Milton's Long wins state pole vault title

Southern Columbia’s Julian Fleming competes against Aliquippa's Marlin Devonshire, left, and Brookville's Ian Thrush, right, in the boys Class 2A 100-meter dash semifinal during day two of the PIAA State Track & Field Championships held Saturday at Seth Grove Stadium on the Shippensburg University campus in Shippensburg. Matthew O'Haren/For The Daily Item

Julian Fleming is blessed with a lot of physical tools and natural abilities.

That, combined with his work ethic, allows him to do some special things in a track and field meet.

There may be another reason why Southern Columbia’s 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior can run so fast and jump so far — his competitive nature.

“I’m not a very good loser,” Fleming admitted. “I like to win and I like to go out and give it everything I’ve got. If the winning comes along with it, that’s great.

“First place is like the best feeling.”

Well, first place is where Fleming spent most of his junior track and field season, whether he was competing in the 100-meter dash or exploding off the board during the long jump.

Because of all those results Fleming was named The Daily Item’s Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year.

“He’s just a special kid,” retiring Southern Columbia coach Lanny Conner said of the multi-talented Fleming. “And he elevated everybody around him.”

While Fleming claimed two second-place individual medals and was part of relay units that finished fourth and fifth at last month’s PIAA Class 2A championships, he was solely responsible or played a big part in 25 of the 28 points Southern banked while placing third.

At districts, Fleming captured the 100, long jump and ran the anchor leg on Southern’s 4x100-meter relay unit that claimed gold in record time (42.72). Fleming also was part of the Tigers’ 4x400-meter relay unit that placed second.

At the Heartland Athletic Conference championship meet, Fleming won the 100, long jump and was part of the 4x100 relay that rallied to win. Plus, his winning effort (22-10) in the long jump broke a meet record that had stood since 2012.

“He had just a phenomenal league meet in winning the long jump and setting a record, winning the 100 and running an absolutely unbelievable anchor leg in the 4x1,” Conner said of Fleming’s outing at Central Columbia. “He took us from fourth to first.

“And I said to him earlier, ‘As we’re going through this, right from the beginning, you’ve got trials and finals in the 100. Run the trials just to win. You don’t need to set the world on fire, you’ve got a busy day.’ He wanted nothing to do with that.”

Twice at the HAC meet, Fleming clocked 11.06 in the 100 — matching, at the time, his career-best effort in that high-octane event.

“Every time he stepped on the track, it was an opportunity to do something exceptional,” Conner said. “That’s how he felt about it. And there was no way I was gonna talk him down, so you just let him go with what goes.”

While those were some of Fleming’s postseason highlights, he occupies all or parts of three event lines in Southern’s record books. In addition to the 4x100 relay, Fleming popped a 10.86 at states in the 100 and uncorked a 23-10¾ in late April at Lock Haven in the long jump that erased the mark posted some 30 years earlier by Bryan Delsite.

“Yeah, definitely a lot of accomplishments, but I didn’t really come out where I wanted to, so it’s kind of whatever,” said the highly driven Fleming, who still harbors plenty of disappointment and frustration as to how states went.

Fleming missed all of his sophomore season while recuperating from hip surgery yet came back this year and added nearly a foot to his previous best (23-0) in the long jump and shaved plenty off his 100 PR (11.58).

“Honestly, between my freshman year until now, I put on a lot of weight in between and I really hit the weight room strong,” Fleming said. “And I put on a lot of muscle mass, but good muscle mass at the same time.

“I just listened to my coaches for the most part, but I’m kind of stubborn so just listening to them and learning from them really helped the most out of anything.”

Fleming likely has competed in his final track meet, however, since he committed during the spring to play football at Ohio State and is planning to enroll in January.

“What he accomplished this year was only his second year of doing track,” Conner said. “When he long jumped the very first time, he went down and actually got on the board and was over 21 feet. And we’re all standing there saying, ‘What the hell is this?’ So we kind of had an idea we had something special going on there.

“It was kind of like Luke Rarig, who was our state champ in the hurdles a couple years back. The first time we saw him go over hurdles, it was the same kind of thing. Oh my goodness. Here we go, let’s not screw this kid up,” Conner continued.

“Julian just takes that like four, five steps further. If we had him for one more year, who knows what he might be able to accomplish.”

Coach of the Year

With his roster packing a number of maturing juniors and seniors ready to flash their wide-ranging array of skills, Mike Rogers had Shamokin in the hunt for a HAC-II title all season long.

Yet while the Indians may not been able to reel in a regular-season championship, Rogers’ outfit made a determined run at a District 4 Class 3A team title. And until the final few events of Day 2, Shamokin was right there before finishing in third place.

That’s why Rogers, in his 18th season as Shamokin’s chief, has been named The Daily Item’s Boys Track and Field Coach of the Year.

Although Joey Masser was the lone Shamokin competitor at the PIAA’s 2018 championship meet, the talented junior qualified for the long and high jumps this time around. Hurdler Marshall Buggy and shot putter Brian Hornberger also competed at states, even though none of the Indians was fortunate enough to place.

Stay tuned, too, since Shamokin should have a number of other quality performers ready to go when the 2020 season begins to unfold.

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