The euphoria experienced by the Chambersburg boys track & field team Saturday was something they had never felt before.
Winning a state championship will do that for you.
But … (and it’s a big one), there’s at least a decent chance this feeling could happen next Memorial Day weekend. And maybe the year after that.
That’s because of the five Trojans who scored points in the PIAA Championships over the weekend, none are seniors. One (Jermere Jones) is a junior, three (J.J. Kelly, Blake Mallast and Antonio Harrison II) are sophomores and one (Kason Besecker) is a freshman.
“We just have to keep getting better and working together and then come back here for the gold again,” Kelly said.
Chambersburg coach Bob Walker said, “We knew we had the talent. We were hoping that our staff could coach them so they could believe in themselves.”
After all of the success this weekend, that lesson has most likely been ingrained. And it wasn’t a surprise to the team.
Jones said, “I’m proud of everybody on this team, even the ones who did not make the postseason. And the coaches put in a lot of work, even though they say they don’t. It’s great to have coaches like that.
“We have all talked about getting that team championship. We have the runners, throwers and jumpers and the coaching.”
“Even before the season started, we were talking about winning a state title,” Besecker said. “And we’ve been talking about it a lot. We knew we had an opportunity to win a state title for the first time. But the coach keeps telling us to just focus on our event and don’t worry about the team.”
With Kelly doing his usual jaw-dropping stuff, and Besecker (2nd in `100) and Jones (5th in 110 hurdles) contributing key points, it was the 4 x 100 relay that put the biggest smile on a lot of Trojans.
Kelly was added to the team just a week before the Mid Penns and the team quickly came together.
Trojan sprint coach John Ambrosio, who is retiring, said, “I’m really proud of these four guys, who have worked the last four weeks like experienced veterans. The last four times they’ve run, they set a school record.
“Today, Antonio had about a 7-meter lead, but the 100 state champion (Lex Cyrus of Susquehanna Twp.) was behind him and he didn’t put a dent in that lead.”
Harrison said, “The moment I realized we had four guys who could run under 11 in the 100 dash, I starting thinking we should have a good (4 x 100) team. That’s not something that’s usually an option for one school. We knew we could be really special.
“Now that we got a 41.49 at this point (and all four are underclassmen), the state record is inevitable.”
“We need to keep working — we want to get into the 40’s and beat that (state) record (of 40.99),” Mallast said. “This was my first year of doing track and I’m just so happy I get to share this with these guys.”
Kelly’s trainer in the jumps is Marshay Ryan, who is the most decorated performer in Chambersburg track & field history, with seven state medals. She’s helping to enable Kelly wear that crown.
“Seven medals — I need to get that many by my senior year,” Kelly said, laughing.
Ryan said, “I am nothing short of proud of J.J. and he is maturing very well. He always seems to be able to hit a big jump when it’s needed — like Friday when he fouled on his first two (triple jump) attempts. He has a mental stamina that really helps.”
Walker has been the head boys coach at CASHS since, he said, “around 2005,” but has been with the program since 1998 and has coached track for close to 40 years, so the championship was a nice reward for him.
He’s had a quality staff around him, too. Ambrosio in the sprints, Jim Boyer in the hurdles, girls coach Chris Monheim in the distance events, Ryan in the jumps and long-time throwing coach Roger Coleman have proven to be excellent teachers.
“Ambro did a great job of taking four underclassmen and made them believe they could get this done on this stage,” Walker said. “Jim Boyer has made Jermere better in the hurdles. And Marshay, with her SEC experience at Auburn, has shown J.J. what it’s like to jump at a high level.
“Of course, it helps having a kid like J.J. on the team.”
Walker said last week when the Trojans won the District 3 team title, not all of the athletes were there for the awards ceremony.
“Some of them went home early,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they’re all here today.”