Two seniors likely will play a big role in how well the Fox Chapel Area High School boys track and field team does this spring in the sport's Class AAA arena.
But for one of them -- Brandon Mitchell -- the season will be a bit shorter than the ones experienced by his teammates. Mitchell received a favorable X-ray on April 7 to determine if his right collarbone has properly healed from a break that took place at an indoor track meet in March at Edinboro University.
The next day, Mitchell had solid efforts in a tri-meet against North Allegheny and Seneca Valley, running a time of 39.6 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles and the 200-meter dash in 23.6 seconds.
At the Butler Invitational this past Friday, he won the 300 hurdles in 38.72 seconds, and finished eighth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.90 seconds. He also ran the third leg on the Foxes' 1,600-meter relay team that captured first place with a time of 3 minutes, 28.98 seconds.
"It was in the 60-meter hurdles, and I was pretty sure I was second or third [near the finish]," said Mitchell, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound Fox Chapel resident. "I was trying to catch up, and I hit the second-to-last hurdle and fell across the finish line. That was the first time I'd ever fallen over a hurdle or been hurt."
"He's done a good job of rehabilitating the injury," Fox Chapel coach Tom Moul said. "He's kept up on his cardiovascular workouts."
Mitchell said he will run the 110-meter high hurdles if the team needs the points, but will focus his hurdling efforts on the 300-meter event.
"I'd prefer the 300 because of what happened [at Edinboro]," he said. "I'm 6-6, so I think I'm too tall for the 110 or the 60 [indoor]. But in the 300, I can stretch things out."
At the 2013 WPIAL championships, Mitchell won the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 38.50 seconds and placed third in the 110-meter high hurdles with a time of 14.53 seconds.
Mitchell will help the Foxes get points in both the 200-meter dash and the 1,600-meter relay. He said he runs the curve well, something that is crucial in both the 300-meter intermediate hurdles and the 200-meter dash.
The Foxes also expect to get points from Brian Papich, a 6-1, 175-pound senior from Indiana Township in the high jump and the long jump. Papich is also a standout basketball player for the Foxes.
"I'd say he's better in the long jump," Moul said. "He set the school record last year in the long jump at 23 feet, 3 inches, and he's already jumped 20 feet, 71/2 inches in a section meet against Pine-Richland and Butler at Pine-Richland."
At the WPIAL meet a year ago, Papich's 23-3 earned him the runner-up medal, and he finished in a three-way tie for fourth place in the high jump with a leap of 6-1.
Papich has committed to study business and play basketball at John Carroll University, an NCAA Division III program near Cleveland. He has some lofty goals for the long jump this season.
At the Butler Invitational, Papich won the long jump with a leap of 22 feet, 63/4 inches, and finished third in the high jump with a leap of 6 feet. He ran the anchor leg on both the 1,600- and 400-meter relay teams. The 400-meter team had a winning time of 44.11 seconds.
"I'm shooting for 24 feet," he said. "At the WPIAL meet, I went 23-3 and I got to 22 feet at the state meet, and I barely scratched on my two other jumps. Both of those were 24 feet. I finished second in the long jump at the WPIAL meet last year, and I was tied for third in the high jump. I think a title is a definite possibility in both."