Waynesburg pole vaulter Behm starts record-setting day at WPIAL championships

Thursday, May 17, 2018 | 10:54 PM

Waynesburg's Will Behm was watching three years ago when Riverview pole vaulter Evan Lesnick broke a WPIAL championship record.

It's a moment that stuck with him.

“I thought then, ‘That's mine my senior year,' ” Behm said with a smile. “I've been thinking about it for a long time.”

Now a senior, Behm had his chance.

Knowing exactly how high he needed to go, Behm broke the WPIAL Class AA record with a vault of 14 feet, 10 inches Thursday, bettering Lesnick's mark by one inch. On a day where the weather was warm and the track was dry, Lesnick's record was the first of eight to fall during the WPIAL individual track and field championships at Baldwin.

The stadium announcer had alerted the crowd of the record-setting attempt, so there was an excited cheer when Behm cleared.

“You get a little bit of tunnel vision, so you're only focused on what you're doing,” Behm said. “Once I got onto the ground, I heard it.”

North Allegheny's Ayden Owens broke two WPIAL Class AAA records, taking both the 110 hurdles (13.68) and 300 hurdles (36.65). Elizabeth Forward's Matthew Bernadowski (14.0 in 2014) previously held the 110 record, and Latrobe's Jeff Elam owned the 300 (37.78 in 2012).

“I knew it immediately,” Owens said. “I knew what they are. I do my research. I was going after those. I had numbers in my mind and I was just running. Since no one was running next to me, I was running after those.”

In Class AAA girls, Oakland Catholic's Jayla Ellis won the 100 hurdles in 14.12, breaking Valley's Mycaiah Clemons' record (14.17 in 2005).

North Allegheny's Casey Burton won the Class AAA girls long jump (19-3 34), leaping three-quarters of an inch farther than Hempfield's Maddie Holmberg (19-3 in 2014).

Oakland Catholic's Hannah Schupansky won the Class AAA girls 3,200 meters. North Allegheny's Madeline Davison had set the old record (10:35.55) in 2015.

Two 1,600-meter relay records fell at the end of the night. Riverside (3:24.26) won the boys Class AA title and Avonworth/Northgate (3:50.99) won the Class AAA girls title in record time.

But the record-setting day started hours earlier at the pole vault. Behm's vault height wasn't a personal best but was more than two feet higher than he cleared as a junior, when he finished third in the WPIAL.

The event is taken seriously at Waynesburg, where Behm and teammate Daniel Layton (13-6) finished first and second Thursday, and Taylor Shriver placed second in Class AA girls (11-3).

“They sat us all down in a classroom (in seventh grade) with a spreadsheet up on the promethean board and said, ‘All right, what events do you want to do?' ” Behm said. “The (middle school) coach said we have a really fantastic coach here for pole vault, but it's not something that I want you to try unless you're going to be dedicated to it. I instantly said, ‘That's what I want to do. I want to give it a shot.' ”

Now, nobody in Class AA had vaulted higher.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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