North Xtra: Avonworth/Northgate's Parra is clearing hurdles one at a time


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While talking to Pat Parra one doesn't get the impression that he is, well, a little crazy.

But Brian Veshio, who coaches the hurdlers on the Avonworth/Northgate track team, says otherwise.

"Ever since ninth grade, he has been a little nuts," Veshio said with a smile. "I think that is what you need to be a really good hurdler."

OK, so Parra, a senior at Northgate High School -- Avonworth and Northgate have a co-op agreement with their track squads and compete as one team -- isn't "crazy" crazy. He's just crazy because he runs the hurdles ... and runs them well.

At the Warrior Track Classic this past Saturday at Central Valley High School, Parra won the 300-meter intermediate hurdles with a time of 41.22 seconds and was second to teammate Josh Douglass in the 110-meter hurdles.

Douglass finished in 15.33, while Parra hit the line in 15.54. Douglass also place second in the long jump and fourth in the triple jump.

Parra also ran a leg on the 1,600-meter relay that finished third behind Mohawk and Riverside. But the 300 intermediates are his first love.

"I like the 300s better. It takes me a little bit to get up to my full speed," he said. "I'm alright at the 110s, but the 300 is my race."

He showed that Saturday by getting a good start followed by a strong first part of the race. Down the stretch, he didn't falter.

"My freshman year of practice they brought out the hurdles and I wanted to give them a try and ever since I've been doing it," he said of the 300 intermediates. "I'm addicted to it."

His best time last year was a more-than-respectable 40.9. Parra finished 10th at the WPIAL Class AAA championships with a 42.14. Since then he has gotten stronger and faster.

"He should be able to get under 40 [seconds] this year," Veshio said. "And the 300 intermediate field isn't ridiculous this year. The kid from TJ [Grant Kuiawa from Thomas Jefferson] and the North Allegheny kid [Byrum Louco] are out there but they've been running 40-point something."

Kuiawa finished fourth in the intermediates at the WPIAL championships a year ago. Latrobe's Jeff Elam, last year's WPIAL Class AAA champion, is also back.

Parra has a good shot of placing at the WPIAL finals if he continues to improve and could earn a trip to the PIAA championships.

He does have a couple things going for him. The most important is that he is a senior so there is no "next year."

"He's naturally fast and naturally strong," Veshio said. "A few years ago he was training for the 800 and was getting close to running 2 minutes in that race. He's a strong kid and he's not about to fall apart [down the stretch]."

Being able to finish the 300 intermediates with a kick is what separates those who go to the PIAA championships and those who don't. Parra finished strong Saturday to beat Greensburg Salem's Terry Jackson, who finished in 41.73.

Parra has competed in a something of an unusual combination of sports in high school. He has been on Northgate's cross country team for three years, the swimming team for two and the track squad for four. In the pool, he was on Northgate's 200-yard freestyle relay that made it to the WPIAL Class AA championships.

He is headed for Thiel College in Greenville, Pa., where he plans to run track and continue his hurdling career.

"Both Pat and Josh are aggressive. That's one of the qualities you need to have to be a hurdler," Veshio said. "They are persistent. You show kids the hurdles at the beginning of the season and a lot of them are going to be scared. It's hard to find guys who will stick to it after they have tried it.

"There are not too many kids who just naturally can go over the hurdles. But Pat and Josh have taken to them. It was Pat's decision to focus on the hurdles. We were going to try and push him into the 800 and he said, 'No, no. I want to run the hurdles.'"

OK, so maybe he is crazy.

AROUND THE TRACK -- Avonworth/Northgate's Samiya Ferguson finished second in the 200- and 400-meter dashes and teammate Lily Hall was fourth in the 3,200. Mikell Schlumpf was third in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. On the boys side, Ryan Schmid was fourth for Avonworth/Northgate in the 800. ... Quaker Valley picked up three firsts with L.J. Westwood winning the 800, Matt Cooper the 3,200 and Westwood, Nat Fox, Roy Hadfield and Andrew Hotchkiss winning the 3,200 relay. ... Vincentian Academy distance runners Alex and Ryan Archer were second and third, respectively, in the 1,600. In the 3,200, Ryan was second with Alex third. ... The Butler Invitational, the 47th annual for the boys and 10th for the girls, is Friday at the school's Art Bernardi Stadium. Field events will get underway at 12:30 p.m. with time trials in running events set for 1:30 p.m.

Pat Parra of the Avonworth/Northgate high school track team won the 300-meter intermediate hurdles at the Warrior Classic this past Saturday at Central Valley High School.


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