By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- They are good friends and talk often, especially as they prepare for their hurdles races.
But as much as Ryan Wary admires his buddy, Weston Cuozzo, boy would he ever like to beat him.
Wary, a Shikellamy junior, estimates he and Cuozzo, a Williamsport junior, have raced in the hurdles more than 10 times. "He beat me every time, I know that," Wary says with a smile that masks his determination to right that wrong.
Saturday afternoon at cold, windy Nicholas A. Lopardo Stadium at Susquehanna University, Cuozzo held off a fast-closing Wary to win the 300-meter intermediate hurdles -- again -- at the annual Susquehanna University High School Classic.
As he cleared the next to last hurdle, Wary appeared to gain on the Millionaire and he was closing the gap on the final sprint.
"I reeled him in the best I could," he said.
Despite running a new career-best 39.26 seconds, Wary settled for second to Cuozzo's 39.11.
Wary was not the only Valley athlete to set a season best without winning his event.
Shamokin senior Matt Gass, who anchored the Indians' 1,600 relay team to a victory over a disqualified Williamsport team with a new season-best 3:32.23, took second in the 800 while breaking his own season-best, breaking the 2-minute mark with a 1:59.50. Joining Gass in the winning relay were Zach Santey, Chris Petraskie and Danny Delbaugh.
Two others placed third, but also broke the season bests. Petraskie was third with a 6-foot pole vault and Warrior Run's Spencer Williamson took third in the 3,200 with a new season-best 10:19.43.
In addition, 10 Valley athletes and one relay team won events, four with season-best performances.
Leading the way in the meet which does not keep team points was Milton with four individual champions and a winning relay team. Trevor Zimmerman won the 100 in 11.34; Tyrel Kling took the 200 in a season-best 23.04; Josh Brown won the javelin with a season-best 192-7; and the Black Panthers' 400 relay team of Kling, Brandon Rogers, Greg Shultz and Chris Reuss won in a season-best 44.33.
The other Valley winners: Selinsgrove's Travis Lockcuff (a season- best 20 feet, 9 ½ inches in the long jump, and Billy Parks (47-7 in the shot put); Southern Columbia's Luke Rarig (15.11 in the 110 high hurdles and Andrew Steely (a season-best 4:30.19 in the 1,600; Eric Joraskie, Mount Carmel (150-10 in the discus); Udoka Eze, Lewisburg (42-1 in the triple jump); and Josh Scheuren, Shamokin (7:09.33) in the 2,000 steeplechase.
Wary, a running back who missed last football season with a preseason injury that had him wearing a boot, said he knows what he needs to do to be able to close the remainder of the gap with Cuozzo.
"He has a good start. I have a good finish, but I have to get a better start," Wary said.
"I have to have a faster 150 (meters). With that, my closing speed will still be there hopefully. He starts strong and finishes strong and it's hard to beat somebody like that."
And to run such a great time and not win must be frustrating.
"Yeah, it is," admitted Wary as he watched the 3,200 races while waiting to get back on the track for the 1,600 relay.
But Wary is happy that he will have three more chances this season to try to beat Cuozzo — the dual meet at Shikellamy, the Heartland Athletic Conference championship meet next month at Selinsgrove High and at the District 4 Class AAA championships back at Selinsgrove University. And, if both could advance to the PIAA meet, they could see each other a fourth time.
"I think about that a lot," he said.
Wary said he and Cuozzo talk a lot, more than most competitors from different schools normally would.
"Before a race, we talk and get each other pumped up," he said. "Hanging out at states our freshman year, our relationship has just grown."
"I know he feels the same way: we're pretty good friends, until we get on the track and then…"
He said that he, Cuozzo and Selinsgrove senior hurdler Mike Ede, who finished third in the intermediates and second to Southern's Rarig in the high hurdles, all talk and hope that all three can get to Shippensburg for the state meet.
"We hope we can get there and do well there, too," he said.
Wary said he is making progress, especially from where he was two weeks ago at the Selinsgrove High School Classic "from how ugly my form was to getting it tighter now, perfecting it almost."
Wary holds the school record in the intermediates, having broken his own record of 39.49 with Saturday's showing. And he loves the event. "It's the toughest, and it's the best," he said. "It's my best event, I like it a lot. But there come times when I don't because I'm not that good of a hurdler, but I'm very good at running in between hurdles. So sometimes, going over the hurdles, it doesn't look pretty, and it's not fun going over hurdles."
But, if he could just beat Cuozzo, that would be fun. "It's going to feel real good. I've never won gold at districts before, so I don't know how that would feel."
For now, he just hopes for the chance for find out.