May 28—SHIPPENSBURG — Lofty expectations and the No. 1 seed accompanied the Central Cambria High School boys 3200-meter relay squad to Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium on Friday.
The Red Devils entered the PIAA Class 2A Track and Field Championship Meet with the top time in the state — by 8 seconds over the second seed.
Then, Central Cambria tweaked the order of its relay team, a move that paid dividends as the Red Devils built a solid lead and never relented. New anchor Toby Cree crossed the finish line at 7:59.70 for first place in the 3200 relay. The Devils took the gold over runner-up St. Joseph's Catholic (8:07.05) and third-place Hughesville (8:07.14).
"Everybody expected us to win, but we had the attitude that anything could happen," said Adam Lechleitner, who ran the third leg on Friday after holding anchor duties when the Red Devils broke the District 6 meet record on May 18 at Mansion Park. "We saw the girls race. There's No. 4 (Central Cambria) up in second. There is stuff that changes. We were prepared for that."
The Red Devils girls placed second in the state in the 3200-meter relay prior to the boys event.
"Leading off the race, we knew we had a big X on our back," said Red Devil Corey Roberts, who ran the first leg. "Everyone was coming for us. Everyone knew we were the 1 (seed). We came out and we figured, 'You can't lose if the baton never goes in second.'
"From the gun, we got out. Good first leg. Held that lead. Then I just dug it out for the second lap and held our lead. I knew it was good from there."
Tyler Gibson took the baton on the second leg and gave it to Leichleitner, with the Red Devils in good position.
"The first guy gave me a great lead so I just had to hold it," Gibson said. "Went out a little bit faster in that first lap. The second lap was all about maintaining it, keeping that gap and letting my other teammates have an easy run."
Lechleitner, who later placed fourth with a 13-0 pole vault, said the new three/four runner combination was ready to fill their respective roles.
"We made the lineup change with Toby Cree as the anchor," Lechleitner said. "So, I knew handing the baton off to him in first, I knew there was no way he would let (the Red Devils give up the lead). He's been wanting the state gold forever. We finally got it done. I'm just happy for everybody on my team that we could accomplish this.
"We worked super hard for this. I'm just glad it all came together in our favor."
Cree said running in the anchor spot creates new responsibilities and another type of pressure. But his teammates had provided him with a sizable margin to maintain.
"It was definitely different," said Cree, usually the No. 3 runner. "It was a lot scarier. You're the last leg. Whatever place you finish is the finish for the entire team.
"We made the lineup switch. A lot more pressure. A lot more nerves. I'm always nervous when I'm running so there was not much difference there."
Even with the lead, Cree took the mind-set that he was being pressed.
"I didn't really pay attention to anybody behind me," Cree said. "I was racing like somebody was on my back the entire time, chasing me down. That's the mind-set you've got to go with when you're leading the race.
"You've got to keep the pedal on the gas."