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Plum track athletes working indoors

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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The high school outdoor track and field season begins in early March with preseason practices, but a number of Plum student-athletes are getting prepared for the spring with workouts and a couple of indoor competitions this winter.

Veteran Mustangs head track and field coach Joe Ionta said about 25 kids who are not on winter sports teams are conditioning this winter.

“We probably initiated this around 1998 because it is really important for the kids, especially the distance kids, to get a good base in for the spring,” Ionta said.

“You don't know what the weather is going to be like in March for preseason practices. People may not realize this, but it's a lot easier to run in 20-degree weather when it is snowing than in the spring when it becomes 30 to 35 degrees with rain. We've been fairly successful doing that.”

Ionta said about a dozen Plum athletes attended an open indoor competition Jan. 18 at Slippery Rock University.

The boys 4x800-meter relay of juniors Stephen Hemmerle and Eddie Amori, sophomore Ryan Kieffer and senior Adam Molinaro finished fourth with a time of 9:18.81.

Ionta said junior Alan Yocca, a mainstay on the relay and a cross country state qualifier in the fall, wasn't able to compete in the relay because of an injury.

Individually, Amori took fifth in the 3200 run (9:59.76), while freshman Jake Susalla, also a PIAA cross country qualifier in October, placed sixth (10:03.01).

Plum is slated to attend another open event at Slippery Rock on Saturday.

The Mustangs used to compete often, Ionta said, when more meets were at Slippery Rock University, Robert Morris University and the University of Pittsburgh.

All of the Tri-State Track Coaches Association meets this winter are at Edinboro University.

Ionta said it can be 16 hours in one day from the time an athlete leaves for the event to the time he or she gets home.

“It's hard for a kid to go from seven in the morning to 11 at night (at Edinboro), and he may only be running in one, maybe two, events,” Ionta said.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at

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