ATHLETESOFTHEYEAR

KATIE ROUPE

Washington High School’s Dustin Fuller won four gold medals at the 2012 WPIAL Track & Field Championships, something no boy had done since 1982.

Today’s “When Sports Were Played” takes us back exactly eight years, to May 17, 2012, when Washington’s Dustin Fuller became the first boy in 30 years to win four gold medals at the WPIAL Track & Field Championships.

BALDWIN – If Dustin Fuller and Shawn Johnson attended the same high school, the duo might win a PIAA team track championship by themselves.

Fuller, a senior at Washington High School, and Johnson, a senior at Canon-McMillan, were that dominant during the WPIAL Track and Field Championships Thursday at Baldwin High School.

Dominant might be understating things. Fuller and Johnson practically owned the meet as each accomplished championship rarities.

In Class AA, Fuller won three individual events – the 110-meter high hurdles, 300 hurdles and 400 dash – in addition to anchoring Washington’s winning 1,600 relay team. Fuller set a WPIAL championship meet record in the 300 hurdles (38.50), a PR in the 110 (14.71) and became the first boy to win four individual gold medals since Steel Valley’s Clinton Davis in 1982. Washington’s Laila Brock won four gold medals in girls events in 1996.

“I feel so grateful, and I need to thank everyone that had anything to do with this. Every single one of my coaches have been amazing,” Fuller said. “To have anything to do with Clinton Davis – to even be mentioned with him – it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

It’s a feeling Fuller got to share with his Wash High teammates, who backed up last week’s WPIAL Class AA team championship with another dominating performance. Joining Fuller atop the medals stand were Mykhael Kelley, Darius Spinks and Mijerean Witcher – all a part of a relay team that won in ease at 3:26.90.

Following the announcement, Fuller was asked by WPIAL officials to gather his four golds for a photo opportunity and one last trip to the top of the medals stand, where his incredible accomplishment was recognized.

“I got chills. I teared up a little,” said Fuller, who plans to celebrate by attending Washington’s prom tonight and wearing his medals to school today. “I’ll never be close to Clinton Davis. I’m not in his category. But so much hard work went into this. I’m so proud.”

While Fuller beamed, his good friend Johnson took sweeping the Class AAA jumps in stride, another rare feat in WPIAL history.

Described by teammates as one of the clumsier guys at Canon-McMillan, the laid-back Johnson is graceful as they come gliding down a jumping runway.

“Really, the only reasons I do track is because my friends do and it gives me a chance to socialize and have fun,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t do it if it was all hard work, and I mean the kind of hard work where you’re throwing up all the time. If it wasn’t fun at all, I wouldn’t do it.”

For an athlete who enjoys the social aspects of track as much as the competition, Johnson has a chance to collect more medals at next weekend’s PIAA Championships at Shippensburg University.

Johnson won the high jump with ease at 6-4. He also won the long jump in 22-11 3/4, which is one of his better efforts of an impressive senior season. Johnson hoped to cap his evening by establishing a meet record in the triple jump, his strongest event. He was forced to settle for his third gold medal after jumping 46-9.

“I came here wanting to win all three, but I never would have thought this was possible at the beginning of the season,” said Johnson, who sprained an ankle during the triple jump. “I didn’t see it coming, but it shows that anything can happen if you want it and work for it.”

Witcher and Prexies teammate Josh Wise worked hard for their individual titles. Witcher won the Class AA triple jump with a personal best 43-1, giving him a pair of gold medals.

“I really wasn’t expecting to win. I felt tired all day,” Witcher said. “I was jumping pretty bad and during the finals I let it get to me, but then I hit my 43 and I missed the board by two feet.”

Wise had designs on winning the high jump since placing second as a sophomore. By clearing 6-7, he did so with ease as Washington advanced three high jumpers to the state meet. Deven Sulitz and West Jones also qualified.

Wise only scratched once – at 6-0 – before cruising to the title. He attempted to clear 6-8 1/4 in hopes of setting a meet record but scratched out.

“I was determined to come back here and win this year. I dreamed about it (Wednesday night) and now I’m a WPIAL champion,” Wise said. “I’m happy, but as an athlete you can never be satisfied.”

Wise expected to win a WPIAL title. Fort Cherry sophomore Sean Darragh wasn’t sure what to expect, yet he walked away from Baldwin with a Class AA gold medal in the javelin (167-0).

Darragh had thrown in the 130s most of the season, but a late-season surge helped him become the second boys WPIAL track champion in FC history. Darragh joins former Rangers hurdler Brian Lauff as a champion.

“It’s something really special. There have been a lot of great athletes at Fort Cherry,” Lauff said. “To be up there as a WPIAL champion, I don’t know what to say.”

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