Gerlach conquers grueling stretch at districts

Posted: May 20, 2012

To win two grueling races within a four-hour span, Pennridge senior Tori Gerlach not only overcame a physical challenge, but showed her mettle, too.

The reigning state champion in the Class AAA 3,200-meter run, Gerlach opened the District 1 track and field championships Saturday by winning the 3,200, breaking the event record by 7.58 seconds with a time of 10 minutes, 24.19 seconds.

After some ice, time in the shade, and a leg massage from her mother, Gerlach bounced back to claim her second straight 1,600 title in 4:53.18, her second-fastest time, just hours later.

For Gerlach, it was mind over body.

"It's mentally hard," the Penn State recruit said. ". . . It's just mentally hard because . . . you set a record in the two-mile, you run as fast as you can, and you come back in the mile and it's like 'Oh no, what am I going to do?' But it seemed to go well."

Gerlach's double win spurred Pennridge to its second Class AAA district girls' championship, and first since 1983, with 52 team points at Coatesville.

Gerlach was the Rams' lone champ this weekend, as the rest of the roster accumulated a bevy of medals in other events, including second place in the 4x100 relay. Freshman Marissa Sheva placed second, behind Gerlach, in the 1,600, as well.

There were three other team champions Saturday.

With 71 points, the Strath Haven boys won their first district title since 1994. Panthers coach Bob Jesson, who has won five district titles in 30 years of coaching at Strath Haven and Penn Wood, said this is the best all-around team he has had.

The Panthers had three event champions: Chris Williams, the reigning state champ, won the 110-meter hurdles. Teammate Wellington Zaza took second in that race, adding a championship in the triple jump. Zaza and Williams also helped the team's 4x100 relay earn gold, alongside James Griffin and Taron Howie.

Christopher Dock, with 12 medalists, won its first AA district boys' title, earning 159 points. Dock accounted for five champions: Derek Godshall in the discus, Evan Scott in the pole vault, Charlie Frank in the 1,600, Tyler Denlinger in the triple jump, and the 4x800 relay of Frank, Godshall, Denlinger, and Andrew Johnson.

Villa Joseph Marie won its fourth straight AA girls' championship with 205 points, claiming winners in six events. Villa's day was highlighted by Mary Newell, who defended her titles in the discus and shot put. Junior Leah Patrick defended her title in the 400, and Villa's 4x100 relay broke the district record, running the race in 49 seconds flat.

Meanwhile, star Penn Wood sprinter Eric Futch claimed two individual championships, setting meet records in both the 300 hurdles and 200 dash. Futch, a Houston signee, took bronze in the 100 dash, and was set to compete with the Patriots' 4x400 relay before a late disqualification.

Futch was told to exit the infield after a verbal exchange with a meet referee as he sought shade under a tent and waited to receive a medal at the nearby podium. The ref then disqualified him from the day's final event.

Futch, Penn Wood coaches, and meet officials declined comment. His status for the PIAA championships next weekend at Shippensburg University is uncertain.

The Strath Haven girls' 4x800 relay team of Allie Wilson, Kristen Miller, Megan O'Dell, and Hannah Grossman broke a one-year-old district record in the event by nearly two seconds, turning in a winning time of 9:04.65.

Upper Moreland's Drew Magaha broke his own record in the boys' 1,600, winning his third district title with a time of 4:08.94. Despite battling lingering effects of mononucleosis, and losing 18 pounds, Magaha broke his own record by 2.05 seconds.

Gwynedd-Mercy's Emma Keenan won her third straight district title in the 800 with a record time of 2:08.08.


Contact Evan Burgos at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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