Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Zaza adds two gold medals

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - Wellington Zaza lifted himself from the long-jump pit and sprinted several strides back toward the start before dropping to the turf.

Wellington Zaza celebrates after winning the Boys AAA 110 Meter
Hurdles in Shippensburg, Pa., Sat. May 25, 2013. (Photo by Kalim A. Bhatt)
Wellington Zaza celebrates after winning the Boys AAA 110 Meter Hurdles in Shippensburg, Pa., Sat. May 25, 2013. (Photo by Kalim A. Bhatt)Read more

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - Wellington Zaza lifted himself from the long-jump pit and sprinted several strides back toward the start before dropping to the turf.

He lay there face first, head tucked under his crossed arms, as one long jumper, then another, raced by on their final turns. This was the last act of Zaza's incredible weekend at the PIAA state track and field championships, and the emotions finally landed on the floor of Seth Grove Stadium.

"It's over," Zaza said. "It was a hurtful moment. I shed a little bit of tears."

Zaza's remarkable high school career ended with two more state gold medals Saturday. The Garnet Valley star took the 110- and 300-meter hurdles.

His bid for four individual titles vanished with a seventh place in the long jump, his final event and the one expected to give him the most trouble.

But that hardly took any shine off a splendid meet that brought his state gold-medal count to five over the last two seasons.

"Anyone can say anything, but not everyone can do it, because the competition is at the highest out here," Zaza said. "It's very hard to do what you say."

Zaza delivered a signature moment in the 110 hurdles. He stopped the clock in 13.66 seconds, a personal best faster than the PIAA record of 13.79 that had stood since 1983.

However, the wind blew at plus-4.1 meters per second, making the time wind-aided and ineligible for the record.

"That race was unbelievable," Zaza said. "I had a slow start over the first two and I realized that, so I had to try and pick it up. And over the second-to-last hurdle, I looked at the clock; I was like, 'Oh, snap, the record is in my hands.' "

As one phase of his career ends, Zaza has yet to make a decision on the next. He expects to choose Ohio State or Miami soon.

"One day, I'll wake up and I'll know," Zaza said last week.

Friends and rivals. When La Salle's Tom Coyle arrived at Shippensburg on Thursday, Strath Haven's Jack Huemmler greeted him with a big hug and a happy birthday wish.

But those well wishes went only so far. Huemmler passed Coyle with about 200 meters remaining to claim the Class AAA state title in the 1,600, reversing their one-two order of finish from last year.

Battling a fierce wind, Huemmler finished in 4 minutes, 16.25 seconds.

"I'm not going to lie - I did not think of his birthday once during that race," Huemmler said.

What Huemmler did think about was this race last spring, when he led nearly throughout before Coyle caught him. This time, Huemmler made a power move with about 250 meters remaining, surprising even himself with his strength.

Huemmler has battled hamstring issues that left him feeling less than his best.

"Any time from a week ago to 1,200 meters into this race, if you asked me who was going to win, I would have told you Tom," Huemmler said.

The competitors and friends, who Coyle says talk often about "races, music, girls," embraced after the race. Their friendly rivalry is likely to go on. Coyle will run at Stanford next year, and Huemmler will be at Penn.

"I think we'll both take each under four minutes," Huemmler said. "That's the goal."

Leader of the pack. Emma Keenan said that when she started running the 800 meters in the eighth grade, she didn't know what she was doing, so she just followed the other girls around.

That would be hard to believe for anyone who saw her here, because these days it's everyone else who is following her.

Keenan, a senior at Gwynedd Mercy headed to Georgetown, won her third straight Class AAA crown in her typical, front-running fashion.

Keenan ran a 2:07 last year, but the difficult, gusty conditions held her to 2:11.37 this time as she crossed the finish line with little fuss.

"I was a bit tired when I came across the line," Keenan said with a big laugh. "I would have loved to celebrate, but I was hoping I didn't fall over."

Twice as nice. Before Quakertown's Jody-Ann Evans ever stepped foot on the track for her sprint events, she knew the wind had killed all hope for a record performance, or even a fast time.

The gusts, so strong they shook the infield tents and blew over the results board, were just as bad as she had expected.

"I felt like I wasn't even running," Evans said. "I was floating all around in my lane."

That didn't stop her from sweeping the sprint double by taking the Class AAA 100 and 200. She finished in 11.79 and 25:03, respectively.

Team titles. After falling one point short last season, the Swenson girls won the Class AA team title. Swenson was helped by victories from Tichina Rhodes in the 400, Amy Hicks in the 100 hurdles, and triumphs in the 4x100 and 4x400 relays.

Bensalem, which won the 4x400 relay in the final race of the day, captured the Class AAA boys' crown.

Notables. Other boys' champions included Ridley's Malik Jones in the Class AAA 200 and Neumann-Goretti's Todd Townsend in the AA 110 hurdles.

In other girls' AAA track finals, Courtney Smith of Unionville claimed the 3,200, Cheltenham's Kayla Coley won the 100 hurdles, and Penn Wood's Caela Williams took gold in the 400.

In Class AA, Villa Joseph Marie won the girls' 4x800 relay, and in AAA, Penn Wood triumphed in the girls' 4x400.

In field events, La Salle's Luke Persichetti won the Class AAA shot put with a heave of 57 feet. Taylor Hojnacki of Central Bucks South took the Class AAA discus. North Penn's Vince Esposito claimed the Class AAA pole vault.