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Radzik plays elder statesman for William Penn

Maybe it was fate or perhaps coincidence that spurred Andrew Radzik do a fourth-grade project on legendary runner Jesse Owens. It helped lay the foundation for the William Penn long jumper’s love affair with track and field.

“He was an inspiration,” the senior said before a recent track and field practice. And while that fourth-grade project set the stage for Radzik, the 2012 Olympics ignited his desire to participate in the sport.

That was when Radzik watched Jamaica's 400-meter relay team break the world record, anchored by Usain Bolt's  final leg.

“I remember watching it,” he said. “It looked fun. ... The (400 relay), that’s the most exciting race, and I remember seeing it, and you want to be part of it. Then when you’re actually part of (the team) it’s like, you wanna stay there.

“You want to stay on the team, so that’s the one thing that drove me.”

Now in his fourth year of track and field, Radzik is a rare commodity for William Penn head coach Tony Jones. The Bearcats enter the 2016 season with only three senior boys on the squad — Radzik being one of them. More than half the boys' team consists of freshman.

Jones said he knows his young team will have ups and downs this season. That’s what makes having an athlete like Radzik so important.

“He’s one of those kind of guys that you look up to because he’s always there,” Jones said. “He’s always going to be in the mix of everything, good or bad. We’re going to go through some trouble at times. Kids running, kids not running, kids coming late to practice. … He’s not fastest kid on our team, but he’s the one I can look up to. I can know if I put him in an event, he’ll do what I ask him to do.”

Radzik didn’t appear nervous when he talked about taking a leadership role this season, although it goes against his personality. He described himself as an introvert who usually likes to be by himself.

Still, he is embracing the role.

“At first whenever I try something new I’m kind of apprehensive about it,” Radzik said. “But then I usually try to look at it optimistically, and it usually ends up turning out good. That’s what I’ve learned as a senior is don’t be afraid to try anything new.”

He added: “It’s just experience. I’ve seen how the leaders last year led. All I have to do is just encourage my team and provide whatever leadership I can.”

Defending champs

YAIAA Division I: South Western

YAIAA Division II: Gettysburg

YAIAA Division III: Littlestown