Pine-Richland relay sprints to school record, WPIAL gold medal

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Sunday, May 22, 2022 | 9:01 AM


Luke Rudolph insisted he’s not as fast as the relay runner he replaced, but the results say otherwise.

Pine-Richland’s 400-meter relay team lost its anchor to injury late in the season, yet the boys kept breaking school records. Their latest record-setting run came at the WPIAL Class 3A individual championship May 18 at Slippery Rock University.

The Rams ran a 42.72-second time that broke the school mark and earned them gold medals.

“I don’t even have words,” said Rudolph, a junior who was previously a team alternate. “We’ve broken the record three times. I don’t even believe it personally because I wasn’t even on the team. (Injured teammate) Alex Gochis is way faster than me if we’re being honest. But we broke the record and we’re WPIAL champs.”

Junior Brad Gelly, sophomore Nick Hartwick and senior Joey Dudkowski joined Rudolph in the championship lineup. They finished nearly four-tenths of a second ahead of Central Catholic (43.10), which featured WPIAL 100-meter dash champion Brandon Jackson.

“We were just amazed by it,” Harwick said. “We’ve clicked together pretty good.”

They’re the first Pine-Richland team in school history to win a WPIAL title in the 400-meter relay.

“This means the world,” Pine-Richland coach Mark Hunkele said. “They’re great friends and great teammates. We’re extremely excited to not just make states but to win WPIALs.”

Hunkele shared credit with former head coach Don Thomas, now an assistant, who coaches the sprinters.

Individually, Hartwick placed fourth in the 200 meters, Dudkowski was seventh in the 400 and Gelly was seventh in the 300 hurdles. Dudkowski also placed second in the high jump.

The team’s previous best of 42.96 seconds had them seeded third behind Butler and Seneca Valley. A handoff mistake eliminated Butler from contention and Seneca Valley placed third (43.12).

Gelly, Hartwick and Dudkowski ran three strong legs and Rudolph sealed the win with a gutsy finish.

“I left a little early,” he said, “but Butler was in the lane right next to me and I saw them mess up, so I just got the baton and started running. I didn’t know who was next to me or who was behind me. When I crossed that finish line, I looked back and realized I’d won.”

His teammates sprinted across the football field to meet him near the finish line.

“He’s been really good, better than I thought,” Hartwick said. “I was a little iffy at first, but when I saw him run, I thought, ‘We can go places.’ Obviously, we have. We got first place (at WPIALs). New school record. I’m on cloud nine right now.”

The team broke the school record their first time running together and bettered their own mark three more times, Hunkele said. Gochis, the previous anchor, is a wide receiver recruit headed to Duquesne, so he wasn’t slowing them down.

But late in the season, the team found its stride.

“Alex was running great, but Luke came in as a great replacement,” Hunkele said. “He looked incredible (at WPIALs). It’s the best he’s run.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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