East Xtra: Tiny Trinity producing big results on track

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Trinity Christian track coach Dave Jones never has a big talent pool to pick from.

In fact, it wouldn't be right to even call it a pool. It's more like a kitchen sink.

The small private school, located in Forest Hills, has only 112 students in grades 9 through 12. Roughly three dozen are boys, but 14 of them are on the track team.

That hasn't slowed down the group from becoming very good. The team qualified for the WPIAL team championships as the runner-up in its section and will be well represented at today's WPIAL individual championships at Baldwin.

"Our boys have qualified for the WPIAL [team] championships three out of the past four years, which is an amazing thing for a school this size," Jones said. "We don't have a lot of depth, but we have a lot of talent up top."

Trinity Christian went 9-1 in dual meets and finished second to Southmoreland in Class AA Section 4. The Falcons went on to finish third in the four-team, opening-round grouping of the WPIAL team tournament (Freedom Area advanced to the championship).

When the WPIAL individual championships get underway, Trinity Christian will have six athletes (nearly half of its team) competing: junior Alex Vaughn (400-meter dash), junior James Chandler (400), senior Ryan McGuire (3,200), freshman Tyler Carter (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and long jump), senior Matt Robinson (110 hurdles, long jump and triple jump) and senior John Wallace (high jump, long jump and triple jump).

Vaughn and Chandler are among the top 400 runners in Class AA. Vaughn has run a 50.11, which is the top reported time in Class AA. He placed first at the WPIAL Northern Qualifier last Tuesday at Shady Side Academy. Chandler's top time this season is 51.37, the fourth-best reported mark in Class AA. Chandler is working himself back into form after missing about a month because of a hamstring injury.

"I'm just so proud of them," Jones said. "They run radically different [styles]. Vaughn is a big kid and runs with guts and strength, while Chandler has a gorgeous stride. Honestly, James is the better talent, but Alex has really taken advantage of James' absence. There's a rivalry, but it's a friendly rivalry. They really push each other."

It's safe to say Carter is one of the WPIAL's best freshmen. Not only did he qualify in three events at the WPIAL championships (he placed third in both hurdles events and fourth in the long jump at the Northern Qualifier), but he was also named team MVP.

"We knew he was going to be good," Jones said. "He's such a tough kid. He works so hard. He has no fear. He's going to be a real gem."

Wallace, who was a standout for the Trinity Christian basketball team, has had the most past success at the WPIAL championships among his teammates.

As a junior, Wallace finished second in the high jump and seventh in the long jump. On the basketball court, Wallace averaged 22 points per game and was selected to play in the Roundball Classic this past season.

"Basketball is his thing, but he's been pretty solid for us the past four years," Jones said. "I really think he's got a good chance [to finish highly at WPIALs]."

Jones, a former hurdler himself, loves the fact that he'll have two hurdlers competing in Carter and Robinson.

"That, of course, thrills me," Jones said.

Jones said of his top distance performer, McGuire: "He's the gem we have in distance. Ryan is a fantastic runner."

Trinity Christian -- the school and track team -- is small in numbers, but a talented group appears to have what it takes to possibly make a big splash today in the most important meet of the WPIAL season.

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