South Side Beaver's Ricky Fayad already had exhibited championship-level ability as evidenced by his winning effort a year ago in the 110-meter high hurdles at the WPIAL Class AA boys track and field championships.
As a senior, Fayad is hoping to double his fun at next month's individual championships. And, both he and head coach Jessica Simpson are confident of his chances.
"He's already run 14.7 this year in the high hurdles, and that was at a tri-meet at Hopewell," Simpson said. "At the Warrior Classic at Central Valley last Saturday, he ran 15.54. I'd say the best part of his race in the high hurdles is his technique."
Fayad credited assistant coach Lindsay Dolan with his improved technique. Dolan, who joined the South Side Beaver staff after working as an assistant at South Fayette, was a PIAA 100-meter hurdles champion in 2005 while competing for Center High School.
"My start had been weak, but she's really helped me with that," he said. "She's been tweaking my start and working hard with me to help me run a complete race. She's helped make me better."
In the 300-meter hurdles at the Warrior Classic, Fayad placed second with at time of 43.60 seconds, just a shade behind Riverside's Marcel Cleckley, who won the race with a time of 43.55 seconds.
Fayad also hopes to do well in the high jump, where he cleared 6 feet, 2 inches a year ago. This year, his best height is only 5-8, but it's still early in the season.
"I haven't jumped any higher than that because it's been cold," he said. "I have a lot of trouble jumping in the cold."
Simpson said the Rams are expecting quality efforts from the rest of the team, all of whom returned from last season.
"We're expecting a big season from Jesse Romanchak, who does well in the long jump, the triple jump, the 400 and the 1,600-meter relay," Simpson said. "He's already jumped 20-10 this season in the long jump and 42-10 in the triple jump."
That season's best triple jump -- and best to date reported in Class AA -- came last Saturday at the Central Valley meet when he won the event by nearly 4 feet better than runner-up Austin Zurik of Beaver (38-101/2).
Senior sprinter Brenden Carpenter placed fifth last weekend in the 100-meter dash at the Warrior Classic with a time of 11.74 seconds. He was second with a time of 23.10 seconds in the 200-meter dash.
"Brenden is very explosive out of the blocks, but he's learning how to stretch out at the end, and he's gotten stronger at the finish," Simpson said.
She said the team hopes to get additional points from junior distance runner Colten Trimble in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Trimble also has run legs on both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter relays. He already has clocked a 54-second quarter while running the 1,600-meter relay.
Fayad is confident of his team's title chances this spring.
"We have a lot of depth," he said. "We're pretty tough in track, and it's a good feeling when we go to a meet and we know people are a little leery about competing against us."