PITTSBURGH – The wait could not possibly have been any longer.
And it felt that way for Washington High School’s 1,600-meter relay team of Elijah Ellerman, DeQuay Isbell, Darius Spinks and Quorteze Levy.
After opening Thursday’s WPIAL individual track and field championships at Baldwin High School by finishing second in the 3,200 relay – it was the first race the Prexies lost all season, despite a season-best time of 8:16.99 – Wash High’s foursome had about eight hours to stew over the result.
“I wanted redemption,” Ellerman said.
Redemption the Prexies got. Spinks ran the second leg and pushed the Prexies in front, as they finished with a WPIAL-record time of 3:24.79, making what looked to be a bad day turn out alright.
“We had the willpower and we came out and got it done,” Levy said.
Of all people, Levy would know about bouncing back.
Levy entered the WPIAL meet as one of the favorites in the hurdles, but he finished fourth in the 110 (15.44), second in the 300 (39.10). No matter. Levy shook off the previous disappointments to help his team win gold in the last event of the night.
“I didn’t do as well as I wanted to do,” Levy said. “But we knew we had a chance to get the record, and we put it all on the line. Whatever I had left, I just put it out there.”
The win marks the third straight year Wash High won the 1,600 relay and the second time in three years the Prexies have set the record. Credit much of this year’s title to Spinks, who took the baton and quickly pushed the Prexies in front.
“I’m so used to running it, for three years now we’ve won gold in this, and I’m used to the bends and stuff,” Spinks said.
The beginning part of the meet looked like more of a domination of field events for Wash High. Spinks won the long jump with a distance of 22-7 1/2. Shai McKenzie took the shot put with a personal-best mark of 53-1. And Josh Wise won a second consecutive WPIAL Class AA title in the high jump by clearing 6-6.
Wise won another gold medal as a part of the first-place 400-relay team – the school’s first gold medal in that event since 2001 – alongside Spinks, McKenzie and Malik Wells.
“I can’t even describe it,” said Wise, who never really struggles to describe anything. “Since track started I’ve been dreaming about what it would be like to go back-to-back. To also be a part of a 4x100 team, it’s one of the greatest feelings I think I’ve ever felt in my life.”
McKenzie’s title comes after he decided this season – almost for kicks – to take the shot put more seriously. Before, he threw it casually. He consulted with throwing coach Chet Henderson yesterday, who told him to “Get your chest up, speed across the ring.”
McKenzie went from 50-6 to 53-1 and blew past South Park’s Ryan Smider, who finished second with a toss of 51-7.
“I was pretty happy with that, but I knew I had to throw better because the guys from South Park are pretty good,” McKenzie said.
Spinks’ long jump title was his first individually. He credited the board at Baldwin and his work as a sprinter for how he pulled this one out.
“I’m just used to jumping at Baldwin,” said Spinks, who became the first Wash High athlete since Trayor Lesnock (1997-2000) to qualify for states four years in a row. “I’ve been here since I was a freshman. I got used to the board this year, and I did what I had to do.”