SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - They were hardly five minutes removed from running the race of their lives at the Penn Relays when Abington coach Brian Deck proclaimed that his 4x800-meter relay runners would not compete in the race at the state championships.
With his runners gasping for breath, not even yet at the podium after their school-record time of 7 minutes, 37.79 seconds earned them silver medals in the Championship of America, Deck said if any other Pennsylvania teams wanted to challenge the Ghosts in the relay, they could see the Ghosts at nationals.
Deck said it with conviction. He said he wanted the senior quartet of Macey Watson, Will Taylor, Tevin Smith, and Kyle Moran to put the relay aside in favor of individual accolades.
It's funny how things can change so quickly.
Sure enough, on Day 1 of the PIAA track and field championships Friday the Abington foursome was back, running the 4x800 relay, clocking the relaxed, preliminary time of 7:50.28 that qualified the four for Saturday's finals at Shippensburg University.
"That could have been his plan all along," Moran said, referring to Deck. "He just tells people that. He's a crazy man."
The fact is, Abington just couldn't resist. After running that superb race at Penn - the second-best time in the nation this outdoor season - combined with the indoor national title they won last March, the Ghosts just had to come back and look for the outdoor state title missing from their trophy case.
"Team talked about it and realized it's the priority," Moran added.
If the Ghosts are going to win, it won't be without heavy competition, most notably from District 1 rival Central Bucks West.
The Bucks team of Matt McGarvey, Matt Bee, Mike May, and Connor Manley, who own the nation's No. 3 time, were just one tick off Abington's pace at Penn and trumped the Ghosts at the indoor state meet this past winter.
The Bucks ran a preliminary time of 7:50.38.
"They'll push us to our max," McGarvey said of the Ghosts, looking ahead to the finals.
West took the District 1 crown in the event. Abington rested parts of its top four and simply qualified for states with a fifth-place finish.
It wasn't certain until Friday whether the Ghosts' best team would run here.
While Abington and C.B. West, two of the country's top relays, will battle for the 4x800 state title, two local girls' teams figure to compete in an equally compelling race.
Strath Haven's 4x800 team of Allie Wilson, Val Wilson, Katie Balmer, and Hannah Grossman entered the state meet seeded No. 1, and the four have a fourth-place finish in the Championship of America at Penn to their name.
However, West Chester Henderson's Janie Augustine, Michelle Tracy, Suzanne Sanders, and Natalie Deacon bested the Panthers on their way to the District 1 crown last week. The Henderson four won their qualifying heat Friday in 9:13.22.
Strath Haven clocked in at 9:17.55, though without anchor Grossman in the prelims.
Freshman Kristen Miller subbed for Grossman on Friday to allow her junior teammate to rest before her 1,600-meter run later in the day. Grossman will be back with the team Saturday.
"It was scary at first, but I just wanted to run my best so I could help the team out," said Miller, who likely will join the relay full time next season after Val Wilson and Balmer graduate.
Henderson's winning time at districts (9:06.45) broke the District 1 record. The four Warriors won't openly concede it, but they likely hope to crack the nine-minute mark in the finals.
All four teams, though, with state titles on the line, will look to run substantially faster races in the finals.
"Maybe a national record will go down this weekend," Bee said.
At Shippensburg University.
Triple jump: 1, Imani Brown, Reading 48-73/4. 2, Jarred Posey, William Penn, 47-91/2. 3, Nate Litschi, Elco, 46-111/2. 4, Tyrek Edwards, Archbishop Ryan, 46-23/4. 5, Victor Cotton, Hershey, 45-111/2. 6, Trevell Moxey, North Penn, 45-31/2.
Discus: 1, Kyle Long, Hempfield, 202-10. 2, Kyle Felpel, Cocalico, 178-4. 3, Charlito Iwuagwu, Northern Lebanon, 172-10. 4, Max Adams, Hempfield, 171-5. 5, Tyler Kerstetter, Selinsgrove, 169-8. 6, Bryan Pearson, Bangor, 168-10.
High jump: 1, Anne Holland, Pennridge, 5-7. 2, India McCoy, Ambridge, 5-7. 3, Megan Kirk, Fox Chapel, 5-6. 4, Paige Rittelman, Butler, 5-5. 5, Taylor Morgan, Upper Dublin, 5-4. 6 Taylor Uzdzinski, Council Rock South, 5-4.
Long jump: 1, Marshay Ryan, Chambersburg, 18-71/2. 2, Jordan Matthews, Abington, 18-31/4. 3, Anna Chodubski, McDowell, 18-1/2. 4, Shelley Black, Coughlin, 18-1/4. 5, Katie McCoubrie, Conestoga, 17-9. 6, Medeline Eustache, Upper Darby, 17-71/4.
Shot put: 1, Margo Britton, Dallastown, 44-4. 2, Rachel Serafin, Hempfield, 44-2. 3, Rachel Fatherly, Williamsport, 43-21/4. 4, Kayla Owens, West Chester Rustin, 41-61/4. 5, Spring Gamble, Girls High, 39-61/2. 6, Anna McCloskey, Cardinal O'Hara, 39-11/4.
Javelin: 1, Lauren Kenney, State College, 151-4. 2, Felicia Reid, Kiski, 145-3. 3, Taylor Slaney, Canon McMillan, 137-3. 4, Morgan Sheaffer, West Perry, 133-11. 5, Chrissy Rickert, Hempfield, 131-4. 6, Alejandra Willequer, Cumberland Valley, 130-5.
Triple jump: 1, Jarred Gambrell, Athens, 50-13/4. 2, Brian Leap, Bellewood-Antis, 46-83/4. 3, Vinny Dougherty, Brookville, 46-73/4. 4, Darrell Crawford, GAR Memorial, 46-7. 5, Jeremy Posey, Huntingdon, 46-41/4. 6, Joshua Santiago, Bok, 45-83/4.
Shot put: 1, Mike Recla, Bloomsburg, 57-1/2. 2, Matt Bell, Hickory, 56-31/2. 3, Nick Delmonaco, Riverview, 55-6. 4, John Yohman, Wilmington, 54-61/2. 5, Kaleb Kingston, Laurel, 54-5. 6, Trevor Miller, Johnsonburg, 54-1/4.
Javelin: 1, Rob Robbins, NE Bradford, 221-6 (meet record, betters 213-10 by Thomas Lang, St. Pius X, 2010). 2, Bryce Lemon, New Brighton, 197-6. 3, Derek Nothstein, Central, 188-10. 4, Blake Rankin, Bloomsburg, 188-1. 5, Alex Yeagle, Eisenhower, 186-3. 6, Ryan Kerr, Brookville, 185-8.
Pole vault: 1, Patrick Anderson, Kane, 15-0. 2, Donny Scatena, Central Columbia, 14-6. 3, Joe Rakowski, Quaker Valley, 14-0. 4, Nick Turner, Freedom, 14-0. 5, Cam Cassels, Lewisburg, 13-6. 6, Luke Patten, West Middlesex, 13-6.
High jump: 1, Lauren Lubarski, Hickory, 5-4. 2, Nicole Lockard, Northwestern, 5-4. 3 (tie) Ashley Bender, Mohawk; Megan VanDoren, Mount Carmel, 5-2. 5, Linda Roldan, Greenville, 5-2. 6, Olivia Jendrezjewski, Hanover, 5-2.
Long jump: 1, Kayla Hope, Tamaqua, 18-103/4. 2, Erikka Williams, Rochester, 18-101/4. 3, Lauren Ball, Bloomsburg, 18-61/4. 4, Alexis King, Wilmington, 17-81/4. 5, Maria Scanlon, Keystone Oaks, 17-63/4. 6, Shalaya Sidney, Paul Robeson, 17-43/4.
Discus: 1, Megan Dornish, Elk County Catholic, 141-3. 2, Aubree Ray, Middletown, 137-2. 3, Taylor Woods, Hickory, 130-2. 4, Mary Newell, Villa Joseph Marie, 124-4. 5, Carter Green, North Schuylkill, 122-9. 6, Cody Anderson, Johnsonburg, 121-11.
Pole vault: 1, Monica Pechanec, Notre Dame-Green Pond, 12-0. 2, Vanessa Munley, Riverside, 11-6. 3, Marissa Kalsey, Waynesburg Central, 11-6. 4, Virginia LaMacchia, Central Columbia, 11-6. 5, Hailey Kester, Salisbury Twp., 11-0. 6, Sammie Weinheimer, North East, 11-0.
Evan Burgos will be tweeting Saturday from the PIAA state track and field championships, @SportsInq