South Xtra: Mt. Lebanon's Apke is the next to add acclaim to his family of athletes

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Sue (Torre) Apke was a star sprinter at Carlynton High School, winning a pair of PIAA 100-meter dash titles before she had an excellent career at Pitt.

One of her sons, Troy, never had much of an interest in following in his mother's footsteps, instead choosing to concentrate on the sport in which his father shined -- football. Steve Apke was a standout linebacker at Pitt and later played in the NFL.

But Sue finally talked Troy into giving the sport a try his junior year.

It turns out mom knew exactly what her son was capable of.

In less than two seasons, Troy Apke, a senior at Mt. Lebanon, has established himself as one of the top sprinters in the WPIAL. Apke has run the second-fastest 100 time in Class AAA this season (10.96 seconds) and is one of the favorites to claim the title today at the WPIAL individual championships at Baldwin.

"My mom did it in college and everything, and she told me to give it a try," Apke said. "She's pretty happy I did."

Apke has made a name for himself on the football field the past few years. An outstanding wide receiver, he hauled in 94 catches for 1,776 yards his final two seasons. He was named to the Post-Gazette's Fabulous 22 team and was selected first-team all-state as a senior. He'll continue his career at Penn State this fall.

Apke's blazing speed has now stretched from the turf to the track. He's won 100-meter titles at several invitationals this spring, including the prestigious Baldwin Invitational two weeks ago, where he topped a field that included Gateway's Jae'Len Means and Cameron Gray, and West Mifflin's Jimmy Wheeler. Means (10.97) and Central Valley's Jordan Whitehead (10.89) are the only other WPIAL Class AAA runners to run less than 11 seconds this season.

"At the beginning of the season, I was just doing this to have fun," said Apke, who did not qualify for any individual events at the WPIAL championships last year. "But I've been running some good times, so I'm happy about it."

Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Agostinella has coached some excellent sprinters in his 39 years at the school, and includes Apke among them.

"Most good sprinters have a good deal of natural ability. He has tremendous natural ability," Agostinella said. "When you watch him in the 100 and 200, he has the ability to respond almost instantaneously when people challenge him. It might come from running patterns in football. He has a gift as far as sprinting goes."

Agostinella was surprised when Apke joined the team last season, mainly because Apke turned out to be a sprinter. Apke's older brother, Sam, a 2008 graduate, ran for Agostinella, but was a distance runner. Agostinella said it's unusual for a family to have both a standout sprinter and distance runner.

Apke also qualified in the 200 for the WPIAL championships, but will run only the 100 and 400 relay at the event. He's the anchor of the relay team, which has posted the second-fastest time in Class AAA (43.03). Gateway is the only team with a better time (41.79). Apke's teammates are seniors Sam Schmidt, Joe Ferari and Jake Rolfsen. The latter placed third in the 100 at the Baldwin Invitational.

Apke hopes to grab titles in both the 100 and 400 relay today.

"Hopefully I can win the 100 and hopefully one of my teammates, Jake Rolfsen, can do pretty good, too," Apke said. "In the [400 relay], we should be pretty good. Gateway has also been pretty good."

Agostinella believes Apke could develop his skills even more if he had chosen to run at Penn State.

"He has the talent to be a college runner," Agostinella said.

But Apke said he will concentrate on football when he arrives at University Park and begins playing for first-year head coach James Franklin.

Unless, of course, his mom talks him into running track again.

"I'm going to focus on football," Apke said. "I'm just excited to get up there and get working."

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