PITTSBURGH – Washington High School junior DeQuay Isbell would not allow strong winds and rain to stop him from following in his cousin’s footsteps.
Isbell, whose cousin is former Prexies and current Pitt standout Dustin Fuller, placed second Thursday in the Class AA 400-meter dash with a time of 50.62 to earn a trip to the PIAA Track & Field Individual Championships at Shippensburg University next weekend.
Isbell benefited from not having to wait until Saturday to run after the WPIAL Individual Track & Field Championships were postponed after half the events were completed. The remainder of the events will be finished Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. with the pole vault and 300 hurdles.
Officials had hoped the worst of the weather had passed but during the 400-meter relay, heavy rains began to fall again, causing the postponement.
While the temperature steadily dropped, causing athletes to bundle up and find cover, Isbell did not let the weather to throw off his performance.
The junior, who is in his third year as the Prexies’ competitor in the 400, benefitted from seeing Fuller compete.
Fuller – who won two PIAA and four WPIAL titles in his career - often returns to Washington to work with Isbell and share pointers on how to train. Seeing the success Fuller has achieved is one of the many driving influences for Isbell.
“I want to maintain the improvement that I’ve made the past couple of years and I always remember whenever I’m doing bad to keep (Fuller) in my mind, and that helps me straighten myself out. That’s what I had to do today,” Isbell said while shaking off the shivering cold.
Isbell displayed shades of Fuller when he overcame a slow start with a steady rain in his face Thursday. The junior finished second behind Kenny Baurle of Avonworth (50.08).
“It feels great,” Isbell said of qualifying for the state meet. “I can’t really take too much from this race. It’s a bad day with bad weather. I’m making states, and hopefully we get good weather there and change the outcome.”
Aside from Fuller, Isbell has the advantage of training next to two of the WPIAL’s top competitors – seniors Chase Caldwell and Quorteze Levy. Levy did not an opportunity to compete in the 300 hurdles, but did run the final leg of Washington’s gold medal 3,200-relay. Levy was joined by D’Heaven Kelley, Del Bredniak and Ben Heim, who finished in 8:05.84 – almost nine seconds faster than second-place Beaver.
“Having guys like Chase and Quorteze with me every day helps me out,” Isbell said. “Those two always keep me motivated, and watching them work only makes me better.”
South Fayette’s Mitch Valko, who qualified for the PIAA Championships last year, earned a return trip to Shippensburg with a third-place finish in the Class AAA 110 hurdles.
Valko, who will compete in the 300 hurdles Saturday, set a personal best and a meet record with a time of 14.20, but he was not the only one with a record-setting day. Senior Matthew Bernadowski of Elizabeth Forward placed first with a time of 14.00 and Gateway senior and Michigan State football recruit Montae Nicholson took second at 14.08.
Although Valko would have liked a gold medal around his neck, he was not surpised to see his big day trumped by his competition.
“It says a lot about the type of athletes those guys are,” Valko said. “You can expect the medal stand to be pretty much the same next weekend. The WPIAL has the best athletes and the best competition makes me better. I’ll miss not racing those guys next year.”
Canon-McMillan senior Alec Rideout was one of many athletes who was affected by the rain. Rideout placed fourth in the shot put with a throw of 54-0 and threw just over 117-0 in his first attempt at the discus. He did finish second in the event with a throw of 159-8.
“The weather got in my head,” Rideout said. “That was a big problem. I was freaking out because I’d be mad if I didn’t get to states in the discus. My mentality was to come here and make states and that’s what I did.”
Others boys qualifying for the state meet were Fort Cherry’s Zak Dysert in the Class AA shot put and discus, Canon-McMillan’s 3,200-relay team in Class AAA and California’s Gavin Anderson in Class AA 100-meter dash.