Hatboro-Horsham's Berry vaults to record win

Posted: April 29, 2007

Joe Berry did not wait to celebrate.

Upon clearing what at the moment was a Penn Relays-record height, the Hatboro-Horsham pole vaulter rushed over to hug Hatters assistant coaches Bob Ayton and Peter Hischmann.

Then, after clearing a greater height, the senior raced over to reporters and said, "I told you I would clear 16" feet. Berry later added: "We are going to be here for a while."

"I was just sucked up in the moment," he said even later. "Everything was tingling. All the emotions were running through my head."

And with just cause.

Yesterday at Franklin Field, Berry's height of 16 feet, 31/4 inches shattered the high school boys' meet record.

The previous record of 16-01/2 was set in 1991 by Braxton Davenport of Fork Union Military Academy (Va.).

Justin Germani of Daniel Boone (Pa.) finished second yesterday at 15-5. David Slovenski of Brunswick (Maine) was third at 15-1.

"I have been working towards this since my freshman year when I injured my quad and didn't [compete] my entire year," Berry said of the victory. "And when I came back, my coach, Coach Ayton, and my lifting coach, Coach Hischmann, they have been pushing me, pushing me and pushing me towards this day. I'm just glad it happened."

Berry told a reporter earlier this season that his goal was to break the record. He said he knew he would get it after clearing 15-8 on his first attempt.

"I felt myself [going] way over the bar," he said. "I said to myself, 'I better do it or I'd hate myself forever.' "

After clearing two more heights, Berry missed his three attempts at 16-43/4.

"To have a pole vaulter win the pole vault at the Penn Relays is a dream come true," Ayton said.

Abington's Jarret Eaton, William Tennent's James Pittenger and North Penn's 4x800-meter relay also had their dreams come true.

Pittenger was third in the boys' high jump. Eaton finished third in the boys' 400 hurdles. And the Knights quartet of Steve Franks, Brian Quintrell, Justin Bookheimer and Zack Montijo placed fourth in the boys' 4x800 Championship of America final in 7 minutes, 50.77 seconds.

North Penn was the top American team in that race as Jamaica's Kingston College (7:42.45), Calabar (7:47.56) and Jamaica College (7:48.62) swept the first three places.

While the performances of the Knights and Pittenger were expected, Eaton's was not.

Competing in his second-ever 400 hurdles race, Eaton was seeded 20th and placed in an unseeded heat. But in the end, only New Jersey standout Emmanuel Mayers of Lakewood (52.81) and Kyle Rowbotham of Scotch Plains-Fanwood (53.11) ran faster than Eaton (53.26).

"I just wanted to try to see what I could do," Eaton said of running the 400 hurdles. "My coaches pushed me through it. They said I could do it. Now, I got the bronze."

Getting the bronze was something expected of Pittenger.

At 6-63/4, the Pittsburgh signee posted his best effort of the spring. Raymond Higgs of Tabernacle (Bahamas) won the event at 6-9. Chris Copeland of Lakeland (Va.) was the runner-up at 6-8.

"I'm just glad that I came out and did as well as I did," said Pittenger. "During warmups, I wasn't feeling too good. I was kind of worried about clearing the opening height [of 6-3.] But after that, I felt great."

The North Penn runners felt great, too.

After getting the baton in seventh place, Bookheimer ran a third leg of 1:56.7 to pass four runners. Montijo followed with a 1:56.1 anchor split as the Knights crossed the finish line in front of the other American teams.

"I have so much confidence in myself and the guys on my team," Montijo said. "I couldn't see anybody beating us besides the Jamaicans."


Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-8029

or kpompey@phillynews.com.

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