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3 defending champs headline state meet

They join other area athletes as favorites to win PIAA titles.

Cheltenham's Brittney Howell , shown here competing in the Penn Relays, is one of a strong group of District 1 athletes in the field events at the PIAA state championships.
Cheltenham's Brittney Howell , shown here competing in the Penn Relays, is one of a strong group of District 1 athletes in the field events at the PIAA state championships.Read moreRON CORTES / Staff Photographer

Three athletes from the region will head to Shippensburg University for the PIAA track and field state championships Friday and Saturday to defend individual titles.

There also are several relay teams heading west to defend state titles.

Chester's Rayiana Johnson will defend her titles in the Class AAA 100 and 200 meters, Central Bucks South's Tom Mallon will try to repeat as champion in the Class AAA 800-meter dash and Abington's Leah Nugent will go for her second straight title in the Class AAA 300 hurdles.

The three returning champions join a large group of area athletes entering the weekend as the favorite to win their first state titles.

In the Class AAA boys' championships, District 1 is fielding the No. 1 seed - determined by the top performances in the district championships - in eight of 18 events.

Father Judge's Tom Kehl, who holds the top time in the state this season in the 1,600 meters (4 minutes, 9.47 seconds), Kehl enters the weekend as District 12's most heavily favored athlete.

"It feels good going in there, being pegged as number one," he said. "I just have to make sure I do what I can in states to make sure that reputation is secure. But I'm definitely looking forward to states."

Team spirit. After finishing first overall in the District 12 Class AA boys' championships, West Catholic is fielding athletes in more state-championship events than any other area school.

The Burrs will compete in 17 of the 36 Class AA events (five girls' and 12 boys' events) this weekend.

In Class AAA, 14 events (seven boys, seven girls) will feature athletes from District 12's Cardinal O'Hara. The Lions are coming off a second-place finish in the boys' district championship, and a first-place finish on the girls' side.

District 1's Villa Joseph Marie, an all-girls school, will have competitors in nine of 18 Class AA events after finishing first with 38 points in the District 1 meet, outpacing St. Pius X by four points.

Might as well jump. The region's athletes are strong in many events, but jumping might be the best.

Methacton's Carlton Lavong and Owen J. Roberts' Ryan Brumfield will battle for state titles in the Class AAA long and triple jumps.

Lavong is the favorite in both events, with Brumfield the No. 2 seed in the long jump and No. 3 in the triple jump. Brumfield also has the state's second-best mark this season in the high jump, 6 feet, 81/4 inches.

The jump is three-quarters of an inch off the state best of 6-9 by Coatesville's Marcus Blakely.

In the girls' AAA championship, Abington's Jordan Matthews and Cheltenham's Brittney Howell are the second and third seeds, respectively, in the long jump.

Pennridge's Annie Holland and Upper Dublin's Morgan Taylor also enter the weekend as two of the state's strongest high jumpers.

TV coverage. The Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) will show coverage of the championships at 5 p.m. Saturday. The action will re-air at 2 p.m. Sunday and at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday.