ROYERSFORD — For four years, Methacton has been trying to deliver the knock out punch to the Spring-Ford boys track and field team.
On Wednesday, the Warriors pushed the Rams to the very end. But once again, no luck.
The Spring-Ford boys beat Methacton, 79.5-70.5, and crushed Boyertown 124-26, in a Pioneer Athletic Conference double dual sweep at Spring-Ford's Coach McNelly Stadium.
The Methacton boys only dual losses have come to the Rams in each of the past four seasons, as have their PAC-10 Championships defeats for those years.
Methacton did prevail over Boyertown, 105-45, on the boys side.
The Methacton girls, who haven't lost a league meet in ages, made it a sweep of their own, beating Spring-Ford, 111-39, and Boyertown, 95.5-54.5.
The rising Boyertown girls beat Spring-Ford, 87-63.
This time, though, the Rams and Warriors boys fight went right down to the final round. Just as the Spring-Ford boys thought they had it all wrapped up, the Warriors' young whippersnapper Nick Shaffer, only a sophomore, almost delivered the final blow, running anchor in the 4x400 relay and pulling out the upset relay win.
Now it was up to the Rams javelin throwers, the last event still going, to pull it out.
Up on the hill and away from the track, top Rams' throwers Brandon Palaia and Brandon Leacraft had no clue it was all depending on them. But they went 1-2, with Palaia winning with a 179-1, Leacraft second with a 163-7.
"Really? I had no idea,' Palaia said, when he finally came wandering down that hill and was told the two just pulled out the win for the Rams.
"I just threw how I always throw, nice and relaxed,' Palaia said. "I've got to clear mind before I throw. I feel good about winning it for the team.'
The Methacton girls were also led by one of their young standouts in sophomore Caroline Duffy, who nailed down four wins, taking the 300 hurdles (45.7), by holding off Boyertown standout Alex Heuer (46.1). Duffy also won the 100 meters (12.6), the 200 (25.6) and ran on the Warriors' winning 4x100 relay.
"This is only the second time I've run the hurdles in my whole track career, so it feels good to win,' Duffy said. "I just wanted something new to try and I always thought it looked like a really fun event. So I just wanted to give it a go. Running against Alex (Heuer) really pushed me because I know she is very, very talented. We had definitely heard about her, so that kind of motivated me to try even harder.'
And after eight straight undefeated seasons and five straight PAC-10 championships, veteran Methacton girls coach Rob Ronzano always reminds them not to get overconfident.
"He always says, go into every meet like a fresh slate, don't rely on our past wins, make it a fresh, clean start and do what you can do,' Duffy said. "We never let those past wins get to our heads.'
Shaffer, meanwhile, wasn't even on the Warriors' radar screen last season. But he won three events, also taking the 100 (10.8), the 200 (22.3), along with that relay win, and taking second in the 400 behind Rams standout David O'Such.
"I worked really hard to be where I am right now,' Shaffer said. "A lot of lifting and working hard on the track. They (the Rams) are very good competitors. And we were a little more pumped today because they are one of the teams that we always look forward to try and beat. It's nice to be on the track with them. It's a big deal to me because I've always heard of the times they beat us, the many years. It's good to have a chance to try and beat them.'
But again it wasn't to be though, obviously, it was a tight race right to the end.
"We're not worried about it,' Rams standout David O'Such said at the midway mark. "I have really strong faith in my teammates. I said to them after the 100, ' I think we're losing on the track today. Let's see if we can change that.' We have so much talent, great senior leadership. There's really not a weak spot on our team.'
In a photo finish with three racers finishing in 10.8, Shaffer got the win ahead of Spring-Ford's Joe Bush and O'Such.
"I just came off a good 400 win,' O'Such said. "And I believe in our 4x100 guys, that they can execute handoffs and take that one fast. And I always believe in our 200 and Joe Bush against that kid (Shaffer). We didn't get him in the 100, but I think we can take that 200.'
But Bush could not, again taking second to Shaffer. And Methacton won both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
But Rams senior hurdler Ryan Connelly sure wasn't going to be outdone by anybody, winning both the 300 (39.3) and the 110 (14.5) hurdles.
"We're going for the PAC-10 championship again, Connelly said. "We are really deep and very strong again this year again so I think we're continuing it well during this meet. Methacton is really the only challenger to us. So this is always our biggest meet of the year. We've never lost to them all my four years. And this meet was really important to all the seniors. We wouldn't want to break that streak.'
The Methacton girls had one of their standouts missing in Nicolette Serratore due to injury. But, along with Duffy, Warriors distance standout Kara Steinke won the 1,600 (5:22.9) and the 3,200 (11:34.1) easily.
"We knew it was going to be very competitive today against two really good teams,' Steinke said. "Everyone just went out and did what they had to do. I know I have a lot of goals still for this season. I just have to work on listening to my body because we have a lot of meets and it's a long season. One of my main goals is to stay strong throughout because I tend to peak way early. This is my last season, I want to give it all I got.'
And the great performance by the Boyertown girls in holding off tough Spring-Ford should not be totally overshadowed. Seniors Jill Bertino, Alex Heuer, Rebecca Hemingway, and Erin Aiken certainly held their own against both Methacton and Spring-Ford, with Bertino winning the 400 (59.8), Akins the 800 (2:23.3), Heuer the triple jump (35-9), and Bears freshman Hemingway the high jump (5-1).
"Kind of intimidating, but in the end it's just another meet,' Bertino said. "You don't want to let that get in you way.'
Akins battled injuries her sophomore and junior years.
"This is really my break-out season,' Akins said. "I did lacrosse my freshman year, did winter track my sophomore year and liked it. But in the spring I got shin splits that turned into stress fractures. So I was very injured my sophomore and junior year. But this year I've been healthy. It's exciting today. We were very nervous going into this, but it's been a good meet.'
Maybe Hemingway, in only her first year, is not as aware of those Warriors long undefeated history.
"We knew it was going to pretty hard,' Henningway said. "I feel pretty good winning the high jump because I beat my previous PR, which was 5 feet. So I think I'll get even better through the season and I feel pretty good about it. It'll be fun. Today I pushed even harder because when I go up against people that could be kind of intimidating, it makes me work harder because I'm not exactly that tall.'
Sure, it's only the second week of the track and field season. But this was definitely one of the premier double duals of the year.
"One week at a time,' Ronzano said, when asked if they can stay undefeated again, win that title again.
"We were a little short-handed today with a couple of injuries, but the kids who needed to step up did. Caroline Duffy was one of them, but we had a lot of young kids step up. And the veterans as well. Everybody played their part and they did it extremely well.'
Spring-Ford veteran coach Ken DeAngelo has been doing that even longer than Ronzano, 18 years as head coach, three decades overall. Maybe that is why he is not quite as generous with his praise.
"What this win means to me is that some kids stepped up, and others stepped down,' DeAngelo said. "So the kids have to determine whether they want a championship or whether just want to coast along as some of them are. Yes, I'm complaining a little bit because points you expect senior boys to get it, and they don't get them. Not because of effort, I think it's a lack of focus. And let me give Methacton credit; they have a very, very good team. In that 4x4, we run a 3:24 and lose! Some of our kids did really well, others we needed points and didn't get them. And with the way the way the league is set up now, you don't get any points for dual wins and everybody goes into the championship meet with the same opportunity.
"But I'm not complaining, a win is a win.'