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U. Moreland’s Magaha is boys’ track athlete of year

Somewhere, chances are, Drew Magaha is still in a bit of a daze.

Drew Magaha of Upper Moreland raises his arms after winning the boys 1600 meter PIAA Class AAA final. (Photo by Kalim A. Bhatti)
Drew Magaha of Upper Moreland raises his arms after winning the boys 1600 meter PIAA Class AAA final. (Photo by Kalim A. Bhatti)Read more

Somewhere, chances are, Drew Magaha is still in a bit of a daze.

Maybe he's still reveling with his Upper Moreland track and field teammates.

Maybe, as summer sets in, he's sitting at home, absorbing some much-needed rest and relaxation. Maybe he's back on the track, still running.

Wherever in the world Magaha is right now, he's happy but, perhaps, still trying to define the feeling. That's what making history will do to a person.

With one more year at Upper Moreland High remaining, Magaha has nothing else to run for, it seems. In the last three weeks, he won his second career District 1 championship in the 1,600 meters, and added a Class AAA state title the following week.

In doing so, Magaha smashed both the district and Pennsylvania records in the race. He first ran a 4-minute, 10.99-second 1,600 that broke the District 1 record of 4:13.09 set in 1996 by Hatboro-Horsham's Dan McKay.

At the state meet, he made that time look pedestrian, running the race in 4:07.32 and trumping the previous PIAA record of 4:09.33. His was the fourth-fastest high school time in the nation this season and, by more than four seconds, the fastest in the state.

That's when - right after Magaha received his gold medal atop the podium, pointing both index fingers to the sky as the crowd at Shippensburg University cheered in salute - the daze first settled in.

"The feeling that I have right now - first of all, I'm still trying to wake up from the dream," Magaha, The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania boys' track and field athlete of the year, said last week.

"Second of all, I like to take a step back and look at how I got here. A junior, coming out and doing something like that is just - that's what everybody dreams of.

"It's a dream. That's what it is."

As a sophomore, Magaha, improbably, ran to his first District 1 title in the 1,600. That year, he won the race in 4:16.49 and was the only underclassman to finish in the top five. He traveled to the state meet a week later as the No. 1 seed in his preliminary heat, which he won.

Then came the hiccup.

Magaha went on to run a 5:02.00 race in the state finals to finish 12th, dead last.

One year later, after 1,200 meters, Magaha was hanging with the pack in the championship heat, one of several runners jockeying for the lead position. Then, at the final lap's first turn, he exploded like a cork launched from a champagne bottle.

Right then and there, with nearly a quarter of the race remaining, he won it. The five or six other runners, who had thought they had a shot at gold, realized it was Magaha's race. Down the final 100-meter stretch, officials on the infield began to murmur that he was going to break it. The record would be smashed.

"And I smashed myself, but it's worth it," Magaha later said. "Way worth it."

As the record holder in the most competitive district in the state, and as Pennsylvania's 1,600 standard-bearer, Magaha seems to have few prospects to top himself in his senior year. This season, he also won the Suburban One American title in the 1,600 and was a PIAA finalist in the 800.

Sure, as a senior, he could add more gold medals. But simple wins just won't stack up. So what will he run for?

"Next year is just records. Every record that I can possibly find," he said. "I've really done everything anyone wants to do in a career, and I just want to put my name up on the scoreboard and see how far I can get."

When Magaha talks of his season; his district title; and, especially, the state crown, he finishes every answer with a nervous laugh. He jests that he has to continuously pinch himself. He isn't quite sure it's real, he says.

But Magaha is happy. He is already assured to go down as one of the greatest one-milers in PIAA history.

And he's still running.