Injury doesn’t slow down Derry’s Justin Huss in WPIAL gold medal run

Friday, May 17, 2019 | 8:28 PM

Justin Huss will be one of Derry’s top running backs in the fall.

He would have been this past season if it wasn’t for a broken left leg that required surgery to implant a plate and screws.

Huss missed the first four games and returned in Week 4 against North Catholic. While Justin Flack carried the ball most of the time, Huss did get his chance to shine. He will likely step into the spotlight even more this fall.

The junior showed why his senior season could be special Thursday at the WPIAL Class AA track and field championships at Slippery Rock.

Despite running with the hardware in his lower leg, Huss won the 400-meter run (50.11 seconds) and placed fourth in the 200 (22.80).

He won the 400 by more than 10 meters.

The scar above his left ankle is a reminder of how his junior season began.

“It took a lot of heart and effort at practice during the season,” Huss said. “This is special winning the title, especially how it began. If you keep trying, good things happen.”

Huss said his left leg hurt during football season, but through work, it feels good now.

“It’s amazing that I’m doing this well with a plate and screws in my leg,” Huss said. “People don’t realize how tough it is. I’m pleased with my times.”

Now, he’ll head to the PIAA championships Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg.

Flying cats

The Latrobe 1,600 relay team of Joseph Piper, Mitchel Carl, Connor Pickup and Zakharee Williams breezed to a four-second victory over Central Catholic to finish first at the WPIAL Class AAA championship meet.

Latrobe assistant coach Pat Murray said the winning time of 3 minutes, 21.49 seconds was the third fastest in school history. The 2012 team ran a 3:20.12.

“This is our final WPIAL meet, and we wanted to leave with a gold medal,” Williams said. “All the hard work paid off for us.

“Our goal at states is to continue to practice hard and bring home a gold medal. We all probably have to drop a second if we want to medal. We need to push a little harder.”

Rising star

Hempfield senior Mackenna Orie turned in a dominating performance by winning the WPIAL Class AAA discus and shot put events.

Her successor, sophomore Isabella Gera, also qualified for the state meet in both events by placing fourth.

Gera threw 121 feet, 8 inches in the discus and 38-7¾ in the shot put.

Hempfield throwing coach Dave Murray was pleased with both of his throwers’ efforts.

“Isabella is the next girl that will shine for us,” Murray said. “She’s really getting it now. I expect big things from her.”

Orie said she was excited to win both and also excited for Gera.

The Spartans had numerous placewinners at the championship. Some earned a trip to Shippensburg, while others settled for medals.

The champions were: Orie, junior Jacob Boord (javelin) and Jared Bannon (110 hurdles).

The others to qualify for states were: Bannon (fourth in the 200), Nathan Roby (seventh in the 100), 400-meter relay team (fourth), 3200-meter relay team (fourth), Tanner Barnhart (second in the pole vault), Daniel Norris (fourth in the shot put) and Jenna Uncapher (fourth in the high jump).

The placewinners who just earned medals were: junior Ryan Crooks (seventh in the 300 hurdles), 1600-meter relay team (eighth), Rylan Kauffman (sixth in the pole vault), Dillon Ferretti (eighth in the discus) and Liz Kennedy (seventh in the pole vault).

Impressive debut

Winning the WPIAL Class AAA pole vault title was the furthest thing on Jo-Michelle Huczko’s mind when she decided to compete on the track team this spring at Franklin Regional.

“I was looking for something fun to do, so I decided to give track a shot,” Huczko said. “It looked like a lot of fun, and I wanted to try something new.”

So when Huczko qualified for the WPIAL championship, she was hoping to do her best.

The junior did better than that. She won the title by clearing 11 feet. Her best this season is 11-2, and she was hoping for 11-6.

“I’m a little disappointed because I wanted to break my best,” Huczko said. “But I have a strained muscle in my stomach, and it slowed me down. I wasn’t feeling too great.”

Huczko participated in gymnastics for nine years, but she quit and wanted to try a different sport. She’s also a skier.

“At the beginning of the season, the alumni puts together a thing, and the athletes go around to different stations and they try different sports,” Franklin Regional coach Bob Ralston said. “We look for that hidden gem, and we found one.”

After a week and a half of pole vaulting, Huczko said she knew it was the event for her.

“I told myself that this was good,” Huczko said. “It turned out pretty well.

“Winning the title is very awesome. My goal was to qualify for states. Now my goal is to medal. This will be all new to me.”

PIAA-bound Cougars

Two Yough underclassmen — sophomore Hunter Bakewell and junior Josh O’Bradovich — earned trips to Shippensburg for the PIAA meet.

Bakewell threw a personal record 164-7 to place third in the javelin, and O’Bradovich cleared 6-1 to place third in the high jump.

Bakewell was excited to break his record and qualify for states. His dad, Donnie, was a two-time PIAA javelin qualifier at Brownsville in 1989-90.

“I’m going to get with my dad and ask him a lot of questions,” Hunter said. “I’m going to work with him at practice.

“I’m excited about making it. I just want to do the best I can.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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