SHIPPENSBURG — Former Chambersburg athletic director Ron Coursey called a meeting of all the Trojan coaches last August. He requested that each coach speak up and talk about the goals of his or her team.
There were plenty of “winning records” and “make the playoffs” and “getting better.”
But when it came time for Trojan boys track & field coach Bob Walker, he said, “I think we can win a state championship.”
Talk about dropping a bomb.
Saturday, however, Walker proved himself to be a prophet: Chambersburg is the PIAA Track & Field champion in boys Class 3A.
The Trojans, led by J.J. Kelly, scored 48 points to outdistance State College (34) and capture their first-ever state title in the sport.
“We’ve been blessed over the years with a lot of talent,” Walker said, “and I think we had a real chance in 2020 until COVID hit. We were certainly blessed with a lot of talent this year. We have a seasoned veteran coaching staff who knows what they’re doing.
“It was a combination of that talent, the staff and the kids working hard that got us here. We made the kids aware that a state championship was possible, but we did not put pressure on them. We just want them to perform to their ability, whether it’s a dual meet or something like states.”
And, get this: no athlete who scored points this weekend will graduate this year.
Kelly displayed his remarkable array of talents all weekend, winning the triple jump on Friday and taking the high jump title on Saturday. He was also third in the long jump and ran the second leg on the 4 x 100 relay team that finished first and gave the team 10 huge points.
That team included Kason Besecker, Blake Mallast and Antonio Harrison II. In addition, Besecker raced to a runner-up finish in the 100 and Jermere Jones was fifth in the 110 hurdles.
No other team could come up with that kind of point-scoring production.
The 4 x 100 relay team made a statement Friday when it ran the fastest qualifying time with a 41.65. They backed it up in the final with a blistering effort of 41.49, which is now the school record.
Mallast said, “After what we ran yesterday, a 41.65, we knew we had a chance to win today. I didn’t feel nervous at all.”
Besecker took the leadoff leg and made up some places while running the curve in Lane 4, and had a good handoff to Kelly, who held his own.
“Once J.J. gave me a good handoff, I was able to catch a couple of guys — I wanted to give Antonio the lead if I could,” Mallast said. “But I knew we were in good shape.”
Harrison said, “I thought me and the guy (from Emmaus) were about even (when he got the handoff from Mallast). I knew I just had to go, stay calm and stay focused.”
He closed out the win with room to spare, with runner-up Susquehanna Township running a 41.88.
Walker said, “Besecker has a tremendous leadoff leg — I think he passed the baton with the lead every time this year. I don’t think anybody in the state runs the curve as well as Mallast, and he got us the lead. Antonio’s best in the 100 is 10.8, but he is Mr. Poise. He holds it together and keeps the lead, even if he does have the state champion (Lex Cyrus of Susquehanna Twp.) on his heels.”
Kelly, who finished his leg at the other end of the stadium from the finish, joked, “I definitely ran faster than Tony did trying to get there to see him finish. I love those guys so much and was so great to see us win that race.”
Kelly began his morning by placing third in the long jump, which is where he was seeded. He soared 23-1.5 on his last attempt of the finals to go from fourth to third.
Then he helped the 4 x 100 team to its triumph.
Then he scored 10 more team points by winning the high jump with a height of 6-8. It came down to Kelly and Tyrone Chambers of North Schuylkill — both of whom had cleared 6-6 without a miss.
But Kelly nailed his first jump at 6-7 and Chambers missed three straight times. With the victory clinched, Kelly then zoomed over 6-8 on his first try. But three tries at 6-10 came up empty.
“My body had a lot of adrenaline going from that 4 x 100,” Kelly said. “So I just sat down and concentrated on the high jump. I was trying to understand the form needed for each height, because they’re all different.”
Kelly did not know that Chambersburg had won the team title until after the award ceremony for the high jump.
“That feels great,” he said. “This is bigger than me — this is for the coaches, my family and the people in Chambersburg.”
Jones got things started for the Trojans early in the day when he placed fifth in the 110 hurdles in a time of 14.52. That bettered his seventh-place finish of a year ago.
“I’m pretty happy,” Jones said. “I bumped up two places from last year, so I have a lot of work to do for next year. Everybody up here is fast, so you just want to compete and have fun.”
Besecker was next up in the 100 and zipped down the track in 10.71. The only runner ahead of him was Cyrus, in 10.65.
“It feels great,” Besecker said. “I can’t explain how many emotions are going on in my head. I don’t know whether to laugh or scream. Hitting 10.67 yesterday gave me a boost of confidence, but I still didn’t think I’d get second in the final.”
He worked through a rough start in which the starter had the runners stand up once, and then a false start was called.
Besecker said, “When the starter made us stand up, and then we had the false start, I think it definitely messed with our times. The times were better yesterday. With all that waiting, my heart was pounding.”
His heart, and the hearts of his teammates were pounding again when they got to lift the team trophy late Saturday afternoon.
NOTES: Chambersburg’s Camryn Kiser earned her second medal of the weekend when she placed sixth in the girls 3A 3200 race at the top of the day … Kiser’s time of 10:29.99 eclipsed the previous school record of Abby Yourkavitch, 10:44.40, in 2018 … It was the second time in two days Kiser broke an SR by Yourkavitch, having done so in the 1600 Friday.
Team standings: 1.Chambersburg 48, 2.State College 34, 3.Susquehanna Twp. 22; 4.Abington 20; 5.(tie) South Western, Pottstown and Hempfield Area 18.
3200 — 1.Brian Dicola (Hatboro-Horsham) 8:47.39; 15.Ari Snyder (Chambersburg) 9:21.01; 24.Hayden Parks (Greencastle) 9:34.62
110 hurdles — 1.Tyrese Washington (Pottstown) 14.01; 5.Jermere Jones (Chambersburg) 14.52
100 — 1.Lex Cyrus (Susquehanna Twp.) 10.67; 2.Kason Beseccker (Chambersburg) 10.71
4 x 100 relay — 1.Chambersburg (Kason Besecker, J.J. Kelly, Blake Mallast, Antonio Harrison II) 41.49
Long jump — 1.Kyle Moore (Emmaus) 24-5.25; 3.J.J. Kelly (Chambersburg) 23-1.5
High jump — 1.J.J. Kelly (Chambersburg) 6-8
Team standings: 1.
3200 — 1.Logan St. John Kletter (Mt. Lebanon) 10:12.86 (meet record); 6.Camryn Kiser (Chambersburg) 10:29.99 (school record); 18.Claire Paci (Greencastle-Antrim) 10:57.95; 27.Lexi Boyd (Chambersburg) 11:23.42