In his first year at the track and field helm at Marian, John Boyle has the Colts and Fillies on the verge of a Schuylkill League Division II sweep.
Both squads enter this week with identical 4-1 records, including a perfect 4-0 in Schuylkill D-II. The lone loss for each came in a season-opening non-league meet at Jim Thorpe.
Marian is scheduled to host D-II opponent Minersville in Hometown this afternoon, weather permitting. Victories by the Colts and Fillies would set the stage for a showdown next Monday (May 3) at Schuylkill Haven for the division crowns.
Marian faced a similar scenario last spring, battling the Hurricanes at Rotary Field on the final day of the regular season for division honors. The Colts came away with the win, while the Fillies came up short against Haven.
If the Colts can sweep the Battlin' Miners and Hurricanes, it would give them their third straight Division I title and a berth in the Schuylkill Division I-II championship run-off on May 5, which would most likely be a rematch with Blue Mountain, last year's Division I and overall boys champion.
The 'Canes are idle this week and are 5-0 in Schuylkill competition.
On the girls' side, the Fillies are seeking their first D-II title in 17 years, since the 1993 coached by Paul Babinsky turned the trick by interrupting a long reign by Nativity.
The Fillies are the lone unbeaten in D-II. Haven is 4-1, but its loss was against Pine Grove, which Marian has already beaten.
The Colts lost some key performers from last season, particularly hurdler Nick Julian, sprinter Francis Lally and jumpers Evan Whildin and Shawn Gates, but they still have showcased depth in almost every event.
Mike Stauffer, the heir apparent to Julian, has taken over in the hurdles, and the sprint crew of Paul Martin, Bobby Kelly, Dylan Quirk and Matt Grega has held its own.
Justin Huegel is the Colts' top returning 400 meter man, and the distance crew has been dependable after a strong showing during the cross country season. That group includes Phil Marzen, David Paul, Jamie Ramer, Mike Legath and Conner Schleicher.
"Our boys distance runners have been solid. They just run together well," said Boyle, a 2002 Marian grad who ran the 800 and 1,600 and is still a member of the Colts' record 4x400 relay.
Jumpers Chris Barletta, Kyle Garber, Pat Leitzel, Martin and Kelly have produced their share of points, but it is in the throwing events that the Colts have seen the greatest improvement.
With Dylan Baranowski, Jack Ryan, Corey Rutch, Dylan Rush and Matt Yaich in the throws, that are is no longer a liability.
"The biggest surprises have been in the jumps and throws," said Boyle. "It's a big turnaround. We're stronger in the throws than we've been in years, especially with overall depth."
If the Colts get past Minersville, they will face a Schuylkill Haven team with its own share of standouts, including jumper Jon Nettles, distance runners Logan Jacoby and Brian Ebling and weightman Zach Faust.
"I think our guys match up with them," said Boyle of the 'Canes. "We have 2-3 guys we can use for each event."
If anything, the Fillies may have even more depth than the Colts. "The girls have so much flexibility," noted Boyle. "I can put almost any girl in any spot."
The sprints and jumps have been performing in fine fashion with Devin Parambo, Emily Kennedy, Alexa Hutta, Emma Boyle, Cathleen Cataldo and Gillian Ferko, who is also a mainstay of the Fillies' throwing events along with Audrey Maff and Kaycee Gutsie.
The Fillies figured to have a strong distance group, too, given their performance in cross country. Madison Monaco, Sam O'Donnell, Molly Balliet, Katie Owens and Briana O'Donnell have been producing points.
Boyle is quick to point out the emergence of Corrine Markiewicz as well. Markiewicz has broken the Fillies' 1,600 mark of 5:42.51 held by Dominique Ramer, lowering it to 5:35.
"Corrine has been the biggest surprise to me, because she broke the record by seven seconds in only her third time running the 1,600," he mentioned. "It's still fairly new to her."
Markiewicz is also one of three high jumpers to clear 4-8 this season, including Hutta and Emma Boyle.
The hurdle events received a blow when Erin Rehatchek had to sit out for medical reasons, but Kathleen Reilly, Angela Pavalko and Regina Marzen have helped pick up the slack, and the Fillies' mentor hopes to have Rehatchek back for the postseason.
If the Fillies can stay unbeaten heading into the Haven meet, their numbers could give them an edge against the Lady 'Canes, who have their share of top performers in distance runners Alyssa Miller and Emily Donahue and Julia Blackwell in the throwing events.
"We will have to use the same strategy we did against Pine Grove," said Boyle. "Pine Grove took more firsts than we did, but we concentrated on getting the seconds and thirds. We'd like to get that monkey off our back in this division."
If the Fillies claim D-II, they will meet the D-I champion on May 5; as of right now, defending league titlist North Schuylkill and Tamaqua are both 3-0 and scheduled to meet on Stadium Hill this afternoon.
If either Marian team lands in the Division run-off, they could face an uphill challenge, so Boyle is planning accordingly.
"We'd look at it as a chance to go against good competition and get better times for Districts," he explained. "That's what we're looking at, and we have three weeks to get it all together."
CO-ED CORRECTION – In last Friday's Second Annual Olympian Invitational at Jim Thorpe, a correction in the scoring of the Co-Ed Relay was discovered after the meet.
It was originally reported that Jim Thorpe won the Co-Ed Relay Trophy with 66 points, but after going over the scoring afterward, Thorpe Coach Frank Miller discovered that is was Palmerton that should have been declared the winner of the Co-Ed Trophy with 68 points, winning that honor for the second year in a row.
Miller reported the correction to THE TIMES NEWS late Friday night, but it was after deadline and did not make it into Saturday's edition.
GOLDEN SHOWING AT THE SILVER BOWL – While most of her Tamaqua teammates were competing at the Olympian Invitational, where the Lady Raiders won the team title, junior Allison Updike was breaking the javelin record at the Mount Carmel Invitational Friday night.
Updike, who placed second in the scholastic javelin at the Penn Relays the day before, got off a heave of 146 feet, eight inches at the Silver Bowl to win the event, surpassing the old mark of 142-7 set by Jen Pastore of Selinsgrove in 1994.
Updike also placed fifth in the shot put while the Raiders' Christine Streisel took second in the javelin and fifth in the discus and Melody Kelly placed third in the pole vault. That trio earned 30 points, good for eighth place in the team standings.
CASEY HITS ANOTHER MARK – Former Tamaqua standout Casey Wagner, now a sophomore at the University of South Florida, also competed at the Penn Relays last week, throwing in the collegiate javelin division.
Wagner, a three-time State medalist in the javelin, got off a personal best toss of 155 feet, seven inches, besting her own previous USF record. It was good for fourth place in the event.
KERR SETS AREA STANDARD – Northwestern senior Lindsay Kerr has had a great spring so far to go with her PIAA Class AA cross country title from the fall.
Kerr, a Wake Forest recruit, established a new all-time TIMES NEWS area record in the 3,200 meters with a time of 11:04.73, which she set on April 3. The previous record of 11:10.09 was held by Georgianna Messinger of Palmerton, who set it in 1983.
FRIDAY NIGHT INVITES – Friday is shaping up to be a big night for Invitationals.
The Allentown School District Invitational at J. Birney Crum Stadium, the Cardinal Invitational at Pine Grove and the Jerry Breslin Relays at Mount Carmel are all scheduled for Friday night and will have TIMES NEWS area athletes competing.