Honesdale's junior high track & field teams are on the verge of winning Lackawanna League championships. All the young Hornets have to do is defeat North Pocono today to complete a perfect regular season.
Under the direction of two young, enthusiastic coaches, Honesdale's junior high track & field program is just one win away from a pair of championships.
Darren Diehl & Tiffany Leventhal are calling the shots for the Hornets, who need only a sweep of North Pocono this afternoon to lock up the Lackawanna League crowns. Both the boys and girls teams are 5-0 in regular season action.
Honesdale's all-important meet with North Pocono will get underway at 4:30 p.m. in Moscow. After that, the Hornets turn their focus to a pair of season-ending events: the Montrose Invitational (Saturday, May 3rd) and the District Two Championships (Saturday, May 10th).
A year ago, the Red & Black turned in two solid performances at the Class AAA meet. Honesdale's boys finished third behind Tunkhannock and North Pocono. The girls also took bronze, trailing just Crestwood and Solomon-Plains in the final standings.
“Coach Leventhal and I are very happy with how the season’s gone so far,” Coach Diehl told TWI Sports. “If we can beat North Pocono, then the sky’s the limit. These kids have really started to come together as a team. I chalk it up to maturity: they’re learning from their mistakes and getting tougher as time goes on.”
In preparation for mega-meets at the end of the season, Honesdale competed at the Crestwood Invitational (April 18th) and the Tunkhannock Relays (April 25th).
The Hornets impressed even their coach in these two events. The local lads finished first in both, leaving Darren Diehl to speculate on the immediate future.
“They really understand what it takes to be successful,” he said. “The boys are working hard every day. They decided right from the start that they wanted to win a district championship, so that’s our goal. We’re taking it one meet at a time, but we’re keeping our eyes focused on that goal.”
At Crestwood, Honesdale dominated its competition and ran away with the crown. The young Hornets piled up 163 team points, finishing far ahead of runner-up Wyoming Area. A total of 14 schools took part in the meet.
Lionel Wilson and Ethan Chapka led the Red & Black attack on this day. Wilson sprinted and leapt his way to three individual gold medals, while Chapka captured two. Both are freshmen, but each took a very different path to success.
Lionel was a baseball player until a year ago, when Coach Diehl helped convince him to come out for track. Wilson proved to be a natural almost from the start...and all that talent was on display at Crestwood. He took first place in both the 100M dash (:11.9) and the 200M (:24.2), then found time to add another gold medal in the long jump (18' 11").
“This is Lionel’s first year of organized track,” said Coach Diehl. “He’s a great kid. I just love to watch him run. It’s very exciting. Lionel seems to have found himself as an athlete and it shows. He’s a great sprinter, but he’s versatile too.”
Chapka is a more seasoned track & field performer. According to his coaches, Ethan has improved by leaps & bounds since last spring. At Crestwood, he broke the tape in both the 800M (2:14) and the 1600M (5"07.6).
“I’m very impressed with Ethan Chapka this year,” said Coach Diehl. “He’s having a phenomenal season. Ethan’s worked really, really hard and become one of our leaders. I’m proud of the maturity he’s showing.”
Dalton Derrick and Thomas Cahill are also making key contributions to the Honesdale cause.
Derrick is a multi-sport athlete who also excels on the wrestling mat. A freshman thrower, Dalton snagged two Top Five spots at Crestwood. He finished second overall in the discus (119’ 4”) and fifth in the shot (40’ 11”).
At a recent tri-meet versus Wallenpaupack Area and DV, Dalton exceeded even those gaudy numbers. He fired the discus a distance of 138’, which was good for first place and is just three feet shy of Honesdale’s junior high school record.
“Dalton is always trying to better himself and he’s going to get that record before the season’s over,” said Coach Diehl of the discus mark, currently held by Justin Highhouse. “Dalton really carries himself well. He works hard at every practice and he’s a big part of our success this year.”
Cahill is quickly becoming one of the region’s best young hurdlers. At the Crestwood Invitational, Thomas posted a pair of second place finishes. He took silver in both the 100M high hurdles (:17.5) and the 300M intermediate (:45).
A year ago as an eight grader, Cahill took second at the District Two junior high meet. Coach Diehl sees nothing to stop him from winning this year as a frosh.
“Thomas is a very quiet, intense kid,” he said. “He’s having a great season so far. He’s a pretty fierce competitor and he hates to lose. Thomas pushes himself very hard.”
Honesdale’s girls also turned in a solid overall performance at the Crestwood Invitational. Coach Leventhal’s squad finished seventh behind the likes of perennial powers Crestwood (11 1 pts), Dallas, Holy Redeemer, Wyoming Area, and Valley West.
“We’ve had a little bit of adversity along the way this year, but the girls are responding well,” said Coach Diehl. “The girls have really started to bond these last couple of weeks. I’m excited to see what they can do at districts.”
Summer Hill and Jana Wilson will lead the charge for Honesdale at North Pocono and beyond.
Hill is just a seventh grader, but she’s already opening eyes all over the league. Summer just started running as a sport this year and is showing signs of becoming one of the region’s top distance specialists.
At Crestwood, Hill finished second in the 800M (2:27.8). She is also clocking in at around 5:35 in the mile. These times have Coach Diehl giddy with anticipation of the future of track and cross country.
“Summer Hill is doing amazing things,” he said. “I mean, this is the first year she’s been involved in organized running and she already looks like a pro. Her times are outstanding. I think we’re probably only scratching the surface of how good a runner she can be.”
Wilson is an eighth grader who specializes in sprints. At Crestwood, Jana posted a 1:04 in the 400M. That time was good enough for second place overall. Wilson also runs a key leg for the 4x400M relay team. She combined with teammates Shauna Pace, Kelly Dunn and Olivia Lee to take silver at the Tunkhannock Relays (4:28.2).
“Jana is really coming into her own,” said Coach Diehl. “She’s having a great year. Jana has an amazing attitude. She’s always smiling, but don’t let that fool you: she’s a tough competitor who never backs down from a challenge.”
Paige Stanton and Sarah Rutledge are also earning rave reviews from coaches Diehl and Leventhal.
Stanton is a freshman who competes on the track in the 100M, 200M and 400M. She also finds time in her busy schedule for long jumping. At Crestwood, Paige battled her way into a run-off for the 100M finals. She ended up tied for second with a highly respectable time of :13.5.
“Paige is one of the most versatile girls on our team,” said Coach Diehl. “She and Jana battle it out in the sprints, but Paige is also a great jumper. She decided in the off-season that she wanted to dedicate herself to the sport. Paige worked very hard and now she’s reaping the benefits.”
Rutledge is a well-rounded athlete who also competes at equestrian events. Just an eighth grader, Sarah earned a silver medal at Crestwood with a 14’7” long jump. However, she bettered that by nearly a foot in a meet against Abington (15’ 5”).
“Sarah is the best jumper we have,” said Coach Diehl. “She had to battle an ankle injury and some off-the-field adversity, but came through it with flying colors. Sarah is a tough, tough kid...a very strong young lady.