South Xtra: Mt. Lebanon chasing WPIAL title with a boost from football team

HIGH SCHOOL TRACK & FIELD

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Upon further review, it would appear that the Mt. Lebanon High School boys' track team is looking like it could score touchdowns.

Evidently, it can. That's because there are approximately 20 Mt. Lebanon football players who are now members of the track team for the first time.

It's not a coincidence, either.

"All in all, [football] coach [Mike] Melnyk's thrust on all of this is that he wants his kids to do other sports [in the football offseason]," Mt. Lebanon boys' track coach Mike Agostinella said.

Agostinella had spoken with Melnyk this past fall after Mt. Lebanon had finished its football season. The conversation had originally been about practice facilities, but Agostinella learned that a significant number of football athletes would be going out for spring track.

For instance, Troy Apke had more than 1,000 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns as a Blue Devils wide receiver last fall. He made second-team Associated Press All-State as a junior.

But Apke is now scoring big as a sprinter for the Mt. Lebanon track team. At the South Fayette Invitational, Apke placed first in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.22 seconds. Mt. Lebanon took second place in the overall team competition on April 27 at South Fayette.

"Alex Bookser, who's been with us for a year or two, is one of the ESPN top-150 recruits in the county," Agostinella said.

Bookser, a junior two-way lineman, throws the discus for Mt. Lebanon consistently for 145 to 150 feet. Bookser can also fling a shot-put more than 48 feet. At South Fayette, he won the discus event (143-11) and took third in the shot (47-7).

Michael Briercheck placed second in the 200-meter dash at South Fayette. His time was 23.24 seconds. During football season, Briercheck was the second leading receiver on the Blue Devils team.

Javelin specialist Mark Buda is listed fifth on the most recent WPIAL Honor Roll for his throw of 171-7. On the football team, Buda is a tight end. Agostinella noted that Buda and Briercheck were both all-conference performers in football.

Sophomore Jake Rolfsen was the Blue Devils' starting tailback until he broke a bone in one of his hands.

"He's a tremendous sprint talent," Agostinella said. "He's come right in and it's like he's been here his whole career."

Rolfsen has been running the 100-meter dash, the 200, and a leg of the 400-meter relay. Agostinella said that he found it best to keep a good mix of athletes (football and non-football) in the relays.

"It makes everybody be on their toes, so to speak," Agostinella said.

In the jumps, sophomore wide receiver Shane LeFever is clearing great distances. He placed fifth in the triple jump at South Fayette (41-101/2).

"He is an all-purpose jumper," Agostinella said. "He has long jumped around 20 feet, triple-jumped more than 41, and in the high jump was around 6 [feet]. He's very good for a sophomore."

Today, the Mt. Lebanon boys' track team will compete for the WPIAL team title against Gateway, North Allegheny and Hempfield Area in a quadrangular meeet at Baldwin. Overall, Mt. Lebanon will take advantage of its mix of athletes.

"Most of our athletes are very well rounded," Agostinella said. "They know each other from school clubs and classes -- it was somewhat of a treat for the track guys to see these [football] guys come into the team ... because there's an event for everybody. There are skill sets for almost every type of athletic performance."

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