PAHS 2009 track and field preview

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
April 9, 2009

Trivia question: other than the wrestling team, which was the last Port Allegany High School sport to win a league championship? The correct answer is the boys’ track team, which completed the dual-meet portion of its 2008 schedule with a perfect 9-0 record to clinch the North Tier League title. The girls’ squad also had a successful season, finishing 7-2 and coming in second to perennial league champion Coudersport.

Head coach George Riley believes that this year’s high roster turnout can be attributed to that performance. “We’re in the seventies, which is 10 or 12 over last year,” Riley said. “Our junior high program is also growing. You see success, you draw more in.”

Does he expect to add another championship this season?

“Cameron County scares me,” he admitted. “They have some amazing sprinters, and they could do some damage. But they also have a coaching change, I believe, so who knows? On the girls’ side, I think Coudersport is the team to beat again. They have some excellent athletes with the Giannotti twins and some other girls … I don’t know if we have the ability to overtake them or not. I believe it will be between those two teams, Coudersport and Port.”

He continued, “Regarding the rest of the AML, I think our numbers will help us, because we’ll have three or four people in every event. If we don’t get first place, we’ll get second and third, and those end up helping.”

Riley expects big things from sprinter Bryanna Evans, who qualified for districts in the 400 last year as a freshman. “She can fly,” he said. And with Nikki Drabert finishing right behind her in most of those races, the Port mentor thinks he might just have co-number ones. “That’s going to be fun to watch,” he said.

But while the sprints appear to be a strong suit for the Gator girls, depth in the field events was weakened by graduation losses.

“Jenn Anderson is good, but after Jenn, there’s a falloff because they’re young,” Riley said. “And that takes technique and repetitions. We’ve been outside since the first day of practice, but the weather hasn’t been conducive to throwing … like today,” he said with a laugh, as a hard rain fell outside the gym doors.

Senior distance runner Jessica French, who competed in the PIAA cross country championships last fall, is another athlete to watch. “She had success in cross country, and I think she’s excited about what she can do in track,” said Riley, who will be assisted by Dan Eskesen, Scott Gerhart, Steve Frison, and Hunter Conway.

The boys’ team will be paced by a strong group of milers, led by Tyler Payne, Ken Kysor, and Jason Roush. Riley also expects his jumpers to do very well – and perhaps even break a school record or two along the way – with Greg Gustin and James Nellis the names to keep an eye on in those events.

Denzel Middleton (300 hurdles) and Josh Fox (400) both made the trip to districts last year, and could do the same in 2009. But while Riley feels he has adequate depth in both the sprints and the throwing events – “there’s strength in numbers,” he said – he’s still waiting for a “superstar” to emerge. Junior sprinter Cameron Lane might have been able to fill that role, but will miss the season as he continues to rehab a knee injury suffered during a football game last fall.

Weather permitting, the season gets underway this week, with a home meet against Oswayo Valley on Tuesday before the Gators head to Shinglehouse for the Twin Tiers Invitational on Thursday morning.


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