Valley jumper looks for repeat
As Route 366 traffic zips by above him, Valley senior Stacey O'Neal quietly stretches his measuring tape along the triple-jump pit inside the Valley track.
He runs and jumps, then measures his marks.
He is all alone.
It's a one-man track and field practice, and the one man is determined to repeat as a WPIAL champion.
"We don't have a jumping coach, so I am pretty much on my own," said O'Neal, who will set out to defend his WPIAL Class AA triple jump title Tuesday at South Side Beaver. "If you want to win, you have to put in a lot of practice time."
O'Neal has been putting in plenty of extra time, albeit by himself, as he tries to get into championship form.
He has been out of the lineup most of the season. He competed in Valley's third team meet of the season against Deer Lakes, but then sat out for personal reasons related to school up until last week's Baldwin Invitational.
"It's good to be back, but I feel like I let the team down a little," O'Neal said. "I am just hoping to do the things I did last year. To me, it's about speed and attacking the board."
O'Neal, who became interested in the triple jump a few years ago when he watched former teammate Ron Edison jumping, jumped 43 feet, 10 1/4 inches to win last year. He already has jumped 45-10 in limited action, which gives him the top distance heading into the championships.
He placed second at the recent Baldwin Invitational. He also will be seeking a return trip to the PIAA championships.
With Valley senior Toney Clemons out for the season with a hamstring injury, and close friend Kiski Area senior Garner McCloud done due to a hip injury, O'Neal wants to dedicate his performance to his friends.
"I told them both I would defend my title for them," O'Neal said.
Clemons won the Class AA 110 hurdles and long jump last year, while McCloud won the Class AAA triple jump.
Freeport senior Brian Zimmerman is the only other local boys returning champion. He coasted to the javelin title last season with a throw of 190 feet, 10 inches.
Second place was 171-0.
"You just try to work on technique and do the things that helped you win last year," said Zimmerman, who won a title at the Mars Invitational a few weeks ago and enters Tuesday's event with the second-best seed distance of 174-5.
Zimmerman has committed to throw the javelin at the University of Cincinnati next year.
Other local athletes to watch Tuesday include Brady Sherrieb of Freeport in the long jump, Michael Coleman of Apollo-Ridge in the javelin and John Booker of Valley in the 400.
Kittanning's Bobby Keys has been one of the fastest sprinters in the A-K Valley all season. He and Valley's Ashton "Scotty" Saunders will look to put pressure on favorites Davon Moore of Brentwood and Jonathan Baldwin of Aliquippa in the 100-meter dash, and Derek Moye of Rochester in the 200.
WPIAL Class AA track and field championships
2 p.m. Tuesday
South Side Beaver High School, Raccoon Township
Local boys qualifiers: Apollo-Ridge - Nathan Bauer (long jump), Michael Coleman (javelin), David Wheatley (triple jump), 1,600 relay, 3,200 relay; Burrell - Chris Betza (high jump), Josh Menhart (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Jordan Pisano (400), Adam Sharick (triple jump), Ty Walters (pole vault), Zack Ziemianski (long jump), 400 relay, 1,600 relay; Deer Lakes - Von Ferber (shot put), Adam Fromherz (discus), Joe Matecka (long jump), Jerome Wettach (400, 800); Ford City - Ryan Good (400), Sean Kriley (100, 200), Ben Montgomery (110 hurdles), 400 relay; Freeport - Zane Bowser (pole vault), Nate Kotecki (triple jump), Brady Sherrieb (long jump), Matt Smith (high jump), Miles Smolic (discus), Brian Zimmerman (javelin), 400 relay; Kittanning - Bobby Keys (100, 200), Colin McKelvey (110 hurdles), 400 relay, 3,200 relay; Riverview - Mike Dicocco (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Shawn Flowers (pole vault), David Gallagher (pole vault), Matt Springer (3,200), Mike Springer (1,600), 400 relay, 1,600 relay; Springdale - Tyler Lelis (long jump), Nick Messina (400); Valley - John Booker (400), Mike Kuhns (pole vault), Stacey O'Neal (high jump, triple jump), Ashton Saunders (100, 200), 1,600 relay, 3,200 relay.