As Jack Huemmler eased down the stretch to win the 1,600 meters at the PIAA District 1 championships Saturday, he casually glanced back over his shoulder a couple of times.
Safe to say the Strath Haven senior won't be doing anything of the sort this weekend when he goes for gold at the state track and field championships.
Huemmler is the top-seeded Class AAA miler in the two-day event, which begins Friday at Shippensburg University.
"At states, I'm not going to be looking back. I'm going to be turning it on," Huemmler said.
Last year in the state final, Huemmler set the pace and led for what he described as "1,540 meters," before La Salle's Tom Coyle swallowed him in the final strides.
Huemmler, who will run at Penn next season, has worked on closing strong. At the district meet, he resisted the urge to chase a hot pace and made a late move to win in 4 minutes, 13.68 seconds.
"I'm going to be trying to win states in a very different way than I did last year," Huemmler said. "I just won't lead it the whole way."
Huemmler has battled a leg injury this season that forced him to miss time, and because of that, he doesn't believe he's in quite as good shape as he was last year when he ran second to Coyle's state-winning time of 4:11.97.
But what he might have lost in fitness, he has gained elsewhere.
"Mentally, I know how to handle myself a little better," Huemmler said.
Taking on the big boys. When Jhaloni Johnson wasn't competing Saturday at the District 1 championships, there was a good chance he was lingering by the wall where event results were posted.
Johnson wasn't so much looking at his results as he was taking a peek at the times run by Class AAA runners.
Johnson, a junior at Springfield (Montco), won three Class AA events, but he had his eye on competing with the athletes from larger schools.
"Every time we come out here, I talk to them," Johnson said. "I put a little something in their ear, tell them I wish I was running with them."
Johnson gave everyone something to think about in the 100. His time of 10.87 was the fastest at the district meet in any class and will make him the top-seeded Class AA runner at states.
Eyebrow-raising performance. Kaley Forst's eyes widened as she heard the winning time that her Central Bucks West 4x400 relay team had clocked in the District 1 Class AAA final.
Forst initially couldn't believe that they had set a meet record of 3:47.62. That was more than two seconds faster than the returning foursome of Forst, Lizanne Furst, Courtney Taylor, and Jamila Branch ran to win the state championship last season.
"I definitely thought we were capable, but I didn't know that we were going to pull [a record] out," Forst said.
Central Bucks West is the No. 1 seed at the state meet.
Hicks looking strong. Much attention at the state meet will deservedly focus on Garnet Valley's Wellington Zaza and his quest for four individual state championships. But Swenson's Amy Hicks is worth keeping an eye on in the Class AA meet.
Hicks, who dominated the Public League and District 12 championships, is the top seed in the 100 meters and the 100 hurdles, and is a part of the 4x100 relay team that posted the state's fastest qualifying time.