By John Knebels

Special to The CS&T

Track runners are always looking for an edge. Considering that races are often won by mere hundredths of a second, a slightly different approach can literally make the difference between a gold medal and not even qualifying for a bronze.

In the Catholic League track and field championship May 9 at Upper Darby High School, Father Judge junior Tom Kehl was three quarters finished in the mile run. Kehl’s normal approach had been to wait for the right moment and then make his move. This time, however, he nixed conventional strategy.

“I kind of surprised myself,” said Kehl. “I was a lot more aggressive. I went out and tried to take control. Once I did, I felt like there was no way I wasn’t going to win.”

Kehl smiled.

“I have to do that more often,” he said.

Kehl’s victory in the mile and third-place finish in the 800 run helped the Crusaders accrue 107 points and finish second overall. Meanwhile, Cardinal O’Hara earned the Catholic League team title. The Lions were sparked by junior Corey Brown, who snared both the 100 and 200 runs and helped the 4×400-relay team to a first-place finish.

But the O’Hara field-event performers stole the spotlight. O’Hara’s Chazz Wilks won both the shot put and discus while teammates Everett Burgess and Jason Johnson seized the long jump and triple jump, respectively. When adding a second-place finish in the triple jump by Brandon Ford, that provided the Lions with 48 points, almost half of its team total of 115.5.

“That made the difference,” said Kehl. “They really dominated.”

What made Kehl’s gold medal in the mile particularly interesting was that his time of 4 minutes, 19 seconds shaved an amazing 14 seconds off his previous outdoor best. A few days later in districts, Kehl ran a 4:21 and thus qualified for this weekend’s state meet at Shippensburg University.

Having been a part of last year’s team that won the Catholic League championship, Kehl said he would trade his inspanidual success for another taste of a team title.

“We lost a lot to graduation, but what a team that was,” said Kehl. “When you figure that in, the fact that we came within eight points this year is a great accomplishment.”

After the meet, Judge coach Matt Dwyer told his Crusaders how pleased he was with their overall performance that included two first-place finishes in the 400 (Gerard Smith) and mile, along with a host of seconds and thirds.

“I was so proud of the effort from our guys,” said Dwyer. “I don’t think anyone really thought that we had a chance to even be close after the guys we lost last year. Our team was so focused on one goal – taking care of our own events and making it as close as possible. They competed like champions and gave all that they had that day. They left nothing on that track.”

As for Kehl’s inspanidual contribution, Dwyer said dedication and diligence paid huge spanidends.

“He outworks anyone and everyone,” said Dwyer. “He always leads workouts start to finish. He has recently found the weight room and dedicated himself to getting stronger. He believes the coaching staff when we tell him that he is the best miler in the league and the district. His workouts were never in question. We expect him to drop another 5-6 seconds at states.”

While Judge was challenging for an upset championship, Cardinal O’Hara’s girls were continuing their dominance by winning the league title for the fifth time in six seasons. The Lions’ 148 points dwarfed second-place Archbishop Wood’s 83 points and West Catholic’s 80 thanks mostly to senior standout Robyn Oakley, who won both the 300 hurdles and 800 run.

John Knebels can be reached at