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ALUMNI REPORT: Walsh, Grula return to state track championships

SCRANTON – JB Hoops alums Lexi Walsh and Joey Grula once again made the most of another athletic outlet to display their running and jumping abilities.

The two basketball all-stars also showed off their endurance and the ability to perform under pressure while assuring that their high school athletic careers would conclude on another big stage when they earned return trips to the May 25-26 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University.

Walsh, from Holy Cross, won a pair of District 2 Class 2A girls championships Thursday at Scranton Memorial Stadium.

Hazleton Area’s Grula earned a pair of silver medals in District 2 Class 3A boys Monday and, in both cases, met the lofty state standards necessary to qualify without winning an event. Those marks are hard to hit, particularly on the Class 3A level, and essentially reserved for athletes who have the potential to contend for state medals even though they did not win their district championships.

Walsh pulled off a difficult double on the district level, winning the two longest races. She repeated as 3200-meter run champion and also won the 1600.

In the 1600, Walsh held off fellow state qualifier Victoria James from Lackawanna Trail, who ran with her for much of the race, to win in 5:14.86.

Walsh won the 3200 by 13.68 seconds in 11:59.75. The state cross country medalist, who is headed to Temple University as a distance runner, scratched from the 3200 for the state meet in order to concentrate on the 1600.

Grula, who has committed to continue his academic and athletic careers in the Ivy League at Brown University for track and field, was second in the high jump and javelin.

The defending champion in the javelin, Grula took the early lead and secured his state berth on the first attempt with a throw of 185-4. The state standard was 178-0. He lost out to Penn recruit Marc Anthony Minichello, one of the nation’s top high school performers in the event.

Qualifying in the triple jump was not quite as easy for Grula. Chasing the needed length of 45-0, he was between 44-6 ¾ and 44-11 ¼ four times. He went 45-10 ¾ on his final attempt.

Hazleton Area finished sixth out of 19 Class 3A boys teams with Grula and Jeff Planutis, a JB Hoops Callahan and Cougars basketball teammate, contributing.

Planutis finished third in the high jump, clearing 6-3.

A current JB Hoops girls player used her speed to medal in two events.

Susquehanna sophomore Taylor Huyck from the JB Hoops Coleman team was fifth in the 200-meter dash in 27.55 seconds and sixth in the 100 in 13.53.

The top six in each event earned medals and the top eight scored points for their teams.

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