Alle-Kiski Valley high school notebook: Track and field club coming to Leechburg |
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Bill Beckner Jr.

Mark Jones remembers how his son, Dan, would turn a trip to the family’s camp into target practice.

The younger Jones, a sophomore at Leechburg, liked to find long sticks and whittle them with a hunting knife until they had sharp points.

“Like a spear,” said Mark Jones, the athletic director at Leechburg.

More like a javelin.

“He would throw them at an archery target,” the father said.

The time has come to buy Dan a real javelin. Leechburg last week approved a track and field club, and district athletes will have the chance to compete at individual meets in the spring, including WPIAL qualifiers.

It’s not uncommon for schools without teams to send individuals to indoor and outdoor meets. But many practice with neighboring schools and not with home clubs. That’s where Leechburg’s situation differs.

“It’s something we have talked about and kicked around for the last few years,” said Mark Jones, who threw the javelin when he was on the track and field team at North Hills.

He played football there and noted how football players benefited from also doing track and field.

“I have always thought a track program could be very beneficial to our kids,” he said.

Jones said Nicole Fello, mother of freshman Mackenzie Fello, inquired about adding the sport so her daughter could participate.

The school board mulled the idea and took it seriously enough to approve the club, which won’t cost the district anything.

A student-activity fund is expected to take care of that.

Jones and football coach Mark George, who has a daughter interested in track, will oversee the new venture.

Leechburg had track and field years ago and used a cinder track at Veterans Memorial Stadium. But the sport fizzled, and many athletes often stayed with one sport. Football players who did not play basketball were out of action for months at a time.

Ford City is a possible site for practices, but other schools in the area also could be considered.

“We want to do some indoor agility work in the offseason,” Jones said. “We’ve even talked about a makeshift long jump pit at our stadium.

It still beats carving sticks.

“It’s a sport where everybody gets to participate,” Jones said. “We’ll compete as individuals for a while before we petition the WPIAL for an official (team) schedule.”

Good cause

Highlands junior swimmer Nathan Masarik has raised more than $1,000 through a Special Olympics fundraiser in honor of senior Adam Witucki, who has Down syndrome.

Masarik coordinated a “Swim-A-Thon” on Nov. 15 at Highlands and still is trying to bring in donations for Gepperts Guardians, a team affiliated with the Swissvale Police Department and Forest Hills Volunteer Fire Department that will take the Polar Bear Plunge on Dec. 6.

Funds raised by Masarik will go to the team in Witucki’s name. The Plunge raises money for Special Olympics Pennsylvania.

Masarik said taking the plunge would interrupt his training for the upcoming high school season, so he opted to host the Swim-A-Thon instead.

Witucki is a team manager for the football and basketball teams and a popular figure at games and practices.

For more info, visit

All-Butler teams

Butler County cross country coaches picked All-County teams following the PIAA postseason. Knoch’s boys picked up team of the year honors after winning the WPIAL Class AA championship, its first team title in the sport.

Knoch also finished fourth in the state.

Knoch’s Wess Brahler was voted coach of the year. Boys first-team selections were: Max Freyermuth, Brandon Grumski and Preston Carlsson, who placed 10th, 11th and 18th, respectively, at the WPIAL meet.

Aiden Neigh of Knoch and Noah Bowser of Freeport made the second team.

Knoch’s Mandi Moxie made the girls first team. She took fifth in the WPIAL and helped her team place second before earning a medal at the PIAA meet. Second-team picks from Knoch included Rachael Wittmer, Lauren Karenbauer and Ashlyn Carlsson, in addition to Freeport’s Kim Mixion.

Record stands

Upon further review, senior quarterback Andrew Romanchak did not break every Freeport passing record.

While Romanchak broke yardage marks for a single game (442) and single season (1,922), Brendan Lynch still has the career marks (2,556) for yards and touchdown passes (28).

Romanchak finished with 2,251 yards and 18 touchdowns for his career in less games than Lynch, who is a sophomore wide receiver at Case Western.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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