When it comes to the field events, Joe Hall has been a force all by himself.
The Northwestern senior has been having a dominant season in the throwing events and continues to leap toward new heights in the high jump.
Currently, Hall has the top season performances in THE TIMES NEWS area in the shot put (47 feet, two inches), discus (144 feet, 10 inches), javelin (187 feet, 10 inches) and high jump (6-6).
Hall's showing to date is not a surprise to Northwestern coach Brian Xander.
"He's one of the hardest working kids I have ever coached," said Xander, whose Tigers are 8-1 heading into this afternoon's scheduled Colonial League regular season finale. "Everything he does, he excels at. This season he picked up the shot put at our first practice and just went out and did it."
At Friday's Allentown School District Invitational at J. Birney Crum Stadium, which will be the site of this season's District 11 Championships on May 19-20, Hall took the gold medal in the javelin with a heave of 177-4 and placed fourth in the high jump, clearing 6-4.
With the Colonial League championships coming up on May 13 at Bangor Memorial Park, Hall is currently ranked first among Colonial thinclads in the javelin and the high jump and fourth in both the shot put and discus. Last year he won the Colonial high jump title with a leap of 6-7.
Xander felt the ASD Meet would be a good barometer as to how Hall would fare at Districts, since the Tigers are in Class AAA and must bump heads with the top performers from the Lehigh Valley and Mountain Valley Conferences, as well as those from the larger Colonial and Schuylkill League schools.
Weather conditions can also play a role in field events, but Xander said that hasn't been a problem for Hall. "He's been jumping between 6-2 and 6-6 despite the weather, so he's been pretty consistent with it," he added.
Hall's main goal is to qualify for the PIAA State Championships at Shippensburg University May 28-29.
"I want to be a State participant in all of my events, except for the shot put," Hall stated. "I would drop that, because it overlaps with the high jump at States."
Hall had qualified for the State Meet as a sophomore in the AAA javelin, but a return trip as a junior eluded him. He admitted that he wasn't in peak form for Districts a year ago.
"I didn't have any season-ending injuries last year, but I had some nagging injuries," explained Hall. "I had trouble with my shoulder, with the deltoid and clavicle."
At Districts, Hall placed third in the AAA javelin at 174-6, with the State qualifying standard at 178 feet. He tied for third place in the high jump at 6-3. The top two finishers in each event automatically qualify for States
"I learned from my mistake last year," he noted. "I was overconfident. You can't go in expecting to win. You have to go in and expect to do your best. That is something you can control."
Hall gives credit for his development to Tigers assistant Mike MacLaughlin, who he calls his mentor with the high jump, as well as Dave Kerschner, who has served as his throwing coach.
Hall is also chasing some lofty school standards. Hitting Chuck Koenig's shot put record of 59-11 or Pharon Metzger's discus mark of 163-3 might be a stretch, but the javelin record of 192-8 by Jim Shade and Mike Wertman's high jump mark of 6-8 might be attainable under the right conditions.
No matter how the rest of this season plays out for him, Hall said he will continue his career on the collegiate level at the University of South Florida.
"This has been my dream, and I'm looking forward to competing at the Division I level," stated Hall.
OTHER TOP TIGERS - The Northwestern boys, whose lone loss has been against undefeated Wilson, have received other solid performances heading into their final double dual meet with Palmerton (4-5) and Bangor (8-1).
Trevor German has the TN area's top 100 meter time at 10.8, and Tim East leads the way in the 110 and 300 meter hurdles with area best times of 15.6 and 39.6, respectively.
Other contributers have included Tyler Stelmack and Cody Reinert in the distance events, Michael Oswald in the jumps, Alex Castellano in the discus, Michael Shiffer in the javelin, and pole vaulters Marc Khalil and Alex Buskirk.
LADY TIGERS IN TITLE CHASE - The Northwestern girls have matched their male counterparts with an 8-1 league mark and still have a chance to grab a share of the dual meet title heading into the Bangor double dual meet.
The Lady Tigers, Slaters and Saucon Valley each have one loss, with the Panthers handing Northwestern its lone setback. The Bangor-Northwestern winner will finish with one loss; meanwhile Saucon will finish in a double dual encounter with Salisbury at Wilson.
Lindsay Kerr continues her phenomenal spring for the Tigers. The Wake Forest-bound senior has the area's top times in the 800 (2:19.1), 1,600 (5:07.1) and 3,200 (11:04.73), and is not far off from the best 400 meter time as well.
The Tiger girls are also receiving contributions from sprinter Nicole Taschler, distance runners Megan Handwerk and Ramzy Burns, hurdlers Jessica Albright and Natalie Hill, jumpers Tori Black, Jennifer Gulick and Maggie Levan, Sarah Murray and Nycole Everett in the throwing events, and Courtney Desiderio and Leah Kester in the pole vault.
MARIAN, TAMAQUA IN SCHUYLKILL TITLE MEET - This will be the last season for the Schuylkill League's current Division I versus Division II championship meet, which will be held at Pottsville on Wednesday, beginning at 3:45 p.m.
The Tamaqua girls and the Marian boys and girls all qualified for the Division I-II runoff by winning their respective division titles on Monday.
The Colts repeated as D-I champions by edging Schuylkill Haven by a point, while the Fillies won the D-II title for the first time since 1993 by outlasting the Lady Hurricanes. The Lady Raiders knocked off Blue Mountain for the D-I girls laurels.
The boys meet at Pottsville will pit Marian against D-I winner Blue Mountain in a rematch of last year's title meet, won by the Eagles. The Raiders and Fillies will square off for the girls overall championship.
While the intentions with this type of run-off were in the right place, it is a good idea that the Schuylkill League is moving away from this format. The divisions are grouped by enrollments, and the D- I schools generally have much larger teams than the D-II squads. Depth is a big advantage in a sport with 18 events to fill. Plus, the D-II schools don't have the pole vault, putting them at a nine-point disadvantage against the D-I clubs.
If the league must determine an overall champ, perhaps it can consider doing it at the league meet, which currently isn't scored for team points, but it wouldn't be earth shattering if it returns to the way things were and the division champions are left to stand on their own.
4OTH YEAR FOR SCHUYLKILL RELAYS - The Schuylkill County Relays will be celebrating their 40th anniversary when they convene in Pottsville on Friday.
TN area teams Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Marian, Panther Valley and Tamaqua are all scheduled to compete to one extent or another at the Relays. The throwing events are slated to begin at 4 p.m. with the running events at 5 p.m.
CINDER SHORTS - There have been some corrections made to the TN Area Season's Best chart. For one, a time of 9:52 in the boys 3,200 was posted online as part of the ESU Red and Black Invitational and turned out to be incorrect. Zach Fleming of Northern Lehigh has had his top 3,200 time of 10:10.9 restored to the chart ... also, a leap of 6-7 in the high jump was done by a former Pleasant Valley athlete who is no longer with the team. Bears coach Mike Wertman said the school is not recognizing that performance, so it has been removed from the chart, with Joe Hall's 6-6 taking over the top slot ... it's been a good spring for Tamaqua javelin throwers, past and present. Junior Allison Updike came up with the top scholastic throw of the season in Pa. (and second in the U.S.) with her record heave of 156-8 at the Pine Grove Invitational. Meanwhile, Raider alum Casey Wagner, who is currently at South Florida, was named Big East Female Field Athlete of the Week after breaking her own school record with a third place chuck of 155-7 at the Penn Relays. Wagner finished fourth in the javelin at last week's Big East Championships with a throw of 149-4 at Cincinnati.