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Hopewell Track and Field

Boys Track and Field Advance to WPIAL Team Championship Meet

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The Hopewell Boys Track and Field team traveled up to Shenango High School for a team playoff meet against Shenango, South Side, Deer Lakes, and Trinity Christian.

The WPIAL decides its district team champions through a unique dual playoff system that is separate from the individual WPIAL Championship meet held later in May. The top 2 teams in each section compete in a semifinal found against 3 or 4 other teams, scoring against each individually using a dual meeting scoring system (1st place 5 points, 2nd place 3 points, and 3rd place 1).

The winner of each semifinal meet advances to the team final for another 4-way meet to determine the champion. The is a very unconventional system, but the WPIAL believes it rewards teams with a lot of depth across all 18 events. Hopewell has qualified for the playoffs every year since 2017 but had yet to advance to the final.

Shenango presented the toughest matchup for the Vikings, with a ton of outstanding throwers and jumpers in the field events. Hopewell held an advantage on the track, so the meet would come down to who could cut more into the other teams’ strengths.

The Vikings started out strong on the track with the 4x800m relay. Nico Flitcraft, Antony Flitcraft, Zach Landry, and Trevor Neal ran their fastest time of the season by nearly 30 seconds, finishing in 8:56:10- behind Deer Lakes, but ahead of South Side, Trinity, and most importantly, Shenango.

The hurdlers came next with a huge personal best performance from Tyler Lewis (15.29) and Matthias Goth (16.47). They finished 1st and 3rd overall, with Shenango’s Thomas Demko in 2nd between them.

Hopewell got 3 more PRs from the 100m sprinters, with Zach Kovell (11.41), Josh Brunton (11.61), and Nazhamere Jeter (11.65) finishing 2,3, and 4 behind Shenango’s David McClean.

The Vikings needed to continue to extend their advantage on the track in the 1600m, and Antony Flitcraft and Jack McGrail were up to the task. They took the top 2 spots in the key matchup against Shenango, to add 8 points to the Hopewell lead.

Meanwhile in the field, Hopewell was able to cut into Shenango’s strengths with a surprising contribution from their young jumpers. Junior Dan Earley was able to take 1st in the high jump against the Wildcats for a key 5 points, but freshman Aidan Heppner – who had not cleared a bar in competition all season – had a breakthrough day, clearing 3 bars and securing an unexpected 2nd place against Shenango for 3 more points in the event.

Sophomore Nick Adams edged Shenango’s Sam Myers for a key 1st place in the triple jump, winning by 1.5 inches.

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Shenango’s biggest strength is their throws, and they were expected to sweep the top three spots in the shot put, discus and javelin, but senior Ethan Pletcher was able to put a slight dent in their advantage scoring a 3rd place – and 1 point – with a PR distance of 42’7″.

Hopewell expected to win the 4x100m relay, and with all 4 members having already PR’d in their individual events, the boys had their eyes on breaking the school record as well. Unfortunately, a missed exchange left the baton on the track, and the Vikings hopes of winning the meet in peril. Losing out on the expected relay win meant a 10-point swing toward the Wildcats, so the Vikings would have to find those points elsewhere.

Those points came in large part from the distance squad. Zach Landry and Trevor Neal were able to take 1st and 3rd against Shenango in the 800m for 6 points, and then Antony Flitcraft, Jack McGrail, and Zach Landry swept the top 3 spots in the 3200m for 9 more. In total, the distance boys captured 28 of a possible 32 points in their events and came through in a big way for the team.

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Hopewell got expected wins from Zach Kovell and Matthias Goth in the 400m sprint and 300m hurdles. Both also ran their best times ever. Goth’s 44.06 was a new PR, and Kovell’s 50.54 took nearly a full second off his previous best, tying him for the top spot in the WPIAL AA for the 400m. Kovell also won the 200m in 22.81, and Josh Brunton took 2nd overall with 23.53.

In the long jump, sophomores Bryce Ray and Nick Adams secured 4 more points for the Vikings with PR performances. Ray was 2nd overall with his PR of 19’10”, and Adams took 3rd in the Shenango matchup with a new PR of 19’4.25″.

After the boys sweep of the 3200m, Hopewell had 74 points against the Wildcats. The Vikings needed to surpass 75 points to secure victory, and only 2 events were left – the pole vault, and the 4×400 relay. Josh Brunton, Nico Flitcraft, Greg Gigliotti, and Julian Baldwin ran a gallant relay, taking 6 seconds off their best time, but fell to Shenango on the last lap. Fortunately, they still had Connor Progar vaulting. The junior school record holder needed only clear his first height of 12’3″ to second the 2nd place points that put the Vikings over the hump for a 77-73 victory.

Hopewell also beat South Side 88-57, Deer Lakes 102-43, and Trinity 103-47.

The Hopewell boys advance to the team championship meet for the first time in school history. The meet will be held at Peters Township, Tuesday May 7th at 3:00 pm.

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