Seneca Valley puts together record-breaking 4x100 relay team
The first time Seneca Valley's fastest foursome ran together, the group was disqualified because the sprinters started in one lane and tried to finish the 400-meter relay in another.
“We miscommunicated which lane we were in,” senior Forrest Barnes said with a laugh.
That was Wednesday at Pine-Richland. When they tried again Friday at the Mars Invitational, the foursome reached the finish line faster than any relay team in school history.
Two days had made quite the difference.
Jordan Brown, Jonathon Dorogy, Bradley Banks and Barnes, in that order, finished in 43.03 seconds, winning the invitational with a time that was 0.27 faster than a Seneca Valley school record that had stood since 1982.
Yet, no one was too surprised. The 31-year-old record was a goal that united this unlikely lineup.
“We were holding our breath,” coach Ray Peaco said. “We knew that if everything went right, then they would have the opportunity to break our school record. ... But I always hold my breath with relays, especially the 4x100.”
Peaco has coached Seneca Valley track since 1983, including the past six as head coach. This was the first team in recent memory to challenge the 400-relay time, he said.
“Once I saw that clock read 43.03, I said: ‘They finally got that record,' ” Peaco said. “It's gone.”
Getting these four runners together was the first real challenge.
Barnes and Banks, a 400-meter runner, are regulars on the track team. But Brown, a James Madison-bound quarterback, had avoided track despite the invitation of coaches. And Dorogy, who sprints indoors in the winter, had always just played baseball in the spring.
But the idea of them running together was an idea Barnes really liked.
“In football, they talked about how me, Jordan and Dorogy could have been one of the fastest trios in the WPIAL,” Barnes said. “I've got a state medal in the 100, Dorogy has a state (indoor) medal and Jordan was clocked under a 4.5 (seconds in the 40-yard dash).”
The opportunity came when Dorogy agreed to run track on days he doesn't have baseball games. Brown was then convinced to join them.
“It took us a while to get Jordan to come out,” Dorogy said.
“We pounded Jordan about it,” Barnes said. “He finally runs and this is what happens. He was able to give us that one element we were missing.”
With the four on board, sprint coaches John Bercury and Chris Eden tweaked the running order until they found this combination: Dorogy and Barnes run the straight stretches; Brown and Banks run the curves.
“The problem was that we couldn't get the four on the track together,” Peaco said.
They were all there Friday.
Seneca Valley's relay time was the fastest reported in the WPIAL this season, edging the 43.10 run by Mt. Lebanon. A 43.03 time would have ranked third at last year's WPIAL championship, behind only Kiski Area (42.56) and Gateway (42.74).
“Actually, I think they could go a little lower,” Peaco said. “Who knows?”
It was good enough Friday to beat second-place Gateway (43.71) by about a half-second, and it also broke the Mars Invitational record set last year by the Gators (43.22).
Individually, they're also doing well. Barnes won the 100 meters Friday in 10.97 seconds and Dorogy placed third. The two finished the other way around at Pine-Richland, with Dorogy winning in 10.64 seconds, a hand-timed mark that was better than Barnes' school record 10.76 from last season.
Both are Citadel football recruits. They finished just two-hundredths apart in Friday's 200, when Barnes was second and Dorogy was fourth.
“How many schools can you think of where you have two guys neck and neck to have a chance to be a gold medalist at any event?” Barnes said. “It benefits me because I know I'm racing against the best of the best every day.”
Seneca Valley didn't qualify for the team track playoffs, so the foursome's next goal will be to qualify for WPIAL individual championship.
But they might have to do it without Dorogy. The WPIAL qualifier is May 7, which conflicts with the final home game on Seneca Valley's baseball schedule. The relay team could use an alternate to temporarily take his place.
“Baseball is my priority,” said Dorogy, the center fielder for the two-time defending WPIAL Class AAAA champions. “I don't come to (track) practice, but after baseball, if I can get a couple handoffs in, we'll do that.”
Dorogy would run May 19 during the WPIAL track and field championship at Baldwin, assuming it doesn't conflict with a baseball playoff game.
“They could get to the state meet with times like this, but the question is going to be whether baseball is an issue,” Peaco said. “Jonathan loves baseball. ... Hopefully, the schedule works for us.”