SHIPPENSBURG — Ty Fluharty watched as a familiar foe ran past him on the track.
The Riverside High School senior had maintained a position in the top 10 of the boys’ Class 2A 3,200-meter run Saturday on Day 2 of the PIAA Track and Field Championships, but with one lap to go, he kicked it into overdrive. That’s when he decided that he wouldn’t let Palisades’ Thomas Smigo — who passed him earlier in the race — beat him.
Smigo had finished ahead of Fluharty in Friday’s 1,600-meter run and in the PIAA cross country finals in the fall. On this day, though, Fluharty refused to lose this battle. The Buffalo commit finished with a time of 9:20.37 to take third, placing one spot ahead of Smigo.
“Thomas Smigo passed me ... and I was like, 'I'm not letting him go this time,’” Fluharty said after stepping on the medal stand for the second time in a two-day span. “Somehow I found that last gear, and I went for it.”
The extra motivation proved to be effective, as Fluharty set a personal record by 13 seconds and broke Riverside's program record by eight seconds. This came only a day after he broke his own school record in the 1,600-meter run.
Although it’s become almost routine for Fluharty to run record-breaking times, the feeling certainly hasn’t gotten old.
“I love every single one,” Fluharty said. “This one’s special because I had no expectations of getting it. … Coming into this year, I was hoping to run a 9.28. To run a 9.20 — that’s crazy.”
MOON AREA’S PUHALLA MEDALS TWICE
Jacob Puhalla crossed the finish line Saturday afternoon on Day 2 of the PIAA Track and Field Championships and yelled, “Nationals!”
His three teammates — Tyler LaChapelle, John Yasonick and Ryan Kopay — on the Moon Area boys’ Class 3A 4x800-meter relay team immediately embraced him as the Tigers celebrated what ended up being a fourth-place finish in the event. More important to them at the moment, though, was the fact that their time of 7:55.38 cleared the threshold of 7:58.24 to qualify for the New Balance Outdoor Championships in Philadelphia in mid-June.
“Most of us want to run it — let’s see if we’ll run it,” Puhalla said. “But now at least we know we can go to nationals and run there.”
The Moon Area relay team’s time also marked a school record, breaking the one they’d previously set in the early weeks of this season. And it was just a little more than a week ago when the group ran the 4x800-meter race in 8:00.01.
Yasonick said Puhalla “believing in” he and his teammates gives them “so much hope” and allows them to perform at the level they do.
Less than two hours later, Puhalla finished fourth in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:53.05.
Puhalla, who said he initially misjudged the pace of the race, was “a little bit” disappointed with his performance — especially with his eyes set on a top-three finish heading into the event.
“I was able to make up for it in the back stretch and put myself in (good) position for the last 200 (meters),” he said. “But by that point, it was a little too late.”
Puhalla’s dissatisfaction with a fourth-place individual finish is just as good an indicator as any of the amount of talent he possesses.
OLSH’S VOTOUR EARNS ‘A LITTLE REDEMPTION’
A year after being unable to make an appearance in the PIAA Track and Field Championships because of a hamstring injury, Antonio Votour made the most of his opportunity this go-around.
The Our Lady of the Sacred Heart junior finished the boys’ Class 2A 110-meter hurdles on Day 2 of the PIAA championships with a time of 15.20 to take fifth overall in the competition. Votour also set a personal record, improving from his previous mark — set at last week’s WPIAL finals — by .08 seconds.
“It really hurts (having missed the PIAA championships last year),” he said. “But this year, it feels awesome to come back out. You know, get a little redemption (and) show everyone who I am.”
Votour primarily credited his private coach, Roger Kowal, for the strides he made throughout this season.
“He’s my mentor,” Votour said. “He’s awesome. We just train every single day.”
Coming into Friday’s preliminary round, Votour said his goal was to simply hold onto his spot as the eighth seed. So, to be able to move up three spots in the final round was even more rewarding.
But now, the bar is undoubtedly higher as he heads into his senior season next year.
“I plan to win,” Votour said. “I plan to win next year. A lot of hard work goes into it, and there’s a lot more to come, (but) I plan on coming back here and getting that gold.”
TEAM CHEMISTRY PAYS OFF FOR BEAVER FALLS
A day before leaving for the PIAA Track and Field Championships, the Beaver Falls boys’ 4x100-meter relay team each dyed a strand of their hair the same shade of brown.
Inspired by Quadir Thomas, the group felt the move would show a sense of togetherness on a big stage. It was just another example of how tight-knight the four Tigers — Thomas, Demeitris Taylor, Michael Blackshear and Richard Singleton — have been since first coming together as a relay team midseason.
On Saturday, that team chemistry paid off when the unit finished fourth in the Class 2A 4x100-meter relay with a time of 43.51.
“We didn’t even know we would have a 4x100 team until two meets before WPIAL (championships),” Taylor said. “So, I’m glad that these are the boys I’m running with here.”
Thomas, who said he was “just proud” of the fact that he and his teammates qualified for the PIAA championships, also placed sixth in the 400-meter dash with a time of 50.37 later in the day. Although he medaled, Thomas’ time was a bit shy of his personal record of 49.98 — a mark he set in Friday’s preliminary round.
His time came after he missed four weeks earlier this season following a pulled right hamstring he suffered during the indoor track season.
“It feels kind of special, being able to still come out here and run,” Thomas said, “knowing that you’re barely 100 percent.”
OTHER TOP BOYS FINISHERS:
Alden Wetzel, Riverside — Third place in Class 2A 400-meter dash (49.83)
Maxwell Hamilton, OLSH — Fifth place in Class 2A 800-meter run (1:55.82)
Donovan Jones, Central Valley — Fifth place in Class 3A 200-meter dash (21.94)
Riverside (Ty Fluharty, Noah Zelch, Brody Barton and Alden Wetzel) — Seventh place in Class 2A 4x400-meter relay (3:29.31)
Teddy McHale, Riverside — Eighth place in Class 2A pole vault (13 feet, 6 inches)
Contact Parth Upadhyaya at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pupadhyaya_.
This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Highlights from boys' events at Day 2 of PIAA track and field finals