SHIPPENSBURG - As Seth Worthing entered the last turn of the anchor leg of the Class AA boys 1600-meter relay, he realized he was so focused on the race that he seemed to be missing something.
"I saw the guys in front of me,'' Worthing said, drawing laughs from his teammates, "and I guess I forgot to breathe. On that final stretch, I freaked out.''
In the end, it was Bellwood-Antis' Worthing and the Blue Devils taking the crowd's breath away, capping a day they might otherwise want to forget with a performance they'll always remember.
Worthing, Ian O'Shea, Andrew DeGol and Zach Sinisi put aside earlier setbacks to come together and bring silver medals back to the area from the PIAA Track and Field Championships on Saturday. Chestnut Ridge's Matt Dull, meanwhile, took second place with an electrifying effort in the 300 hurdles on a banner day for area Class AA boys at Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Memorial Stadium that also saw Tyrone's Charles Wilson-Adams take the gold and Northern Bedford's Zach Pressel (see related story) finish fourth in the high jump.
"It feels pretty good. We wanted the gold, but coming in second in the state is pretty good,'' Sinisi said.
Sinisi, DeGol, O'Shea and Worthing completed the race in a time of 3 minutes, 23.44 seconds, just 22-hundredths of a second off their pace that was the fastest of the prelims. West Philadelphia Catholic, the top seed entering the meet, ran a 3:21.98, though.
"This definitely ranks up there with my proudest athletic achievements. This team, the day we ran our trials, we had some of the fastest trials Coach [Nick] Lovrich had ever seen. So, we knew that we could do something special this year,'' DeGol said. "We were seeded first, but seeds don't matter.''
The Blue Devils had learned that painfully earlier, when they missed out on a medal in the four-by-100 the only way possible: They were disqualified for dropping the baton in Zone 2. That team included Worthing, O'Shea, DeGol and Worthing's twin brother, Cameron.
Seth Worthing had his hopes for a four-medal meet fall by the wayside earlier when he was eliminated from 100 and 200 contention in the semifinals. Sinisi was knocked out in the 300 hurdles in the preliminaries.
"We were depressed at first, but Coach talked to us and told us we needed to overcome the adversity. We needed to move on, because the four-by-four was our better race of the two. As long as we were still in that race, we were fine,'' O'Shea said.
O'Shea helped to make that happen, moving the Devils from seventh to fourth when he got the baton to Worthing.
"All I could think is to try and get ahead. In the back of my mind, the whole way going around, I had a gold medal in my head,'' O'Shea said.
After regaining his breath and shrugging off a loose number tag from an opponent hitting him in the face as he began down the stretch, Worthing appeared to be boxed in as he closed on the finish line. But the B-A junior found a seam and slipped between the runners from Boiling Springs and Paul Robeson to take silver instead of fourth.
"I think I should have started kicking earlier. I didn't think I had enough, but I guess I did, because I finished strong,'' Worthing said.
Worthing crossed the finish in 11.19 in the 100 semis in Class AA, but that was only good enough for fifth place in his heat, although it would have met the state qualifying standard. Worthing was seventh in his 200 semifinal heat with a time of 23.22.
"I figure that a team medal like this is more important than me getting a seventh or eighth,'' Worthing said. "Not making the finals in the 100 or 200 meant I was fresher for the four-by-four, and that meant my buddies could get there, too.''
The third seed entering the finals and a fifth-place medalist in 2011, Dull covered the 300-meter hurdles in a personal-record 38.12 seconds.
"It means a lot to come out here and place second in the state. It feels great,'' Dull said. "I definitely thought it was possible. You've got three or four other guys running the same time you are, they're going to be pushing you, you're going to be pushing them. It's definitely something I strived for. You can't ask for anything more.''
Washington senior Dustin Fuller won the race, crossing the finish in 37.78. He came up to Dull after they got their medals and gave the Ridge hurdler a hug.
Dull actually had the lead heading down the stretch but couldn't hold off Fuller.
"A couple of [the hurdles], I hit and I landed on the side of my foot and stumbled a little bit. If I didn't do that, I think it would have been a closer race,'' Dull said. "But congratulations to the guy who got first. He's a good kid.''
Dull had the third-best time in the seedings and the third-best of the prelims. His goal entering the season was to better last year's finish, but his aim changed to exceeding his seeding once he reached states
"As soon as I came into this race, I knew I could do better than I did last year,'' Dull said. "I wanted to do it better, for myself.''
A hurdler who met with success since he picked up the event as an eighth-grader, Dull made a minor adjustment for the finals.
"Coach [Bob McVicker] thought I could lean more on the turn, so I did, and it worked out. Little things make the big things happen,'' Dull said. "I felt pretty good. Nothing fazed me. I just came out and ran my race.
It was Dull's last race, too. Although he's heard from some Division I and Division II college track programs, he's going to Allegany in Maryland to pursue a major in physical therapy assistant.
Dull and Central Cambria's Matt Pride both got knocked out of medal contention for the 110 hurdles in the semifinals. Dull still ran a state-qualifying-standard 15.35, but he was sixth in his heat. Pride was one spot behind Dull in the same race, running 15.92.
Cambria Heights' Zack Prohonic qualified for the finals in the Class AA long jump, but missed out on the eighth spot by 1.25 inches with a best jump of 20-10.25. Chestnut Ridge's Michael Young was 12th in the event, jumping 20-3.75.
Tussey Mountain's Gabriel Goizueta finished 12th in the Class AA 3200 with a time of 10:01.72, almost 7 seconds better than his time at districts. Bellwood's Kyle Bartlett made a similar improvement in the race in running a 10:03.41 to place 15th.