Bellwood-Antis senior Ben Hatch didn’t have the perfect track season this past spring. He has been forced to battle illness and he lost a shoe at the Shippensburg Invitational, and was held back in several of the Blue Devils dual meets, by B-A boys coach Nick Lovrich, to hopefully stay fresh.
At the PIAA State Track and Field Meet at Shippensburg on Friday and Saturday, May 23-24, however, everything meshed. Seeded second by his District 6 championship time of 1:56.83, Hatch ran the fastest time (1:58.80) in the 800 preliminary heats on Friday, to qualify for the finals. In the finals, Ben withstood a challenge from Tamaqua’s Alex Zubey with a little more than 200 meters to go, and blasted home in 1:54.62 to claim the gold. That time sliced over two full seconds off Hatch’s school record.
“For both days, we wanted Ben to make sure he got out in front. He is small and has had some trouble getting boxed in at times,” explained Coach Lovrich. “He ran two really smart races going to the front and never relinquishing the lead.”
Hatch began his track career by breaking the Bellwood-Antis freshman record in the 800 in his very first meet and just kept on going. A seventh place PIAA state medal as a sophomore, was improved on to a bronze medal last year. Adding cross country and basketball to his routine, Ben helped lead the B-A boys basketball team to 32 wins and back-to-back league championship games, after several losing seasons in a row, on the hardwood. In cross country, Hatch was seventh at districts and had the best time and finish at the state meet for any regional runner with his 57th place (17.41).
“This has been a great career for Ben, and to cap it of as a state champion is quite an accomplishment. It is really nice when you see someone work so hard, to be able to accomplish the goal Ben has set since he was a ninth grader.”
Hatch is the first Bellwood-Antis athlete to win a gold medal in track and field since Lisa Haupt won the long jump in 1977, and the Blue Devil male to win a gold medal at states, since Ted Miller won the javelin in 1964.
Tyrone underclassmen collected a pair of PIAA medals over the weekend.
Junior Ben Ingle set a new school record in the 1600 and grabbed a sixth place medal with a time of 4:23.68. The old record had been held by Jeff White, who ran a 4:24.78 to win the 2000 districts
“Ben peaked at the right time running his best race in his last race,” said Tyrone track and field coach Tony Yaniello. “To place in states as a junior is a tribute to his hard work. We had a couple of good practices before states and I saw the potential for him to go under 4:25. I knew that is what it would take to medal. Ben knocked three seconds off his best time in the finals. Ben has only been running distance for a season and a half, so I think he will see even more success next year. Ben has great role models for parents and of course it doesn’t hurt to have a state champion in the mile as a sister. Colleges will be lining up for a scholarship offer next season I am sure.”
Golden Eagle junior teammate Kyle Updike jumped 6-2 in the high jump to place seventh.
“For Kyle to place as a junior is a huge experience. He has been a model of consistency all season long. Kyle would have placed even higher. In as his second jump at 6-4 Kyle looked to have cleared it and for some reason the bar trickled off. I told Kyle if he could make all his heights clean up to 6-4 he would place and he did. The nice thing is that almost all of the state place winners were senior and Kyle should have a great opportunity to place higher next season.”
The Tyrone 400 relay was 14th in 44.63 and If not for an unfortunate thumb injury at the start of the preliminaries, could have medaled. “ I am sure the 400 relay team could have broken the school record and made it to the finals. The team ran well placing in the middle of the pack and they got their district championship which they wanted badly,” said coach Yaniello.
Finally, in the long jump Larry Glace finished in 21st place (20-1/2) “Larry Glace in his first year as a competitor at states has one thing going for him, ‘he’s back.’, explained Yaniello. Like Ingle and Updike, Larry will have another year to improve and this years experience at states will only make him work harder to get back.
“He had a outstanding season sprinting and jumping. Last week at the football combine at Bald Eagle Larry had the fastest 40 time 4.45 and the best standing broad jump among all area football players.
“Not bad for a linemen as we always joke to him. Track has really helped Larry get faster and we are expecting great things from him next year.”