Gateway grad Means tearing up the track at Cal (Pa.)
Cal (Pa.) senior track and field standout Jae’Len Means is on quite the run lately, literally and figuratively.
The 2014 Gateway grad is putting the finishing touches on an indoor track season that has earned him a trip to the NCAA Division II indoor championships and garnered plenty of recognition along the way.
“It’s been a testament to the hard work, and it feels good to see everything pay off,” Means said. “It’s been fun. This year has been healthy with no big injures. That’s probably the biggest thing, and everything has fallen into place.”
The kid who grew up in the shadows of the Steel City will be heading to the other Pittsburgh — as in Pittsburg, Kan. — for the indoor track championships March 8-9. Means will be competing in the 200 meters.
He is shooting for a top-eight finish, which would mean first-team All-American status. A ninth- through 12th-place finish will land him on the second team. Means was named second-team All-American his sophomore season.
“I’m definitely more ready than I’ve ever been going into a national meet,” Means said. “Everything is on track. Everything is building up for me to go out there to do something special. There’s not many PSAC sprinters that take it to that next level, and I’m excited to be on that short list.”
Means was chosen as the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Track Athlete of the Week for two consecutive weeks. It was the third time he received the weekly award this season and the eighth time in his career.
Means has gotten to the point where he is breaking his own school records. He sprinted past himself in the Vulcans record books a few weeks ago at the Kent State Tune Up, where he turned in a time of 21.45 seconds in the 200, breaking a record he set a week prior.
“He’s hitting his unseen goals from his freshman year, which is kind of awesome,” Cal. (Pa.) sprint coach Sandy Estep said. “He was like most sprinters in high school: very, very cocky and eager. But at the end of the day, he lacked the self-confidence and covered up.”
The six-time PSAC champion has clocked the fastest PSAC 200 indoor time this season and also ranks in the top 10 nationally. Means also ranks second in the PSAC in the 60 dash with a time of 6.85.
“I think his confidence is what has changed,” Estep said. “At the end of last year, he ran a 10.34 (in the 100 meters) at the conference championships, and I think that proved to him that he might have a little bit more.”
Means also earned most outstanding track athlete of the PSAC indoor track championships Feb. 23 at Edinboro. It was the the second time Means won the award, having earned it at the end of the 2018 spring outdoor season. He finished first in the 60 and 200 at the indoor conference championships.
“Every year, he’s come back ready to do more,” Estep said. “Every year, I change his training. He’s never content.”
Means is ready for the trip to nationals and beyond. He said he wants to make the most of his senior year and feels his indoor season success almost certainly will transfer to the outdoor season.
“Everything that happens indoors is more fuel for outdoors,” Means said. “I can’t wait to get outdoors, to open up and get everything rolling.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.