More physical Futch is quadruple threat for Penn Wood

Posted: April 11, 2011

Last year, Eric Futch would kind of complain. He admits he wasn't able to do all the things Penn Wood track and field coach Lenny Jordan asked.

"He hasn't complained as much as last year," Jordan said. "It was a lot for him because he was a little guy, but he's got a little bigger and a little stronger."

Futch, a junior, didn't experience an abnormal growth spurt in the offseason - he sprouted from about 5 feet, 9 inches to 6 feet, gained three or four pounds, he said. But that smidgen of added physicality - or perhaps just some added maturity - is enabling Futch to finally do with confidence what Jordan has been asking for two seasons: compete in four events.

A few athletes on Penn Wood's team go four events deep, but Futch is arguably the team's top athlete. His go-to events are the 110 and 300 hurdles, but he also runs the 4x400 and 4x100 relays and the 100, 200, and 400-meter dashes. Whichever mix of those races he runs just depends on the meet.

This past winter at an indoor event, he even tried his hand at the long jump - the first time he ever competed in the event - and won it.

"I have speed and I have strength," said Futch, whose best and favorite event is the 300 hurdles. "So I think I can do anything that he asks me to do."

Through the first four meets this season, Futch has won all but one individual event he's raced. Moreover, Jordan has a clearer plan for how to use Futch in multiple events. Last year, Futch strained a muscle in his back running events back-to-back.

"I just know I have the strength to go out and do whatever he asks me," Futch said. "I do whatever he asks me to do."

Looking ahead. The Abington girls' track and field team, to be honest, doesn't care so much about the Suburban One League title, head coach Brian Deck says.

With such a gifted group, the Ghosts tend to put extra emphasis on bigger, more prestigious races.

"We focus more on the state meet and the national meet than we do the Suburban One meet," Deck said. "It's more important to us."

To be fair, Deck and the team doesn't entirely discount league competition. If they have the opportunity to win, they sure aren't going to give it away. As competitors, when the time comes, they're going after it. But . . .

"I don't like beating up the team for the league title if they have a shot to win the state title," Deck said.

When you're dealing with a team that won the PIAA AAA state championship two seasons ago, finished third last year, and is coming off an indoor state championship, it's only natural to think big.

It's a star-studded team. Leah Nugent, a Virginia Tech recruit, has owned the District 1 100 and 300 hurdles title for the last two seasons. Jordan Matthews, a junior, is the reigning state champ in the long jump.

They join senior Nicole Grasty and junior Rachel Strother on Abington's 4x400 relay team that won the district title and was runner up at states a year ago.

The foursome won the 4x200 and 4x400 at indoor states this winter. Those are the headliners on a team that, as of now, is using meets to gear up for the Penn Relays (April 28-30). After that are the state and national meets, plus the district championship right before.

"I think we'll be again pretty strong outdoors," Deck said plainly. "I think we have a good shot to win it again."

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