With 11 of their 12 state-qualifying entries seeded in a top-eight scoring spot, the Brookville Raiders were seeded — on paper of course — with 59 team points.
Raiders head coach Dan Murdock says that if his team can get over 40 points, a state title is possible.
Room for error for the Raiders, then? It’s hard to imagine, but that’s how good the team has been this year, quantity and definitely quality.
The Raiders own two top seeds, starting with the consistently brilliant 4x100-meter relay of senior Cabe Park, sophomore Jack Krug, junior Ian Thrush and senior Bryan Dworek.
They cut their already top time in the state down to 42.02 seconds in winning last Friday’s D9 title. There are three other relays under 43 seconds — Southern Columbia (42.72), Aliquippa (42.82) and Motivation (42.96). Those were all season-bests with the exception of Motivation, which has run a 42.24 earlier this year. No other relay has been under 43 seconds.
“They want to win next weekend and they’ve prided themselves on running in the 42s this year significantly more than anyone else,” Murdock said. “They’re the favorites, they know that and other people are starting to know that. They expect to win, which is what you have to have. It’s like a heavyweight fight. You don’t expect to go in without expecting to win. That’s where their mindset is.”
Brookville beat Aliquippa twice, face to face, at Butler where the Raiders won with a 42.18 and the Quips finishing sixth in 43.57. At the Baldwin Invitational, the Raiders won with a 42.81 to the Quips’ runner-up finish of 43.81.
Krug, Thrush and Dworek are back from last year’s sixth place relay that finished fifth in 43.23, behind fourth-place Aliquippa (43.07). Motivation was third and Schuylkill Valley second with Dock Mennonite winning with a meet record 41.75 seconds.
Anchor leg John Frank graduated and the Raiders found another speed demon in Park. His speed and three legs one year older and stronger and here’s where we are.
“Last year after we lost John and then into football season Cabe was looking great,” Thrush said. “Recruiting him was kind of difficult. We talked to him the whole season and he was on and off about it and then he was on board. Then he went through injuries in football and wrestling, so we were trying to keep him healthy. Then to start the season, we ran the fastest time in the state in Class 2A and since then we’ve been trying to stay on top and so far we have.
“We’re pretty confident, but our goal has been to improve every meet and we’ve been able to do that. That’s cool to see that we’re getting that.”
It’s hard to believe that a District 9 sprint relay is the favorite, but that’s about as close as it can get, looking at the foursome’s body of work.
“I’m not sure if we’re looking at it as if the target is on our back,” Thrush said. “We just want to get better every meet. The goal has been to win. Going in, we’re just trying to make it through prelims and then give it our all on Saturday and try to end up with gold.”
Thrush and Dworek are seeded No. 2 and 4 in the 100 dash while Thrush, Dworek and Krug are the Nos. 1, 3 and 7 seeds in the 200 dash.
Aliquippa’s Marlin Devonshire, a fifth-place medalist last year, is the top seed in the 100 dash at 10.67, ahead of Thrush (10.81) and Dworek (10.88). Seven runners are seeded under 11 seconds.
In the 200, Devonshire (21.73) is seeded No. 2 between Thrush (21.48) and Dworek (21.79) and they’re the only three seeded under 22 seconds. But seven runners have been under 22 this year overall, including No. 5 seed Hafis Upshaw of Imhotep Charter with a 21.64. No. 9 seed Donvan Sanders of Girard College is the highest returning placewinner with a fourth-place finish.
Thrush was sixth with a 23.4.
“The key has been the pair, Ian and Bryan,” Murdock said. “Bryan got frustrated last year. He couldn’t beat Ian, so that was a drive. Then Bryan started getting better. It’s such a good dynamic. They both want to win, they get along and that’s a tight group. You couldn’t have it any better. … I never thought I’d have a kid run a 21.8 and that wasn’t my fastest kid.”
Dworek, the lone returning medalist, is seeded fifth in the long jump with his district-winning jump and has the sixth-best jump in the state at 22 feet, 7 1/4 inches. He won a seventh-place medal with a jump of 20 feet, 10 inches last year in less than ideal conditions.
Three jumpers are seeded over 23 feet — North Catholic’s Joe Kearney (23-5), Palisades’ Josh Volak (23-4.5) and Hickory’s Brian Phillips (23-0.75). No. 4 seed Julian Fleming of Southern Columbia owns the longest jump in the state this year at 23 feet, 10 3/4 inches.
Olson owns two No. 4 seeds in the hurdles with Singleton seeded No. 7 in the 110 hurdles. Both could land valuable team points. In the 300s, Olson is seeded behind Riverside’s Calvin Wetzel (38.86), Littlestown’s Derek Herr (38.99) and Keystone’s Brody Coleman (39.34). He’s run the fourth-best time in the state (39.24) as well behind Wetzel, Herr and Bermudian Springs’ Payton Rohrbaugh (39.17).
In the 110s, Olson is seeded behind Waynesburg’s Daniel Layton (14.58), Palmerton’s Jordan Nelson (14.68) and Littlestown’s Herr (14.73). Those three also have better season-best times than Olson, with Layton’s best a 14.46.
And if a state title could happen, it’ll likely come down to the 4x400 relay at the end of the day on Saturday. Last year, Frank, Thrush, Krug and Olson were eighth. This year, they’re seeded No. 7 at 3:26.63. For the season, they’ve run the eighth-fastest time.
Rich Rhoades is the sports editor of the Jeffersonian Democrat. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on twitter @TheSkinny1969.