West Mifflin senior, PIAA favorite Dontae Lewis sweeps hurdles at Baldwin Invitational

Friday, May 7, 2021 | 11:51 PM

Some hurdlers have tunnel vision on the track, focused solely on their lane and uninterested in their competitors.

That’s not Dontae Lewis.

The West Mifflin senior and reigning WPIAL hurdles champion likes to know who he’s running against. He looks at the entries, studies the times and measures up his competition for every race.

“I don’t ever want to go into a race blindly and maybe misjudge if I can conserve energy on the bend or something,” he said. “I like to watch other people run, too, and know what their strengths are.”

That’s only fair, since nowadays most everyone knows all about him.

A favorite this spring for both WPIAL and PIAA gold, Lewis swept the hurdle events Friday at the Baldwin Invitational including a gritty 300-meter race that saw him fight through a painful hamstring cramp.

Lewis was one of four athletes to win two individual events Friday.

Butler’s C.J. Singleton won the McKinney Mile (4 minutes, 14.17 seconds) and the 3,200 meters (9 minutes, 9.6 seconds), North Catholic’s Trevor Paschall won the 200 (22.71 seconds) and 400 (49.27 seconds), and North Allegheny’s Dwayne Taylor won the long jump (21 feet, 11½ inches) and triple jump (44 feet, 6 inches).

Singleton’s teammate Guinness Brown won the 100 meters (10.80 seconds), giving Butler three gold medals.

Hempfield also won three golds. Tanner Barnhart won the pole vault (14 feet, 10 inches), Daniel Norris took first in the discus (187 feet, 2 inches) and Samuel Parker won the high jump (6 feet).

The meet was divided over two days to meet covid-19 restrictions with boys competing Friday and girls Saturday.

Lewis won the 110-meter hurdles by one-tenth of a second over Central Catholic’s Anderson Cynkar, but his 300-meter win was even more dramatic.

Midway into the 300 meters, somewhere near hurdle four or five, Lewis felt pain roll up the back of his right leg in a muscle he’d hurt a week or two ago. He slowed for a moment before racing to the finish line to edge Elizabeth Forward’s Robert Hrabosky by six-hundredths of a second.

“I was just waiting for it to stop hurting,” he said.

Lewis won the 300 hurdles in 39.66 seconds and the 110 hurdles in 15.06.

Neither was a personal record, but Friday’s cold, windy weather wasn’t ideal for hurdling. He finished the day with ice wrapped around his thigh but said he wasn’t too concerned about his leg.

“I’ve still got a few weeks until states,” Lewis said. “It will be fine.”

And, yes, he’s already tracking competition from across the state — with good reason.

According to Milesplit.com statistics, Lewis owns the state’s fastest time in the 300-meter hurdles, a 38.55-second effort run April 28 on his home track.

“He looks at the lists and he can tell you where the top five kids are in the state, where they’re from and who they run with,” West Mifflin coach Brian Mann said. “He knows last time we looked four of the five were out here in Western Pa. We’ve tried getting him some races at different invitationals to get him against some of these kids.”

Who’s the state’s second-fastest in the 300?

That’s Hrabosky (38.63 seconds), who finished Friday in 39.72, a half-step behind Lewis. Coincidentally, Lewis and Hrabosky are both committed to run track in college for Shippensburg.

“We’ll have (this rivalry) for the next four years,” Lewis said, “which is good because then we can push each other.”

Three weeks ago, Lewis broke a West Mifflin record in the 300 hurdles that had stood since 1986. He’s also chasing the 110-meter school record but would need to drop a couple of tenths.

Lewis won WPIAL gold as a sophomore in the 300-meter hurdles and nearly qualified for the final heat at states before bumping legs with another hurdler. He seemed poised to win more gold last spring when the pandemic canceled his entire junior season.

Lewis is making up for time lost.

The WPIAL individual championship is May 19 at Slippery Rock University. The state meet is May 28-29 at Shippensburg. In those two meets, he’ll face many of the names he’s followed online all spring.

“It’s good for him and his confidence level if he’s racing with these kids who he knows are in the Top 5 or 10 in the state,” Mann said. “If he’s already raced them, he knows he can hang with them.”

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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