SLIPPERY ROCK — About 10 meters into the race, Tyler Yurich was staring at the back of a lot of track jerseys.
It wasn't an unfamiliar view for the Seneca Valley freshman sprinter.
“It was not a very good start,” Yurich said.
No matter. Yurich more than made up for his slow exit from the blocks over the final 90 meters of the 100-meter dash at the WPIAL Class AAA Track and Field Championships Thursday afternoon at Slippery Rock University.
Yurich blazed past the field and crossed the finish line in 10.84 seconds to win the WPIAL title.
It was a shocking outcome. No one was more shocked than Yurich.
“I'm very surprised,” Yurich said. “I didn't think I was going to come anywhere close to that (time). I was very nervous in the beginning because I'm only a freshman and there's so many experienced people in this event. It was just really cool to be in this position.”
Yurich's previous best time in the 100 was 10.97 seconds. He blew past that mark — and the rest of the field in the process.
And that was with a poor start that Yurich said has been a work in progress since the seventh grade.
“Starts,” he said, grinning. “I really need to get better at my starts. I still haven't done anything close to getting it right.”
North Catholic jumper Joe Kearney certainly got things right — eventually.
After struggling in his first five attempts in the Class AA long jump, Kearney took a deep breath, sprinted down the runway and took off for a record-setting effort of 23 feet, 5 inches.
“My first five jumps were shorter than my regular 22s,” Kearney said. “No one was jumping well today. Last jump, something came out of me.”
Kearney's leap broke the previous WPIAL Class AA record of 23-0.
Kearney, a senior who won the long jump title last season, didn't even know he set the record until he climbed onto the podium.
“Honestly, it wasn't one of my goals,” Kearney said. “I didn't see that coming.
“Definitely coming in with the best jump, everyone is looking at you,” Kearney added. “They want to see your jumps. You're who they are chasing.”
Yurich was just part of Seneca Valley's strong day on the track. Seth Ketler earned two medals, placing second in the 800-meter run and fifth in the javelin. Sam Owori also had a pair of third-place finishes, in the 800 and 1,600.
Luke Smith was third in the 300 hurdles. Gavin Thomas is also heading to the state meet with a fourth-place finish in the long jump.
North Catholic's Sam Mager earned three WPIAL medals in Class AA. He placed third in the 400, eighth in the 200 and ran a leg of the third-place 400-meter relay.