After last spring's domination at the AAA state track and field meet, the Altoona Area boys indoor team is poised for a run for the indoor state title.
Last year they fell short, placing second indoors. This indoor season nobody in the state expected Altoona to be this competitive until they ran at the annual Kevin Dare High School Invite at Penn State on Jan. 24. This was a non-scoring meet that showcased talent from Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York.
Overall, 38 schools participated and if the meet had been scored, Altoona would have won with 79.5 points. The second-place team would've scored 37. Although not every Pennsylvania school was at the meet that will attend the state meet on Saturday, some of the boys' times ranked them and the team high enough for people to take notice.
Junior Brady Gehret is not only No. 1 in the state in the 200-meters, but his time of 21.85 ranks him No. 5 in the United States, easily qualifying him for the state meet. Another event Gehret has qualified for is the long jump. His best mark of 22 feet, 2 inches ranks No. 7 in PA.
Senior Aaron Nadolsky's 400-meter time of 49.73 ranks him No. 1 in PA and No. 13 in the US. Nadolsky captured silver in this event last year at states and has his hopes set on gold this year. He also has qualified in the 200-meter run with a time of 22.34, the third-best in PA.
But probably the most surprising to those who follow this sport - especially to those in the eastern part of the state - Gehret, Nadolsky and teammates senior Mike Treese and junior Chris Carper have made bold statements in the 4x200 meter and 4x400 meter relays. The 4x200 meter, anchored by Gehret, cruised to a state-best 1:30.16.
This ranks them No. 7 in the US. Last year the 4x200m team of Nadolsky, Treese, Alphonso Lewis and A.J. Alexander took gold at states. This year's 4x200 meter team is a full 1.5 seconds faster than any other team and should repeat.
The 4x400 meter team, anchored by Nadolsky, ran a 3:22.34. This ranks them No. 2 in PA and No. 7 in the US. This time also shattered the school record indoor mark of 3:26.18.
Also qualifying for the state meet was sophomore Wade Endress and junior Jordan Liberman, both in the mile run. Endress' time of 4:26.61 ranks him fourth in the state. Liberman's time of 4:31.62 ranks him 26th in the state.
The 4x800 meter relay team of Liberman, Ryan Trexler, Chris Fischer and Endress ran 8:13.43, which qualified for the state meet and the Penn Relays.
(The writer is the father of Altoona High School indoor track team member Aaron Nadolsky).
Don't forget Stautner
Joe Smith's five all-time toughest Steelers in the Mirror, prior to the Super Bowl, needs to be questioned.
Rocky Bleier, as a tough running back, doesn't come close to Bullet Bill Dudley, Fran Rogal or John Henry Johnson. Bleier was fair on a very good team but not really tough.
Ernie Stautner not only was the toughest defensive tackle ever for the Steelers but may have been the toughest football player ever at any position. He often played both ways. He once broke his hand and with bones sticking out of it, he wrapped it in a towel and taped it and used it as a club for the rest of the game. Joe Greene was tough, but he was not Stautner.
Hines Ward is a great Steeler and everything that Smith says about him. But to put any wide receiver on the list of five toughest players is stretching it. There are at least 10 tougher Steelers playing today.
Jack Lambert probably belongs on the list. Mike Webster should be on it, too.
Pirates need smart draft
I think the Pittsburgh Pirates need to finish higher than sixth place in the National League Central Division this year.
The city of Pittsburgh has been an embarrassment in the sport of baseball in the past 20 years.
Every other sport in Pittsburgh succeeds, has great ownership, management and leadership and - the big thing - has made smart choices.
The Pirates have not made good choices in the drafts or good trades. The last good draft they had was in 2000 when they managed to pick up Nate McLouth.
The bottom line is the Pirates need to make some smart picks come June and make some smart trades during the 2009 season if they want to get out of the cellar.
Sing the anthem right
This letter is for the people who watched the NFL playoff games - Eagles at Cardinals and Steelers vs. Ravens - and listened first hand to our national anthem being butchered up.
If this is the way you enjoy hearing it sung, more power to you. If I had any say at all, they would have to sing on a stage in the middle of the field standing on a trapdoor. Then when the first unwanted note is sung, have someone pull the handle and drop them out of sight.
Or maybe we could have Popeye go on stage to sing it the proper way.