SLIPPERY ROCK — Winning a gold medal is supposed to be a joyous moment, but while he was certainly happy, Daniel Layton also felt another emotion after cruising to victory in the Class AA 110 high hurdles at the WPIAL Track & Field Championships last Thursday.
“I feel a little more relieved that it’s over now,” said Layton, noting his well-publicized battle with appeals to the WPIAL and then the PIAA to be allowed to compete in the event after an error by his coach and father, Rick Layton, left him out of the field.
The WPIAL denied his appeal but the PIAA overturned that ruling last Wednesday, clearing the way for him to compete in the district meet at Slippery Rock University on May 16.
“I was disappointed (with the WPIAL’s ruling) but I supported my dad because he felt so bad about the mistake that he made,” Layton said. “The PIAA really helped us out. They voted 5-0, all of them were, let this kid run, so I’m really grateful to them.”
Layton put the roller-coaster week behind him and smoked the field in his heat before winning the gold with a time of 14.58.
“I was a champion last year so I knew that I could win,” Layton said. “It’s just more of a pride sort of thing right now, defending my title. It was a little nerve-wracking going in but once I actually got a race under my belt it was fine.”
Layton also took gold in the pole vault, clearing the bar at 13-6, despite a shoulder injury he suffered while warming up.
“We had some complications while going through the run-throughs,” said Layton, whose PR is 15-4. “I dislocated my shoulder, but I’m good. I had to jump down to my small poles. I just needed to build up some confidence on those first, and then I was able to get on a good jump.”
Layton also helped the Raiders’ 1,600 relay earn a sixth-place medal along with Caleb Blair, Gabe McConville and Troy McIe, although they barely missed making qualifying for the state meet.
Layton is one of three Raiders competing in this weekend’s PIAA Track & Field Championships, along with Scott Benco and Blair.
Benco won a gold medal in the javelin with a throw of 173-7 and was already looking ahead to the PIAA meet seconds after he walked off the medal stand.
“I didn’t exactly hit the distance I wanted but it feels good to place first,” Benco said. “I kind of was looking forward to the state meet so this is kind of just another meet for me. I want to do well at the states.
“But it is awesome to be here. It’s awesome to win it.”
Benco finished 16th at the 2018 PIAA championships. That and a comment by a college coach last year gave him the incentive he needed to push himself further this season.
“I had a coach from a college ask me what my goal was for next year,” Benco recalled. “I said 200, and he kind of laughed almost in my face.
“I feel that was the biggest driving motivation, it pushed me to go as hard as I could every practice.”
Blair earned a berth into the state meet by the slimmest of margins. The senior earned an automatic berth after placing fifth in the Class AA 400 meters with a time of 51.66 seconds, a mere .01 seconds ahead of Beaver Falls’ Quadir Thomas.
Waynesburg’s Avery McConville earned a medal in discus (8th, 133-4), although he did not qualify for the state meet.