focusing the most on."

The intermediate hurdles preliminary races are scheduled to begin today at 3:15 p.m. The top eight contestants from the prelims advance on place or time for tomorrow's 1:30 p.m. final.

"I want to run 39.97 seconds" in the final, Krais said.

Why 39.97?

"Because the national record is 39.98," Krais said. Natasha Demus of Long Beach Wilson (Calif.) set that mark in 2001.

In an attempt to break the record, Krais spent this week working on steps between hurdles. She chopped them noticeably en route to running 41.60 to win last weekend's district title.

"Right now, I'm fine through the first five hurdles," Krais said. "The last couple of hurdles, I need to keep my speed and have my steps down.

"I take 15 steps between the first five hurdles and 16, 16 and 17 over the last three."

Even though she is focusing on the 300 hurdles, she has a chance to win all four of her events.

The all-American has the state's top efforts in the 100 hurdles (13.50) and high jump (5 feet, 8 inches) this season. She has the state's third-best long jump (18-9).

Seniors Karen Shump of Penncrest and Benita Taylor of Engineering and Science can relate to Krais' state-meet dominance.

Shump heads into today's events heavily favored to win her fourth consecutive Class AAA girls' shot-put title. The Oklahoma recruit's season-best heave (47-11) is believed to be the nation's ninth-best throw by a high school girl.

Shump is also favored to win her first discus title tomorrow.

Taylor will try to win her fourth straight Class AA girls' 800. She will also attempt to win a fourth consecutive gold medal on the Engineers' 4x400 relay team. The quartet of Acoya Goines, Taylor, Morgan Heath and Kasia Taylor has the fastest seed time, 3 minutes, 56.71 seconds.

The North Penn boys' 4x800 relay team is heavily favored to retain its Class AAA title. The quartet of Brian Quintrell, Steve Franks, Justin Bookheimer and Zack Montijo had the fastest seed time, 7:44.81. Central Bucks South (7:52.21) had the second-fastest qualifying time.