FAIRVIEW PARK — The Buckeye boys track team’s title defense at the Patriot Athletic Conference Meet will be much more difficult. If the Bucks win their eighth straight title Thursday, they will have to do it without senior Caleb Kupetz.
Kupetz is nursing a slightly tweaked right hamstring aggravated Friday at the Jim Hauser Pirate Relays at Perkins High School. The defending 400-meter champion should be back for districts.
“We’ll be fine,” Buckeye junior Lee Mandanici said. “We’re very strong in the distance events.”
Mandanici had the No. 1 qualifying time in the 400 meters (53.35). He also qualified sixth in the 100 and eighth in the 400. Sam Johnson earned the top seed in the 110 high hurdles (16.44).
“Our distance team can carry us,” Mandanici said. “I think we’ll be fine. We have a good shot.”
Distance team translates primarily to senior Ryan Gallagher, who will shoot for his third straight conference wins in the 1,600 and 3,200. He also will defend his meet title in the 800.
For his career, Gallagher has seven conference championships, which include wins as a member of the 4×800 relay in 2010 and ’11. He is the PAC record-holder for the 800 (2:00.20) and 3,200 (10:06.0).
“The key is just staying confident,” Gallagher said. “Everyone’s going to be tired. It’s just a matter of staying focused and hitting your splits. Chances are you’re not going to PR. It’s just about placement.”
A sweep by Gallagher in his three events would give him 10 conference wins, second only to Buckeye’s Shawn Cordes (11, 2007-10) and just ahead of Buckeye’s Kyle Miller (9, 2006-09) and Jake Boettner (8, 2007-10).
Gallagher’s 2:03.5 anchor split in the 4×800 rallied Buckeye from fifth to second. Gallagher teamed with his brother Aidan, Sean Spence and Bob Auber to clock 8:36.76. Only Fairview’s meet-record 8:20.81 was better.
The Bucks’ Tyler Yurik was second in the pole vault to Keystone’s Ben Gawen. Both cleared 12-0, but Gawen won on fewer misses.
Action will resume Thursday with field events at 4 p.m. and running events at 5.
Contact Paul Heyse at (440) 329-7135 or email@example.com.