Greencastle-Antrim sprinter Alex Yoder turns heads with double district gold

JOYCE F. NOWELL

Alex Yoder doesn’t seem like the type of young man who would go out of his way to bring attention to himself. Last weekend the Greencastle-Antrim High School senior was actually hoping to turn some heads.

Yoder did that and more at the 2011 District 3-AAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University. And it all happened in a few blinks of the eye. Yoder first blazed the 100 meter dash, breaking the tape first. He followed that up with a fantastic 200 for a second gold medal on the afternoon.

“It’s the greatest feeling,” related Yoder, who had some seventh and eighth place medals from last year’s district competition. “It’s amazing. After the 100 I thought this is so hard to believe.

“The first thing I said to my family after the meet was ‘Look, it’s shiny.’ Gold is different.”

For sure the competition will now look at Yoder differently.

See sports for more on the district meet.

“Really, for all my career I’ve kind of been under the radar,” said Yoder, who started running for the Blue Devils in middle school.

“Not so much locally, but outside the area I was overlooked as was our school. Yes, definitely, it bothered me. After the two heats people started noticing.”

Perhaps it all went for good as the Blue Devil athlete certainly snuck up on his competition. He was seeded 10th in the 100, but was the only sprinter under 11 seconds in winning the race. He was seeded fourth in the 200 and was the lone runner under 22 seconds, bringing him the gold.

Yoder, who noted that the warm, sunny weather was perfect, believes however, his double gold was about timing and preparation.

“Our training has all been focused on peaking at the right time to be at the best times at this point in the season,” explained the athlete who says sprinting is 75 percent mental.

“And personally, this being my senior year, I did every workout as if it was my last and I ran every race as if it were my last.”

Yoder will have plenty of time to use that same tactic as he will be continuing his athletic career at Messiah College in the fall. First there is the matter of the PIAA State Championships Friday and Saturday, May 27 and 28. It will be in familiar surroundings as Yoder will head back to Shippensburg University for the state meet.

Yoder will have some company at the state meet. He anchors G-A’s 4X100 relay team of Trentin Dixon, Austin Scott and Denton Cordell, which finished fourth at the district meet and qualified for states. Yoder was part of the 400 relay squad that competed at state last season.

“Alex has been running consistently fast all season and is now peaking at the right time,” related G-A track and field head coach Devin McCauley. “Alex has been running with a lot of confidence and he loves to run in the heat. He is a fierce competitor and was able to break through to another level last weekend.

“I like to think he has built confidence over the past two years from winning three medals at districts last year (200, 4x100, 4x400), competing at states (2010), competing at Penn Relays (2011, 4x100 finishing 31 out of 270) and the big races this year.”

While there has been at least one other G-A athlete to pull off the double-gold at districts, Yoder is the first to do it at the Class AAA level.

“It is certainly an accomplishment to win two sprint golds at the district meet,” said McCauley. “We talked about the field being pretty even and that he needed to run consistently and put himself in a position to be in the hunt.

“I wouldn't have predicted the double because of the level of competition. After the preliminaries and semifinals on Friday, we felt that Alex was the most consistent sprinter in the field and he had a chance to win either or both."

While Yoder has goals for his individual races, he firmly believes that the relay team can clock a better time than it has ever run with some final tweaks to the handoffs. The quartet goes into states as the 11th seed.

McCauley added of his sprint anchorman, “Alex is grounded, has a strong work ethic, is a leader by example and has strong-rooted faith. Those attributes combine to form a special athlete and a special person.

“He is a consistent performer and is enjoying the competition and successes that track and field offers.”

What is his individual goal for states?

“I guess to win,” the athlete related. “Why not?”

McCauley related that the aim will be the same as districts, “Don't change anything. Have fun. Compete one race at a time, focus on maximum effort and enjoy the opportunity and see where that puts him. A state medal (or three) would be a great finish to an outstanding season.”

No matter what, Yoder’s high school career will be over Saturday. Messiah has a highly regarded track program. Yoder is looking forward to attending the school he calls a “great place” and that track will be a “bonus.”

“Alex is versatile and can run the 55 to 800. He will be successful (at Messiah) in whichever event they choose for him to excel in. He may blossom into an outstanding 400 meter runner,” assessed McCauley’

“Messiah is getting a quality young man.”