ALLENTOWN - As he entered the final 200 meters of his anchor leg of the 4x400 relay, Carl St. Hill found himself trailing.
On this day, that condition turned out to be temporary.
The JIm Thorpe senior summoned up a final burst of speed and kicked his way to the front of the pack and across the finish line for his third gold medal of Thursday's District 11 Track and Field Championships at J. Birney Crum Stadium.
St. Hill and the Olympians led the medal rush among TIMES NEWS area boys performers at Districts.
In addition to St. Hill's golden hat trick, which included the Class AA 100 and 200 meters, Thorpe's Kareem Mickens won the AA 400 meters, joining Olympian triple jump champion Alex Garcia, who earned his title on Wednesday.
Tamaqua junior Zach Lakitsky was the other TN area champ among the District AA boys, leaping to the long jump crown.
Those District winners qualified for the PIAA State Championships, to be held at Shippensburg University May 28-29, as well as second place finishers, including the Jim Thorpe 400 meter relay, the Olympians' Ben Moore (javelin), Tamaqua's Lakitsky (100) and Bill Breiner (shot put) and Northern Lehigh's Zach Fleming (1,600) in AA and Lehighton's Cory Kresge (long jump) in AAA.
St. Hill qualified for four events at States, including both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays, and several of his teammates have the chance to compete in multiple events at the PIAA Meet.
"Our philosophy is, if you are a District champion, you go out and defend it," said Jim Thorpe coach Frank Miller.
St. Hill, coming off winning all four of his events at the Schuylkill League Championships,almost duplicated that feat at Districts.
He held off Lakitsky and Northern Lehigh's Cody Remaley in a tight finish to win the 100 meter dash in 11.42 seconds, edging Lakitsky (11.45) and Remaley (11.46) at the finish line.
In the 200, St. Hill pulled away from Catasaqua's Alec Brown to earn his second individual gold in 23.21.
The rest of his work went into the Thorpe relays. His late kick on the anchor pulled out the win for the 4x400 team, which also included Mickens, Garcia and Scott Lignore, in 3:29.30, which was under the PIAA qualifying standard of 3:29.87 to boot.
The Thorpe 4x100 quartet of Talon Fogal, St. Hill, Garcia and P.J. Johnson came away with a silver medal with a time of 44.58, trailing only Catasauqua's 44.08.
"This is what I prayed for last night," said St. Hill of his success. "I wanted four (gold medals), and we just missed it."
St. Hill didn't panic when he fell behind Notre Dame of Green Pond for a brief moment in the 1,600 relay. "I thought, 'that's good, now I will take him in the home stretch.
"I like running on the relays, because they are a team accomplishment, and afterwards, you have someone to celebrate with."
Mickens celebrated with a shuffle after crossing the finish in the 400 meters, racing to the gold in 50.9.
"I can honestly say I've been chasing this since the start of the season, and after winning the 400 at the Schuylkill League championships, I felt inside I had to win it at Districts, too. It was only natural," said Mickens. "Last year I had a sour ending at Districts and finished 10th, so this was my final year to make everything right."
Thorpe's Moore, a sophomore, just missed a personal best in the javelin with a second place finish at 164-5, but it was enough to improve his third seed and earn a State berth.
While he just missed a win in the 100, Tamaqua's Lakitsky made up for it in the long jump.
The Blue Raiders junior, who missed the Schuylkill Meet after rolling the ankle of his left plant foot, was seeded second but produced a leap of 21-6 1/2 on his second attempt of the trials. That made him the only AA jumper to surpass 21 feet on the afternoon and also was over the State standard of 21-6.
"I was ecstatic. It was beyond belief," said Lakitsky, whose previous personal best was 21-2. "I didn't believe it at first. My expectations were to get in the 21's, but to get State qualifying, that was my dream.
"It was definitely my best day in track, and I wouldn't have it any other way."
Lehighton senior Kresge had the top long jump of the day among area performers, leaping 22-3 1/2 in the AAA competition, which earned him second to Parkland's Rico Goldstone (22-9 ) but was also over the State standard of 21-10.
"I am coming off of cellulitis in my arm, so it was day to day that I was going to be able to compete," said Kresge, whose personal best is 23-1. "I'm glad I have another shot at States to prove what I can do."
Northern Lehigh's Fleming, a senior, qualified for States in the AA 3,200 Wednesday with a second place finish and did likewise in the 1,600, with his 4:32.99 just behind winner Jon Merwide of Bethlehem Catholic. Fleming also placed third in the 800 at 2:01.52.
"I'm going to do both (1,600 and 3,200) at States and see what happens," said Fleming, who won the D-11 title and qualfied in the 3,200 last year. "I'm hoping for personal bests in both races."
Tamaqua's Breiner punched his State ticket in the shot put with a throw of 45-3 , six inches behind winner Zach Faust of Schuylkill Haven.