Hello track and field fans.

It is no mystery that this is my favorite time of the year. I will be attending my 26th PIAA Track and Field Championship meet and the reason I enjoy this weekend so much “officially” is not only do I get to visit Shippensburg, but I have the honor to watch the very best athletes this state has  to offer at their very best.

James Law

James Law

I think back to how great it was when I was a sophomore athlete competing at my first meet in 1986. To say the butterflies were fluttering in my belly would be an understatement. I can remember that first year, I was running the preliminaries of the Class AA 200-meter dash, and I was “lucky” enough to draw one of the fastest and largest athletes in the state in my heat. I will never forget it. Rochester’s James Law was big, muscular and his reputation for chewing up aspiring speedsters preceded him. He won the 100 and 200 the year before and let’s just say, he wasn’t intimidated by my 22.6-second time I had run at the District 2 Class AA championships.

I also remember, nearby, Carlisle’s Michael Owens was warming up for the Class AAA 200. He was the High School Football Player of the Year in the state that fall and was headed to Syracuse University. You may be more familiar with his brother, Billy Owens, a basketball legend at both Carlisle and Syracuse. Michael stood about 6-feet tall and was a chiseled 210 pounds. He looked like a man among boys to say the least. It was awesome to actually be on the same field warming up with these luminaries, guys who I knew as just typed names in the newspaper.

Any way, I got into my blocks and the goosebumps were raised. I was in Lane 5, Law was in Lane 4. Those unfamiliar with Lane assignments or a staggered start may not be able to visualize this, but that put me in the early lead and as public enemy No. 1. See, Law had a technique where he chased the stagger as his motivation, then cruised down the home stretch to conserve energy for the next day. A sophomore and not knowing any better, I had a strategy too: Run as fast as I could, for as long as I could.

The gun fired and I bolted to the lead. It was surreal. Thousands of fans came to their feet and were cheering so loud, I could barely concentrate. I was coming around the long turn in the lead, I could feel it. Then, I heard a sound from behind me. “Hey, you, I’ll catch you.”

Humbly, I had never heard that before on a track here in Lackawanna County. Then, as the turn straightened, Law had just about enough of me. As he sped by he left a couple of messages, “I told you, I got this,” and “Nice try kid” and of course the only thing left for me was to read the back of his shoes, written in bright red marker “The” on the left and “Law” on the right.

Needless to say, he wasn’t the only runner who passed me that day. James Law went on to win the gold in both races again. I did not advance to the second day. That was my first experience with humility. Sure, even then, I was a big fish here in our little corner of NEPA. But “The Law” served me some humble pie. I spent the rest of that weekend in awe of the size of the athletes and their incredible abilities. My coach, Phil Tochelli, told me that this would be an experience I would never forget. He was right.

I promised myself that day, that in the future, I would be ready to face the best. These were kids who could run fast, who were big, strong, muscular athletes, who were dedicated to their sport and took great pride in reaching the medal stand. I had ability, but I had a lot to learn.

Thankfully, in my next two seasons, I had the two best of all time to contend with right at home in District 2. Qadry and Raghib Ismail were the most accomplished and humble champions I had ever met. They prepared me and drove me to be better than I ever dreamed possible. They forced me to push myself when my body had reached the point of exhaustion. Each and every day, I dreamed of when I could be at the level where James Law had been that first year.

Finally, in my senior year, with no more “wait until next years” left, I accepted a challenge that no athlete from the Lackawanna Track Conference had tried before. I wanted three Class AA state individual medals. Looking back, that is an insane premise and if given the chance to do it all again, I wouldn’t have tried it. But, the Ismails were there to mine all the gold, so I wanted a little glory to myself. Heck, I am down deep a track athlete and a competitor, and with that comes an ego that needs to be fed and caressed.

LTC Conference Meet 110 Hurdles

LTC Conference Meet 110 Hurdles

Wow, I used to be skinny!

So, I took care of my three races on Friday. Won my preliminary heats, and advanced to the semifinals. I wasn’t even tired. WINK!

Then, I woke up early Saturday. A stifling heat had rolled into the area and temperatures were going to rise to close to 90 degrees. My first semifinal was at 10:30 a.m. in the 110 hurdles, the only race I really cared about. See, I had false-started as a sophomore at districts and, as a junior and the No. 2 ranked hurdler in the state, I went tumbling to the track at districts failing to qualify. So, this was my race and all eyes were on Qadry. I kind of jogged the semifinal. I took every precaution and just wanted to make the final. I did so with my slowest time of the year 14.82 seconds.

Next, at 10:45 a.m. I had the 100 semifinals. And of course, who was right next to me in Lane No. 4 — Raghib “the Rocket” Ismail. I should have scratched this race. Then, an athlete in Lane 6 false-started and now I was really nervous. Thankfully, Rocket pulled me along to a 10.98 and I somehow advanced to the final.

Then, at 11:45 a.m., I ran the semifinals in the 200. I was second in my heat to GAR’s Mike Guidroz and grabbed an automatic spot to the final with the third-best qualifying time.

Cool, I had done it. I had reached the final in all three races. That year, though, in order to win a medal, I had to finish in the top 6. Now they reward you for making the final and give medals to the top 8 finishers.

At 12:25, my moment of truth had arrived in the 110 Hurdles. I wanted this race more than anything. I knew I couldn’t win, but I wanted a good showing. I wanted to prove I belonged and that my No. 3 national ranking wasn’t a fluke.

Lo and behold, Qadry won the race in 14.04 seconds. … A state record. I was second in 14.24 seconds. Former District 2 meet director, the late Robert Spagna, dashed onto the track to congratulate both of us for exceeding the state record of 14.27 seconds.

 

Here’s a grainy film of the race:

 

Now I had to hustle. Normally, the PIAA officials gather up the finishers and take them to the awards benches. It was really getting hot, and as I walked to the resting area, I heard my name announced over the loud speaker – “Joby Fawcett, please report to the final of the 100-meter dash.” I excused myself and jogged to the line where the race was being held up for me.

With no time to waste, I simply ran. I never got into full speed, because I never came down from the rush of winning a silver medal. I ran only an 11.2, but I leaned at the finish to grab that sixth-place medal. I couldn’t believe it.

An official grabbed me as if I had stolen a medal and sprinted me to the awards stand where the top finishers for the 110 hurdles were patiently waiting for me.

I received my 110 hurdle medal and pointed to my father in the stands. He too remembered the days when I would go over my own make-shift hurdles in the backyard. Or when I would read my scrapbook clippings of how I had failed the year before and let the conference down. How I reminded myself each and every day, that I had been called a “choker.”

Only two minutes later, I was back on the medal stand. Getting a medal in the 100 was the least likely of my three events. It’s very hard to run the hurdles and 100 back-to-back and that was the race I should have scratched. Getting sixth wasn’t a great accomplishment, though, in hindsight. Had I run another 10.98, I would have been fourth, but hey, Rocket Ismail, who only went onto Notre Dame, Bob Samuels, who went to Penn State, and Mike Guidroz, who ran at Syracuse, were in this race, so I felt pretty good.

And yes, I had a mullet that only a mother could love and that slowed me down!

1988 PIAA Class AA 110 Hurdles Medal winners

1988 PIAA Class AA 110 Hurdles Medal winners

1988 PIAA Class AA 100 Medal winners

1988 PIAA Class AA 100 Medal winners

 

That was five races at the highest level of competition in a matter of 2.5 hours.

Finally, in the 200 at 2:40 p.m., I ran the 200. That was the race where James Law had humiliated me only two years earlier. This time, I stayed with the leaders and only two guys caught me, and they — Samuels and Guidroz — happened to break the state record. I ran a 22.2, even though some people say I didn’t. For 1988, and six races in one day, I think that was pretty cool.

Joby200

I got that third medal, and I achieved my goal. I remember the tear in my dad’s eye as he headed for home, eager to share with my mom, Jean, who had been fighting Lupus at Moses Taylor Hospital. See, we didn’t have the Internet or cell phones back then, so getting word to her had to be by carrier pigeon.

Any way, this story got crazy on me and I got carried away. That’s how much I LOVE this sport and this weekend. No matter how many years go by, I remember those days like they were yesterday. The true moral of it all is that the PIAA Championship meet is an amazing collection of talent from this state. I wish more people attended. There are future NFL players there and emerging College All-Americans. I didn’t know it then, I just took it all in and made a lot of friends.

I still stay in touch with Qadry and Raghib. Those memories never fade. The medals, well, they are wrapped up and in a cardboard box somewhere. They don’t mean as much today as I watch my kids play sports and I cover yours, as they did back then.

Memories like these are what this generation of athletes will experience. They will, or they should, look around and appreciate just how much talent is around them, and revel in the fact that they are among them.

It’s not whether you win a medal or get your doors blown off by a legend that matters most. It’s the chance to some day share with your children and grandchildren a day when you were on top of the world and competing against athletes who you respect.

Just keep that in mind.

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Here is a time schedule and who to look for this weekend:

PIAA TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIP MEET

Seth Grove Stadium, Shippensburg University

DAY 1

FRIDAY

IN THE FIELD

These events are preliminaries plus final and medals will be awarded

9:00 a.m. Session

  • Elk Lake's Hunter Watkins

    Elk Lake’s Hunter Watkins

    Class AA girls Pole Vault – Lakeland’s Corah Krantz No. 18 seed

  • Class AA girls Long Jump – Western Wayne’s Rebecca Carmody No. 10 seed
  • Class AAA girls High Jump – Dallas’ Katie Kravitzky No. 5 seed; Pittston Area’s Mia Cain No. 11 seed.
  • Class AAA girls Shot Put – Lake-Lehman’s Emily Johns No. 8 seed; and Berwick’s Payden Montana No. 18 seed.
  • Class AA boys Triple Jump – Dunmore’s Joseph Maceyko No. 10 seed; and Lakeland’s Dan Brown No. 14 seed.
  • Class AA boys javelin – Elk Lake’s Hunter Watkins No. 3 seed; and Mid Valley’s Tyler Shay No. 21 seed.
  • Class AAA boys discus – North Pocono’s Matt Slagus No. 3

 

ON THE TRACK

These events are preliminary heats.

9:00 a.m.

  • Class AA girls 3200 Relay – Elk Lake No. 12 seed
  • Class AA boys 3200 Relay – Lakeland No. 21 seed; and Elk Lake No. 25 seed
  • Class AAA girls 3200 Relay – Pittston Area No. 25 seed
  • Class AAA boys 3200 Relay – Scranton Prep No. 29 seed

10:30 a.m.

  • Class AA girls 100 hurdles – Lakeland’s Cassidy Jenkins No. 2 seed
  • Class AAA girls 100 hurdles – Coughlin’s Tamar Bourdeau No. 26 seed; and Abington Heights’ Abby McMinn No. 27 seed

11:00 a.m.

  • Class AA boys 110 hurdles – Northwest’s Tyler Burger No. 8 seed; Montrose’s Billy Hewes No. 19 seed
  • Class AAA boys 110 hurdles – WVW’ JerMichael Bunch No. 21 seed
North Pocono's Pat Monahan

North Pocono’s Pat Monahan

11:30 a.m.

  • Class AA girls 100 – Meyers’ Nalasjia Johnson No. 18 seed
  • Class AAA girls 100 – Hazleton Area’s Emily Malone No. 19 seed; and Coughlin’s Nathaniela Bourdeau No. 25 seed
  • Class AA boys 100 – GAR’s Anthony Maurent No. 9 seed
  • Class AAA boys 100 – North Pocono’s Pat Monahan No. 22 seed

12:00 p.m.

  • Class AA girls 1600 – Holy Cross’ Mackenzie Greenfield No. 6 seed
  • Class AAA girls 1600 -Dallas’ Lindsey Oremus No. No. 17 seed
  • Class AA boys 1600 – Dunmore’s Matt Murray No. 26 seed; and Montrose’s Zach Mead No. 27 seed
  • Class AAA boys 1600 – North Pocono’s Matt Kravitz No. 11 seed; Berwick’s Dylan Gearinger 17 seed

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IN THE FIELD

These events are preliminaries plus final and medals will be awarded

Valley View's Ryan Wilkes will defend his PIAA Class AAA title Friday afternoon at Seth Grove Stadium.

Valley View’s Ryan Wilkes will defend his PIAA Class AAA title Friday afternoon at Seth Grove Stadium.

12:30 p.m. Session

  • Class AA girls High Jump – Holy Redeemer’s Caroline Banas No. 8 seed; and Lakeland’s Brooke Estadt No. 8 seed
  • Class AA girls Discus – Hanover Area’s Chyanne Fine No. 4 seed
  • Class AAA girls Long Jump – Scranton Prep’s Liz Pattara No. 27 seed
  • Class AAA girls Javelin – Lake-Lehman’s Cayle Spencer No. 3 seed; Hazleton Area’s Kayla Merkel No. 4 seed; and Pittston Area’s Taryn Ashby No. 24 seed
  • Class AA boys Shot Put – Lake-Lehman’s Connor McGovern No. 17 seed; and Hanover Area’s James Sheridan No. 20 seed
  • Class AAA boys pole vault – Valley View’s Ryan Wilkes* defending champion, No. 2 seed
  • Class AAA boys triple jump – Scranton’s Ky’Ron Harbin No. 6 seed; WVW’s JerMichael Bunch No. 9 seed; Western Wayne’s Alex Long No. 10 seed; and Scranton’s Jordan Lawson No. 18 seed
Scranton's Ky'Ron Harbin will compete in Class AAA triple jump on Friday.

Scranton’s Ky’Ron Harbin will compete in Class AAA triple jump on Friday.

 

ON THE TRACK

1:00 p.m.

  • Class AA girls 400 Relay – Montrose No. 25 seed
  • Class AAA girls 400 Relay – Wyoming Area No. 24 seed
  • Class AA boys 400 Relay – Meyers No. 6 seed; and Lakeland 25 seed
  • Class AAA boys 400 Relay – Scranton No. 24 seed

2:00 p.m.

  • Class AA girls 400 – Western Wayne’s Rebecca Carmody No. 12 seed
  • Class AAA girls 400 – North Pocono’s Kaitlyn Lewis No. 16 seed
  • Class AA boys 400 – Northwest’s Zach Briggs No. 5 seed; and Riverside’s Will Davies No. 11 seed
  • Class AAA boys 400 – WVW’s Ray Richard No. 7 seed

3:00 p.m.

  • Class AA girls 300 Hurdles – Lakeland’s Cassidy Jenkins No. 2 seed; Blue Ridge’s Lindsey Rupakus No. 7 seed; Holy Redeemer’s Autumn Kaminski No. 18 seed
  • Class AAA girls 300 Hurdles – Coughlin’s Mary Tona No. 22 seed
  • Class AA boys 300 Hurdles – Meyers’ Raheem Twyman No. 1 seed; Northwest’s Tyler Burger No. 2 seed
  • Class AAA boys 300 Hurdles – Abington Heights’ Jon Galaydick No. 21 seed

3:30 p.m.

  • Wallenpaupack's Alyssa LaFave

    Wallenpaupack’s Alyssa LaFave

    Class AA girls 800 – Elk Lake’s Katie Bennett No. 18 seed

  • Class AAA girls 800 – Wallenpaupack’s Alyssa LaFave No. 20 seed
  • Class AA boys 800 – Lakeland’s Mark Arzie No. 19 seed; and Lakeland’s Nathan Morgan No. 21 seed
  • Class AAA boys 800 – Hazleton Area’s Brendon Lohr No. 26 seed

4:00 p.m.

  • Class AA girls 200 – Western Wayne’s Rebecca Carmody No. 14 seed
  • Class AAA girls 200 – Hazleton Area’s Emily Malone No. 7 seed
  • Class AA boys 200 – Nanticoke’s Devin Thomas No. 25 seed; and Riverside’s Mikkell Green No. 26 seed
  • Class AAA boys 200 – North Pocono’s Pat Monahan No. 4 seed

4:30 p.m.

  • Class AA girls 1600 Relay – Lakeland No. 18 seed
  • Class AAA girls 1600 Relay – North Pocono No. 26 seed
  • Class AA boys 1600 Relay – Lakeland No. 2 seed; and Northwest No. 20 seed
  • Class AAA boys 1600 Relay – Western Wayne No. 22 seed

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DAY 2

SATURDAY

IN THE FIELD

These events are preliminaries plus final and medals will be awarded

9:00 a.m. Session

  • Western Wayne's Rebecca Carmody

    Western Wayne’s Rebecca Carmody

    Class AA girls Triple Jump – Western Wayne’s Rebecca Carmody No. 2 seed; and Lakeland’s Brooke Estadt No. 3 seed

  • Class AA girls Javelin – Blue Ridge’s Laurren Whitney No. 22 seed
  • Class AAA girls Pole Vault – North Pocono’s Lucianne Burner No. 11 seed
  • Class AA boys Long Jump – Hanover Area’s Brandon Chafin No. 7 seed; Northwest’s Tyler Burger No. 8 seed; Meyers’ Mark Robinson No. 9 seed
  • Class AA boys Discus – Mid Valley’s Corey Tomasetti No. 10 seed; and Blue Ridge’s Brett Hepler No. 16 seed
  • Class AAA boys High Jump – Scranton’s Ky’Ron Harbin No. 8 seed
  • Class AAA boys Shot Put – Coughlin’s Jacob Khalife No. 16 seed

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ON THE TRACK

Morning Session

9:00 a.m. FINALS

  • Lake-Lehman's Dominic Hockenbury will defend his PIAA Class AA title in 3,200 on Saturday morning.

    Lake-Lehman’s Dominic Hockenbury will defend his PIAA Class AA title in 3,200 on Saturday morning.

    Class AA girls 3200-meter run – Holy Cross’ Mackenzie Greenfield No. 7 seed

  • Class AAA girls – Dallas Ally Rome No. 15 seed; and Scranton Prep’s Erin Feeney No. 16 seed
  • Class AA boys – Lake-Lehman’s Dominic Hockenbury* defending champion No. 3 seed
  • Class AAA boys – Tunkhannock’s Jack Tidball No. 22 seed

10:00 a.m. SEMIFINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls – 100 Hurdles

10:15 a.m. SEMIFINALS

  • Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 110 Hurdles

10:45 a.m. SEMIFINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 100-meter dash

11:00 a.m. FINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 3200 Relay

11:45 a.m. SEMIFINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 200-meter dash

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IN THE FIELD

These events are preliminaries plus final and medals will be awarded

 

Scranton Prep's Nick Solfanelli seeks his first PIAA medal in the javelin.

Scranton Prep’s Nick Solfanelli seeks his first PIAA medal in the javelin.

12:30 p.m. Session

  • Class AA girls Shot Put – Dunmore’s Jillian Korgeski No. 8 seed; and Hanover Area’s Chyanne Fine No. 13 seed
  • Class AAA girls Triple Jump – Scranton Prep’s Liz Pattara No. 9 seed; Pittston Area’s Olivia Giambra No. 11 seed; and Wyoming Area’s Marcyssa Brown No. 19 seed
  • Class AAA girls Discus – Lake-Lehman’s Emily Johns No. 1 seed; Abington Heights’ Alyssa McMinn No. 11 seed; and North Pocono’s Jessica Slagus No. 15 seed
  • Class AA boys High Jump – Mid Valley’s Alex Pieshefski No. 6 seed; and Hanover Area’s Bobby Kerestes No. 6 seed
  • Class AA boys Pole Vault – Holy Cross’ Thomas Ware No. 5 seed; and Northwest’s Ben Krouse No. 16 seed
  • Class AAA boys Long Jump – Western Wayne’s Alex Long No. 21 seed
  • Class AAA boys Javelin – Scranton Prep’s Nick Solfanelli No. 7 seed

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ON THE TRACK

Afternoon Session

12:15 p.m. FINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls – 100-meter Hurdles

12:25 p.m. FINALS

  • Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 110-meter Hurdles

12:30 p.m. FINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 100-meter Dash

12:45 p.m. FINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 1600-meter Run

1:15 p.m. FINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 400-meter Relay

1:45 p.m. FINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 400-meter Dash

2:00 p.m. FINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 300-meter Hurdles

2:30 p.m. FINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 800-meter Run

2:40 p.m. FINALS

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 200-meter Dash

20 minutes following completion of 200-meter Dash

  • Class AA girls; Class AAA girls; Class AA boys; Class AAA boys – 1600-meter Relay

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