PIAA Track And Field: Experienced WVC Relay Teams Back In States
SCRANTON — An athlete from a different school stopped Holy Redeemer’s district-champion relay and had to find out — where did their socks come from?
The Royals’ 4x800 team didn’t fly around the track and win a District 2 championship with some high-tech socks. But they did stand out away from the competition with matching, colorful high socks featuring a Kool-Aid design, Kool-Aid Man included.
It’s a small tradition juniors Dominic Capaci and Lukas Volpetti said they’ve made a staple for the long distance unit since they were freshmen. Following their district title Thursday, those two plus senior Scott Williams and junior Bryce Zapusek popped in the crowded infield with their red uniforms, but mostly purple socks.
The tradition is no secret weapon to Redeemer’s success on the track, but it is something that brings the group a little closer and keeps things light when it isn’t time to run hard. That could go some way, too, seeing how the Wyoming Valley Conference’s three relays racing at this weekend’s state championships are experienced groups that know each other well.
“We just have, sometimes too much fun — the jokes and the good times,” Williams said earlier this month. “When you have that sort of camaraderie, it builds a sort of foundation that you can rely upon, especially at the bigger meets. Some people get nervous, but you can keep yourself grounded in what really matters.”
In addition to the Redeemer boys, who repeated as District 2 Class 2A champions, Lake-Lehman’s girls 4x800 team captured its third consecutive district title and its second in a row at Class 2A. Earlier last week in Class 3A, Coughlin’s boys won the 4x100 relay for the third straight time.
Once again, the district champs will head to Shippensburg for Friday and Saturday’s PIAA Track and Field Championships. Holy Redeemer and Lake-Lehman finished fourth in the state there in 2017.
The teams have gotten used to winning district gold, and so have most of their runners.
Juniors Capaci, Volpetti and Zapusek were on both title relays for Redeemer, and seniors Jace Garnick, Olivia Vasey and Jade Fry are all three-time champions with Lake-Lehman. Seniors Cole Horan and Vincent Todd won their third 4x100 golds for Coughlin, while another Crusaders relay member, sophomore Rafael McCoy, got his first taste of a D2 title last year.
A “special synergy” is at the core of Coughlin’s success, Horan said.
“We all like each other, we’re all really friendly, we have a really good coach with coach (Paul) McGrane,” Horan said. “We’re really fluid with the hand-offs. … It all started my sophomore year, and then every year we’ve kept building off of that. We felt like we had something we had to prove every time we came here.”
Baton hand-offs mark the extent of the teamwork on display when the starter’s gun sounds. That’s not to say the familiarity doesn’t have its benefits, though.
Lake-Lehman knows not to mess with its winning formula, beginning with Step 1: Jace Garnick is the first leg. Fry said that there were times this season where the Black Knights tinkered with their running order.
“We did not like that,” even if they still ran well, Fry laughed.
If there’s a runner to knock the wind out of other teams’ sails, it turns out Garnick’s blazing start is a wise choice. Last week at districts, only a shocking turn of events would have ruined the 11-plus second lead she spotted the Knights’ other three legs.
“I wasn’t really surprised because the last two years, Jace always gets us a lead like that,” Fry said. “That’s one of the reasons why she’s such a major part of this team. She’s always so consistent in how she runs.”
Beyond strategy, these relays know what everyone’s been through. Redeemer and Lehman’s members all run cross country, and Fry said everyone encourages each other to power through the pain of tough workouts since they know states is the goal.
For all three seasoned relays, the ideal end results were on display last week.
Horan exchanged to Todd, who broke up a neck-and-neck race with a huge finish in yet another Coughlin 4x100 title. Redeemer and Lehman comfortably set the pace in their distance events to set the table for another promising weekend at states.
And, away from the track, Redeemer finally got to show off 2018’s socks in celebration.
Following red flames in 2016 and “rainbow, kind of lighting bolt-looking socks” last year, Volpetti said, the group decided on the Kool-Aid design over a Swedish Fish look or the “Victory Royale” graphic from the hit video game Fortnite.
This year’s batch delivered just in time for districts to keep a unique tradition alive.
“I’m sure other people do it, but we do it the best,” Capaci said, not unlike their work on the District 2 track.
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