Strauss and Johnson get gold medals
bob ford/times news Lehighton's Jon Strauss prepares to throw the javlin. Strauss won the District 11 Class AAA championship.
WHITEHALL - John Strauss has already reached the Holy Grail of high school javelin.
His goal now is to repeat the feat in the postseason.
The Lehighton senior won his second straight Class AAA javelin title Tuesday at the District 11 Championship Meet at Whitehall. But he didn't get nearly as close to 200 feet as he hoped.
"I'm not real pleased," he said. "But you've got to move on. It feels good to be a two-time district champ, but I want to move on and get ready for states.
Strauss is one of four area athletes who earned a trip to states with outstanding performances Wednesday, the first day of the two-day meet.
Northern Lehigh's Caleb Johnson (high jump), Palmerton's John Snyder (discus) and Northwestern's Tyler Stelmack also qualified for the PIAA Championship meet, which will be held next weekend in Shippensburg.
Strauss threw 202 feet, 8 inches at the Jim Thorpe Invitational last month and was getting over 200 consistently in practice. He expected to hit that benchmark at districts.
A sixth-place finisher at states last year, he threw 189-10 on his first district throw this year and figured it was a good start. It put him in first place and stood as his best throw of the meet.
"I was happy I qualified for states right off the bat and it was good to be out in front," Strauss said. "But the goal is to be over 200 consistently. I've got one more meet. I've got to make the best of it."
Johnson also hoped to break a personal best at districts. And he came very close.
The Bulldog junior was seeded first at 6-5 and won the Class AA high jump by hitting just that number.
"I jumped well," he said. "I'm going to states. That was my goal in the beginning of the year. I was seeded first. I got what I was expecting."
It was just the third time this season, and in his career, that he cleared 6-5. He said each time were "perfect weather for jumping." Wednesday's warm air and light breeze were the perfect mix.
A state qualifier in hurdles last year, he's happy to be spending more time competing at states this year.
"This is a totally different monster," Johnson said. "I'm not going out there for a 30-second race."
Snyder, a junior, is looking to gain some experience at this year's state meet. He finally got the hang of a new technique recently and it resulted in his best discus throw ever, a 131-foot, 2-inch heave for second place in Class AA.
"Instead of doing a half spin, like I usually do," he said. "I used a full spin. I've been trying to do it all year. I got it down this weekend and it just clicked today."
His previous best throw was 127 feet. He's now shooting for 140 feet at states next week.
"I wanted to go to states as a junior," Snyder said. "I think it will teach me a lot watching the best kids in the state compete."
Stelmack, who has run in two state cross country meets, will make his first appearance at the state track championships. He took second place in the Class AAA 3200 meters, running it in a school record time of 9:43.25.
"I kept telling everyone my goal was run fast and pray," he said. "I didn't have a plan for this one. It was just to stick up in the front and see what would happen."
He stayed right behind eventual winner and pace setter Nathan Palmer (Freedom) for most of the race, even taking the lead at one point and giving it back before a kick in the last 100 meters caused Palmer, who finished in 9:42.82, to look over his shoulder.
Several other area athletes earned medals at districts, which went to the top four in each event.
Palmerton junior Brad Ehret was third in high jump, clearing 6-2, two inches short of the Class AA state qualifying standard.
"I'm a little discouraged," he said after receiving his medal. "I could have gotten 6-4. I've gotten close, but I always nip it because I don't hold my form long enough."
Pleasant Valley's boys Class AAA 3200-meter relay team also missed state qualifying by one place, taking third place in 8:13.87.
Palmerton's Jarred Sacks was third in Class AA triple jump at 42-5 12.
Preliminary sprint races also took place Wednesday.
Palmerton's Monty Szukics ran the meet's fastest times in the 100 meters (10.92) and 200 meters (22.33).
Several area boys runners made today's finals.
In Class AA 110 hurdles, Eric Herzog (Northern Lehigh) was second (15.08), David Getz (Northern Lehigh) was fourth (15.79) and Travis Wolfe (Palmerton) was seventh (16.47) after preliminary heats.
Joining Szukics in the Class AA 200 are Tamaqua's Tyler Hope (6th, 11.50), Palmerton's Alex Vignone (7th, 11.51) and Jim Thorpe's Pervis Johnson (8th, 11.52).
Pleasant Valley's Kegan Bray had the sixth-best time (11.22) in Class AAA 100 and the second-best time in the 200 (22.08).
Joining Szukics in the Class AA 100 are Hope (3rd, 23.05), Vignone (6th, 23.53) and Pervis Johnson (7th, 23.27).