Freeport runner Reichenbaugh golden at PIAAs
SHIPPENSBURG — Robert Reichenbaugh had a strategy for his 800-meter race Saturday and was determined to stick with it.
“I planned to follow the runner from Neumann-Goretti,” he said, “because I was trying to break the school record. I didn't care if I medaled, I was going for that time.”
Neumann-Goretti junior Kamil Jihad had run the fastest time in Friday's preliminaries, so Reichenbaugh shadowed him from the start Saturday. But ultimately, it was the Freeport senior who crossed the finish line first in 1 minute, 55.12 seconds to win gold at the PIAA track and field championships.
“I was waiting behind him for most of the race, just trying to stay with him,” Reichenbaugh said. “Once we got around the last corner, it's just whatever you have left. I guess I had a lot left.”
The WPIAL champion made his charge with about 120 meters left and passed Jihad and Milton Area junior Tyler Leeser in the final 50 meters. All three crossed the line within about a half-second span. Leeser was second at 1:55.44, and Jihad was third at 1:55.63.
“They were kicking ahead of me,” Reichenbaugh said, “but my sprint speed was just a little faster than theirs.”
The Freeport school record was about 1:55.8, Reichenbaugh said, so he earned that honor as well.
“(A plan) usually doesn't go that easily in track,” he said, “but today it worked out pretty well for me.”
For a few reasons, Jack Ryan wasn't supposed to be on the medal stand at the PIAA championships.
First, the Burrell senior tore an ACL last football season and underwent knee surgery in November. Second, his 100 time ranked just 18th in the state in Class AA.
Yet, on a knee that healed quickly, Ryan ran a personal best Saturday to place sixth, and he earned his unlikely spot on the medal stand at Seth Grove Stadium.
“I have to say I'm happy, for sure,” said Ryan, whose 11.11-second finish was one-hundredth faster than his previous best.
Ryan ran 11.46 in the WPIAL final and finished sixth, one spot short of qualifying for states. But he earned a trip to the PIAA meet after all when a runner ahead of him withdrew.
“I kind of hit a slump in the WPIALs,” Ryan said. “I didn't run nearly as well as I wanted. … There was more pressure in the WPIAL meet. Here, coming in as a real low seed, I said, ‘All right, I'm going to have some fun.' I just relaxed and ended up doing better than I thought.”
After his surgery, Ryan started light workouts in February but had ramped up his activity by April.
“We didn't push too hard, but as the season went along, he kept feeling healthier and healthier,” Burrell coach Steve White said. “Here we are today, him standing on the podium.”
Apollo-Ridge's Dillon Butz-Retzer placed fifth in the 100, earning the senior a Class AA medal. He finished in 22.88 seconds, better than the 22.94 he ran last week to place second in the WPIAL.
Butz-Retzer was the WPIAL's 400 champion but did not reach the state finals in that event.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.