A-K Valley track notebook: Valley's Johnson battles injury to finish 4th
SHIPPENSBURG — With a fourth-place medal in his hands, Valley high jumper Darius Johnson already started planning a return trip to Shippensburg.
Next time, though, he wants to be at full strength.
The junior cleared 6 feet, 5 inches Friday at the PIAA track and field championships to medal in Class AA, despite being limited by an ankle issue.
“I was hoping to go higher, but my right ankle started hurting and it messed me up,” he said. “Every time I tried to go harder it starts bothering me. … I'm happy that I placed fourth, but I really wanted a top-three finish.”
Johnson matched the height he jumped last week to win the WPIAL Class AA title.
“I'm going to work hard in the offseason to get my ankle straight,” he said, “and I'll be back next year looking for gold.”
Leading the pack
Early in his 800-meter preliminary, Robert Reichenbaugh found himself in an unwanted spot: out in front.
“I hate setting paces,” the Freeport senior said with a laugh. “I had to do it at WPIALs, and I did all right there. But these guys are fast. They're just sitting on my back waiting for me to die off.”
Reichenbaugh eventually surrendered the lead but didn't fade. Six runners in his heat crossed the line within a one-second span, and he finished fifth in 2 minutes, 0.39 seconds. That put him sixth overall between the two heats, which easily qualified him for Saturday's Class AA final.
Reichenbaugh was concerned he would get trapped among the 12-person field, so he moved ahead early.
“I wanted to get out fast off the start, that's why I sprinted,” he said. “I assumed that one or two guys would pass me after that, which was fine. But they stayed on my back. I wasn't ready for that.”
Neumann-Goretti senior Kamil Jihad won their heat in 1:59.57.
Reichenbaugh entered PIAAs as the fourth seed after winning the WPIAL Class AA title in 1:58.30.
“If you get closed in, in a fast race like this, the front of the pack gets away from you a little bit,” he said, “so you've got to be careful off the start.”
Reichenbaugh also helped Freeport's 3,200 relay team qualify for the finals. His foursome finished in 8:13.14, the seventh-fastest time by any Class AA team.
Freeport freshman and WPIAL champion Sidney Shemanski posted the fifth-fastest Class AA time in the girls 800-meter preliminaries. She placed fourth in her heat at 2:19.40.
Busy day ahead
On a day filled mostly with preliminary races, Burrell sprinter Nikki Scherer said there's a balance between giving your all and saving some energy for Saturday.
“You don't want to overdo yourself because you realize what you have to run tomorrow,” said the Pitt recruit, who reached the Class AA finals in the girls 200, 400 and 400-meter relay. “Just relax and get it done.”
Scherer, a senior, posted the fastest preliminary time in the 200 meters at 25.29 seconds. She also won her 400 heat at 57.70 seconds, the fourth-fastest Class AA time overall. Her 400 relay posted the sixth-fastest time at 50.01.
Burrell teammate Jack Ryan, a junior, advanced in the boys 100, but missed qualifying in the 200 by one-hundredth of a second. Ryan finished the 200 in 23.44 seconds to place 17th, one spot short of the 16-person final.
In the 100, Ryan finished fourth in his heat at 11.44 seconds, the 12th-fastest time overall. Burrell hurdler Kayleen Sharrow finished sixth in her 300 heat (47.86) but did not qualify for the finals. Javelin thrower Eliza Oswalt finished 17th (117-7).