Williamsburg's Bryce England and Central Cambria's Bryce Descavish ran neck and neck throughout most of the 3200-meter run on Wednesday.
England, though, pulled away on the final lap and flashed a big smile and was giddy in the final 20 meters as he trotted to victory amid cheers from the small, yet vocal, Williamsburg contingent.
"I wanted a district title so badly,'' said England, who finished second in the 1600 run the day before. "I had never won one in track - only in cross country. I knew this was my last chance.''
England's victory was one of seven individual titles earned by athletes from the Mirror coverage area on the second day of the District 6 Class AA Track and Field Championships at Mansion Park. The meet was suspended due to heavy rains on Tuesday, and it was completed on Wednesday with nine boys and eight girls events.
Joining England as boys champions were Northern Cambria junior Seth Bearer (400 dash), Central Cambria junior Chase Dill (discus) and Cambria Heights senior Shawn Lacue (high jump), as well as the Bishop Carroll 400 relay team of Alex Repko, Brody Shuty, Dan Lesney and Matt Karlheim. Second-day girls champions were Tyrone senior Jordyn Swogger (200 dash), BC freshman Britt Krug (javelin) and Bellwood-Antis senior Ellen Crook, who won the 800 after prevailing in the 1600 on Tuesday.
Individuals or relays that placed in the top three of an event earned automatic berths to next weekend's state meet in Shippensburg.
Other boys who qualified for states Wednesday were Shuty (second in 200 dash), Central's Justin Helsel (third in 200 dash), Penn Cambria's Garrett Sutton (second in 800), Descavish (second in 3200 run), Central Cambria's Tanner Ambrisco (second in high jump), Huntingdon's Kobren Frederick (second in triple jump) and the third-place Tyrone 400 relay team of Scott Goss, Connor Harper, Cameron Bakhsheshe and James Oliver.
Other girls who earned trips to the state meet were Huntingdon's Mackenzie Garner (second in shot put), Bellwood-Antis' Bailey Swogger (third in 200 dash), Central Cambria's Emma Wess (third in 800), CC's Samantha Koss (third in 3200) and Penn Cambria's Jadyn Tiracave (third in javelin), along with the third-place Tyrone 400 relay team of Michaela Diehl, Jordyn Swogger, Lexi Patton and Erika Voyzey and the third-place Tyrone 1600 relay team of Voyzey, Jordan Wiser, Diehl and Swogger.
England, a two-time District 6 Class A cross country champ, finished the 3200 in 9 minutes, 55.87 seconds, which was a personal best for him. Descavish, the top seed, was less than 4 seconds behind him at the finish line.
"I've run against him a couple of times,'' said England, who will compete in both the 1600 and 3200 at states after finishing out of the medal hunt in the 1600 last year. "He probably has more speed than me, but I have longer strides.''
Crook will also be competing in two events at states - the 800 and 1600 - and that actually will be a light load for her. She also runs the 3200, but she finished fifth in that event Wednesday and nearly passed out from exhaustion afterward.
After getting attention from athletic trainers, Crook seemed to be fine before the meet ended.
"I felt these two days together were long days,'' she said. "I had just run one of my fastest times in the 800 and they were already calling for the 3200. I think having run those so close together drained me.''
Crook ran a 2:21.41 in the 800 by pushing it to a higher gear in the last 100 meters and winning by more than 2 seconds.
"It was a lot of pressure having won the 800 as a junior, and what if I don't do it again as a senior?'' Crook said. "Luckily, I won, and I ran a better time, so it was exciting.''
Bearer had one of the more exciting finishes. He took advantage of a stumble by top-seeded Nathan Styles of Bald Eagle Area in the final 100 meters to win the 400 dash in 51.60 seconds.
Bearer is the third member of his family to earn a trip to states in the 400, following in the footsteps of his father, Andrew, and his older brother, Derek.
"This means everything to me,'' Bearer said. "[My father and brother] push me a lot through everything. They're always criticizing me, but 's constructive.''
Jordyn Swogger and Lacue each defended their district titles. Swogger opened up a big lead and then held on to win the 200 in 26.55. Last season, she won both the 200 and 400 but didn't run the 400 this year due to health reasons.
"I felt like I was running in place [in the final stretch of the 200],'' said Swogger, who also qualified for states in 400 and 1600 relays. "I was saying, 'just finish, just finish.' I was really nervous because I haven't been doing as well this year and felt a lot of pressure to get another [district title]. Luckily, I did it.''
Lacue cleared 6 feet, 4 inches to win the high jump for the second straight season. He jumped 6-6 at states last year to earn a fourth-place medal.
"Shawn's worked very hard and has been motivated,'' Heights coach Jeff Koss said. "His goal was to get back to the state meet, and he accomplished that today.''
While Swogger and Lacue are familiar with the spotlight, Dill and Krug are getting their first tastes of it. Dill was seeded fifth in the discus but won the event with a throw of 138-10 and will now join his throwing teammate, Will Seymour, who won the shot put on Tuesday, at states.
"I definitely wanted to make it to states even more once [Seymour] made it,'' Dill said. "It worked out great - we both placed first.''
Krug, in her first district meet, prevailed by nearly 8 feet by throwing the javelin 126-9. Krug credited her coaches for her early success - mainly Joe Ridgeley and current Akron University javelin thrower Jess Delic.
"I'm just happy to be going to states,'' Krug said. "I'd like to get in the top 10, but I'm just going to live in the moment and hopefully do well.''
The BC boys 400 relay team will be making a return trip to states after placing third at districts in 2013. The four members seem to be peaking right now and set a school record with a 43.71 in winning the event rather easily.
"Ever since my sophomore year, we've been working on the four by one,'' junior Karlheim said. "Sometimes we haven't been the best, but last year we went to states as a trial. This year, we're in it.''