Future Ohio State University wide receiver Julian Fleming will leave Southern Columbia after only two seasons as a member of the Tigers track and field team. But in those two seasons, the rising senior turned in one jaw-dropping performance after another, assuring his place among the school’s best.
Fleming, who was at the top of his game despite the pressures of an intense recruitment process for the nation’s No. 1-rated junior football player, carted home four medals (two individual) from the PIAA Class 2A championships in Shippensburg.
The News-Item boys track Athlete of the Year as a freshman, Fleming missed his sophomore year because of a football injury and will forego his senior season to enroll early at Ohio State.
But in his one-year return, Fleming earns his second News-Item Athlete of the Year honor in as many seasons after earning silver medals in the long jump and the 100 along with helping the 4 x 100 (fourth) and 4 x 400 (fifth) relays to medals in Shippensburg.
The three-sport star (he was also a basketball standout), was a must-see during track season, whether he was running scorching times in the 100-meter dash, soaring to victories in the long jump or making remarkable runs to help his relay teammates reach new heights.
Yet, despite Fleming’s hectic schedule, Southern Columbia head coach Lanny Connor said his junior star gave him everything he had and then some.
Conner recalled telling Fleming the morning of the Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference championships at Central Columbia High School, before the start of the 100 trials, that, because of his heavy workload (he was running the 100s, two relays and doing the long jump) that he should just win and advance and not try to go all out for the best times.
“I told him he had a serious workload for a one-day meet, but he would have nothing to do with that,” Conner said. “And I think some of it is, he recognized that every once in a while, you’re going to catch one (outstanding time) and you never know when it‘s going to happen.”
Indeed, Fleming caught a couple of them on that day.
He ran, a then, career-best 11.06 in the 100 trials and repeated that time to win the gold. It was the beginning of a streak of six races in which he bettered or equaled his previous best time, capped by his 10.86 in the state meet preliminaries.
But there was more. In the finals of the PHAC 4 x 100, Fleming took the anchor baton in fifth place and burst right through the middle of the lead pack like a running back through a gaping hole and rocketed to the line for the win as the Tigers recorded a 43.68.
A visibly exhausted Fleming finished the day by running the third leg of the 4 x 400, which finished third.
Conner said Fleming happily competed in four events during the season, only missing a few weekend events early on when he was taking college visits.
“He was kind of sharing time around a little bit but once the trips were all done, and I suspect he had a pretty good idea what he was going to do, I think he knew he had the opportunity to kind of push this thing and see what he could do with it,” Conner said of Fleming’s attitude toward the track season.
The coach added, “And obviously he is a real competitive kind of kid.”
Fleming’s personal-best 23-10 ¾ long jump in April at the Lock Haven University High School Classic broke the 30-year-old school record of Bryan Delsite and he and his teammates broke the school record in the 4 x 100 with their 42.72 in the D4 meet.
In addition to two-time selection Fleming, the 2019 all-star team includes five who are named to the team for the third year in a row: Shamokin’s Marshall Buggy and Joey Masser, Southern Columbia’s Ethan Knoebel and Troy Donlan and Mount Carmel’s Tanner Karycki.
Southern’s Gaige Garcia and Mount Carmel’s Krystof Lapotsky are each returning all-star selections.
First-timers this year are Shamokin’s Billy Delbaugh and Brian Hornberger, Mount Carmel’s Andrew Rooney and Southern’s Nate Crowl, Damien Ares and Jake Rose.
Marshall Buggy, Shamokin, sr.
Continuing to work to lower his hurdle times paid off for Buggy as he peaked during the latter stages of the season, pushing talented Williamsport sophomore Allen Taylor to even better times. Buggy ran personal bests of 14.78 seconds in the 110 high hurdles and a school-record 39.26 in the 300 hurdles in the District 4 Class 3A meet, earning him his first trip to the state championships. He ranked No. 2 in the D4-3A in the 100s, third in the 300s and was also fifth in the 200 dash and 6th in the 100.
Billy Delbaugh, Shamokin, jr.
Delbaugh had the best performance among the locals this season in two events. He went 43 feet, 1 ½ inches in the triple jump early in the season and ran the 400 meters in 51.61 at the PHAC meet.
He also ran a leg of the 4x400 which finished second to Williamsport in the D4-3A meet in 3:29.08 and on the D4 runner-up (to Shikellamy) 4x100 (43.18). Delbaugh had the Indians’ third best long jump of the season at 20-4 and was also third in the 200 (24.44).
Ethan Knoebel, Southern Columbia, sr.
The St. Francis University of Pa.-bound Knoebel ran the fastest time of anyone in D4-2A in the 1,600 at 4:21.42 (at the D4 meet) and placed sixth in the PIAA meet. He ranked No 4 in the district in the 800 with a 2:00.53, although he had run sub-2:00s a few times as a junior, including his school-record 1:58.89. He was named The News-Item’s Athlete of the Year for boys track after that season.
He also ran legs on the Tigers’ medal-winning 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams this year. He leaves as the school’s record holder in the 1,600 with a 4:20.56 and is second all-time at Southern in the 3,200 at 9:57.21.
Krystof Lapotsky, Mount Carmel, jr.
Lapotsky was D4-2A’s top-ranked 3,200 runner with a clocking of 9:22.71 and a key to the post-season success of the Red Tornadoes’ 4 x 800 team, which ran 8:02.44 to win the D4 title. He also ran the 1,600 at the PHAC meet in a personal-best 4:27.65.
Brian Hornberger, Shamokin, jr.
A relative newcomer to the shot put, Hornberger became a threat to win any meet in this, his second season, of competition. He fell short of his goal of reaching 50 feet but made it to the state meet with a D4-3A gold medal with a put of 49-9 ½.
Troy Donlan, Southern Columbia, sr.
Donlan, who had a best of 50-1/2 in the shot put, qualified for his first state meet with a runner-up distance of 48-10 in the D4-2A. He also had a team-best 127-7 in the discus at the PHAC meet.
The Tiger standout, who is also headed to St. Francis (Pa.) to continuing his throwing career, has the eighth best shot put at Southern with a 50-6.
Nate Crowl, Southern Columbia, jr.
Plagued by a thumb injury which caused him to alter his release, the Tigers’ javelin thrower still had a fine season, capped by his season-best 174-8 to take third in the PHAC championships. That throw ranks him sixth in the school record book. Crowl’s break-through moment came at the Gerald Breslin Invitational at Mount Carmel in April when he won with a throw of 170-3 and he finished fourth in the D4-2A meet with a 164-8.
Crowl ended the season with the district’s No. 3 ranking for the season in 2A.
Joey Masser, Shamokin, jr.
After winning the D4-3A high jump gold medal as a sophomore, Masser was not used in that event all season until he convinced the coaches to let him have a shot in the school’s annual Purple and White Invitational in April. Masser rewarded the coaches with a jump of 6-5 (his best the season before was 5-10). Masser tried a few times to hit the school record of 6-8 (by current Susquehanna University standout Chris Petraskie), but did win his second district gold and a trip to states.
He capped his season with a 6-2 in the state meet, good for 13th place.
Damien Ares, Southern Columbia, sr.
Ares was a key cog in the Tigers’ outstanding 4x100 and 4 x 400 relay teams and had the team’s best time in the 400 at 51.68 (in the D4-2A meet).
Ares ran the third leg on the 4 x 100 which broke the school record with a 42.72 to win the D4-2A title and anchored the 4x400 which posted a season-best 3:24.74. The 4 x 100 was No. 1 and the 4 x 400 was No. 2 in the final D4-2A rankings.
Andrew Rooney, Mount Carmel, jr.
Rooney anchored the Red Tornadoes’ 4x800 relay team that won the D4-2A title with an 8:02.44 and finished on the medals stand at the state meet, taking fifth with an 8:09.71.
Rooney had the best times on the team in both the 400 (51.69) and 800 (2:00.83).
He also ran the lead leg on the 4x400 relay unit that qualified for the state meet with a fourth-place finish in the D4-2A meet at 3:26.86.
Jake Rose, Southern Columbia, fr.
Rose served notice early on that he was a future star as ran a personal-best (and team fastest) 14.94 in the 110 hurdles to take fourth in the PHAC meet and qualified for the state meet with a runner-up 15.05 in the D4-2A meet. His PHAC time ranks him third all-time at Southern. He is ninth in the 300 hurdles at 41.75.
He qualified for the semis in the state meet, but fell after hitting a hurdle, denying him a shot in the finals.
Rose also ran the lead leg of the Tigers’ record-setting 4 x 100 relay.
Gaige Garcia, Southern Columbia, jr.
Garcia had another strong year as a sprinter but his most notable contribution to the Tigers as they finished third in the PIAA-2A team standings was as a member of the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relay teams.
He had the team’s second-best time in the 100 (1.54), the 200 (24.24) and the 400 (54.03).
Tanner Karycki, Mount Carmel, battled with an injury but had the best time on the team in the 100 at 11.41 and second-best in the 200 at 24.14. He also had the team-best long jump (21-11/2) and was fourth in that event at the PHAC meet at 20-6.
Karycki also ran a leg on the successful 4 x 400 relay team.
Southern Columbia: Stone Hollenbach, Kole Biscoe, Jake Davis.
Mount Carmel: Shane Weidner, Derek Lawler, Dylan Pupo, Avery Demko.
Shamokin: Matt Schiccatano, Dennis Cole, Ian Paul, Wolfgang Pearson, Cliff Zheng, Ethan Tharp, Conner Anascavage, Matt Knowles, Blake Zalar, Nate Grimes.