Fort Cherry relay team wins PIAA gold after coming close in football, basketball

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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | 1:43 AM


SHIPPENSBURG — Before the state track championships started, Fort Cherry’s relay team of Dylan Wudkwych, Tegan Henke, Shane Cornali and Matt Sieg got a text from the school’s basketball coach.

His message was simple: The third time is the charm.

“And we got it done,” Sieg said.

The school’s football and basketball teams came up just short in attempts at winning state titles earlier this school year with many athletes overlapping on the rosters. But with some of the same students, the relay team was golden.

The foursome won the 400-meter relay Saturday at the PIAA Class 2A championship in 42.43 seconds, which was a season-best time for the team. The Rangers edged second-place finisher Mercyhurst Prep (42.51) by less than a tenth of a second. Mount Carmel (42.73) was third by three tenths.

“This is unreal,” said Sieg, a multi-sport sophomore with college football offers. “In football, we had a good year, came to the state championship and got second. Basketball had a great year, too.”

The Fort Cherry football team lost in the Class A state finals and the basketball team reached the semifinals in 2A. Combined, those teams went 38-8.

But they’ve got serious track skills, too. Henke won a WPIAL title in the 200 meters and placed third in the 100. Wudkwych placed eighth in the 200 at WPIALs.

“We knew coming into the spring that we had the speed,” Sieg said. “Our handoffs were a little shaky, but it was just about improving. We didn’t know it was really possible until a couple of weeks ago when we ran in the team playoffs. We ran really well and said, ‘We’ve got a shot.’”

The relay team had a good showing at the Pine-Richland Invitational and won the WPIAL title in 42.59 seconds, boosting the sprinters’ confidence even more.

“Once we got the WPIAL we said, ‘Let’s get a state now,’” Sieg said.

Making the achievement more remarkable was that Fort Cherry doesn’t have a track of its own. They practice at other stadiums in the days leading up to states.

“It was just about getting to some neighboring schools,” Sieg said. “We shared a track with Burgettstown. They were nice enough to let us have it for a few hours.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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