For the first time the District 4 Track & Field Championships will involve every team in the district on the same day at the same site.
On May 19, the top athletes in both classifications will descend upon Athens High School for the championships. In year's past, the AAA meet was held mid-week with the much larger AA event on Saturday.
This year's meet is tentatively scheduled to being with AA trials in the hurdles at 9:45 a.m. and AAA trials set for 11:25 a.m. The final track event is set to start at 8 p.m.
The field events are divided into five time slots, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m.
FIND GOLD: If you are looking to break through as a District 4 champion, the place to do so is certainly on the boys side where only eight individual champions return between Class AA and AAA.
Thanks to the graduation of the likes of Brett Yeomans (Shikellamy), Bryant McCorey (Williamsport), Vince Fadale (Selinsgrove) and Mike Rodriguez (Selinsgrove), there are plenty of gold medals to be had in Class AAA. The only returning champions are Williamsport's Austin Rizzo (200, long jump), Mifflinburg's Brandon Walls (800), Selinsgrove's Christian Burke (pole vault) and Jersey Shore's Tyler Kachelreis (javelin).
The pickings are even better in AA, where only Southern's Matt Moore is back after winning the high and 300 hurdle titles last year, as is Wellsboro's Jordan Jackson in the mile.
On the other hand, in girls Class AAA, nine individual champions return, including Valley participants Jess Davis of Selinsgrove (800), Danville's Alison Billas (3,200), Selinsgrove's Kayla Swartz (300 hurdles) and Shamokin's Alaina Petrovich (high jump).
NEW COACHES, OLD FACES: There are several new coaches in the Valley this year to go along with the old standbys.Among the new coaches are Ana Ditchey with the Mount Carmel girls, Tom Donlan with the Southern boys and Jim Sowers with the Mifflinburg boys.
To offset the newcomers, several HAC coaches are approaching their fourth decade coaching or are already into it. At Lewisburg, girls coach Jonathan Clark is starting his 28th year, while boys coach Mark Sundberg is starting his 25th (35th overall). It is a similar story at Danville where girls coach Jeff Brandt is kicking off his 28th year and boys coach Barry Seidel is starting his 33rd.
Shikellamy boys coach Jim Bell is the dean of HAC-I boys coaches entering his 38th year with the Braves, while Williamsport's Sam Belle is starting his 33rd.
Also, longtime Upper Dauphin wrestling coach Todd Rupp has taken over the girls team and Brian Hoover is the new boys coach.
MOVING DOWN: After several years of competing in the rugged Class AAA because of the PIAA regulations regarding co-ops, Upper Dauphin (drawing athletes from neighboring Line Mountain) will be in AA this season.
DATES TO REMEMBER: While the track & field season flows quickly -- it is just eight weeks and two days until the PIAA Championships in Shippensburg -- the season is sort of built around big invitationals.
Here are some dates to mark down for the 2012 season:
April 7, Selinsgrove Invitational
April 14, Purple and White Relays at Shamokin
April 20, Breslin Relays at Mount Carmel
April 28, Lock Haven HS Classic
May 12, Heartland Coaches Invitational, at Shikellamy
May 19, District 4 Class AA and AAA Championships, at Athens
May 25-26, PIAA Championships, at Shippensburg