Bucks County Herald

CB West boys strike state gold with fast time in 4x800 relay

DAVID CAMPBELL



The triumphant CB West 4x800 relay of Alec Hofer, Brian Baker, Luke Fehrman and Jake Claricurzio poses with coaches John Mahoney, left, and Greg Wetzel. The Bucks claimed the state title in 7:40.14.

Alec Hofer knows relays oftentimes put their “weakest” runner on the third leg.

There was nothing weak about Hofer’s 1:55.9 split on May 27 on the second day of the state Class AAA track and field championships at Shippensburg University.

“It’s funny,” Central Bucks West head coach Greg Wetzel said. “Alec going in was the one who, on paper, was slower than the other boys, but he had probably the best performance out of the four. All four of them PR’ed (personal record), but Alec is the one who had the biggest improvement. It was an amazing moment – and it wasn’t surprising, either.”

“It was just a really unbelievable experience,” Hofer added, “and I felt like I really left it all out there on race day. Yeah, it was exciting.”

The Bucks 4x800 took the lead on Hofer’s leg and anchor Jake Claricurzio carried the baton across the finish line first in a lightning-quick 7:40.14, which, at the time, was the best mark in the country. CB West has since been passed by a quartet from Thomas Worthington (Ohio) that went a 7:39.86 one week later.

“It’s a great feeling, just the culmination of a lot of hard work and effort,” said Brian Baker, who ran the leadoff leg for the Bucks in 1:54.4. “I’m so happy to share the win with my entire relay because we all are really deserving of it.”

It was CB West’s first state championship in the boys’ 4x800 since 2011.

“I was just hit with a ton of joy right away,” said Claricurzio, when asked for his emotions at the finish line. “At first, I was just smiling, but then seeing these three guys’ reactions and the coaches’ reactions ... that’s what kind of brought me the most joy. I think seeing that we were all in it together and we did it together.”

Perhaps the biggest threat to the Bucks was defending champion State College Area, which clocked a 7:41.42 for second on May 27. The Little Lions prevailed in 7:37.25 a year ago; the Bucks tied for second.

“Coming into this year,” Luke Fehrman, who ran CB West’s second leg in 1:56.5, said, “we knew that we had a really good chance to beat them, knowing that they had lost their best runner [to graduation].”

It was State College, Hofer said, that pushed him to run the leg of his life.

“I knew State College’s anchor was also really strong,” Hofer said, “so I wanted Jake to have a lead on him before I handed off to him.”

Claricurzio booked it to the finish line in 1:52.7.

“Our third leg is just as good as all of us, so [Hofer] was able to give me a lead, which I’m obviously grateful for, and then the rest was just all because of them (his teammates),” Claricurzio said.

“We have four guys who are capable of running under 1:56 and that’s a true testament to how good of a program West is,” Fehrman chimed in.

CB West is fortunate, all agreed, to be in the ultra-tough Suburban One League (SOL) Continental Conference, which had three of the top 4 boys’ 4x800s in the state (Pennridge was third and North Penn was fourth).

“Throughout the season,” Baker said, “I think we knew we had a great group of guys who could all run the 800, but I think the district meet was the real determinant just because that gave us a lot of confidence.”

The same quartet was third at the indoor state championships in late February.

“We have a lot of chemistry,” Fehrman said. “We all train together. We’re all really good friends. We hang out outside of school.”

Now, they’re all part of CB West history. And three of them are eligible to return next year. Baker and Claricurzio are juniors. Fehrman is a sophomore. Only Hofer (Ithaca) departs.

“Alec just always saved his biggest moments for the biggest [meets], so it wasn’t surprising to see him overachieve, like he always does, in these big, big [meets],” Wetzel said. “He was the one who, behind the scenes, was always leading these younger guys. But also when it’s go time, he was the one who was able to drop the most time.”

At the same meet, the Bucks’ 4x400 of Joe Manetta, Christian Bobowicz, Fehrman and Claricurzio was third in 3:18.52.

“To finally win one,” Claricurzio said, “it was just a feeling that you can only get if you do it.”

dcampbell@buckscountyherald.com

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