West Xtra: Central Valley football star makes quick transition onto track

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The exploits on the football field of Central Valley High School standout Jordan Whitehead indeed have been impressive, but his performances this spring for the Warriors' boys track and field team also have been laudatory.

Heading into the WPIAL Class AAA boys track and field championships today at Baldwin High School, Whitehead has the top reported time this season in the Class AAA boys' 100-meter dash with a standard of 10.89 seconds.

That's very impressive. But there's another factor in play.

"This is just his second year competing in track and field," second-year Warriors coach Bill King said. "Jordan is the kind of kid who views track as a fun activity. But he really does want to win."

The way he wins also is impressive.

"I don't have a great start," said Whitehead, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior from Center Township. "The best part of my race is when I get to 50 meters and I've reached my maximum speed. I think it's easier to overtake someone from behind."

King agrees with his standout sprinter, who is being heavily recruited by NCAA Division I football programs.

"Earlier this season at the Mars Invitational, [Ambridge's] Isaac Elliott had such a good start in the 100 that everyone thought he false-started," King said. "But he didn't. He just had a good start, but Jordan was able to catch him. He has the ability to gauge where he is, and the middle and finish are the best parts of his race."

Elliott, though, has the top time of 22.19 seconds in the 200-meter dash, and Whitehead -- whose best time is 22.64 seconds -- said he's still tinkering with his technique in the half-lap race.

"I don't like running the curve that much, and it's hard to tell where you are when you are in the curve," he said. "I just try to stride the curve, and get to full speed when I hit the straightaway."

Naturally, Whitehead hopes to compete in the state meet this year. A year ago, a hamstring injury knocked him out of the WPIAL meet, which prevented him from qualifying for the state meet.

"I pulled it last year in the qualifiers at Butler," he recalled. "This year, I'm doing a lot more stretching."

He and three teammates -- sophomore Kurt Reinstadtler, junior Levi Johnson and junior Ryan Roberson -- hope to finish among the top four in the 400-meter relay and qualify for the state meet.

With the fourth-fastest reported time of 43.61 seconds coming into the meet, the Warriors stand a good chance of sending that unit to Shippensburg University later this month for the PIAA track and field championships. Gateway has the fastest time at 41.79 seconds. Mt. Lebanon and Fox Chapel are right behind at 43.03 and 43.18 seconds, respectively.

Not only is Whitehead confident in his own abilities as, he also believes in his teammates in the sprint relay.

"I've looked at the times," he said. "I think we can beat both Fox Chapel and Mt. Lebanon."

Regardless of his success both this season and next, Whitehead will focus on football when he makes a decision in November as to where he will play in college. At least a dozen Division I colleges are hoping to get his signature on a letter-of-intent.

"If I run in track in college, it would be for fun," he said. "It's not going to be a priority."

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