Lake-Lehman track and field coach John Sobocinski first met Dominic Hockenbury more than five years ago as a student in his seventh-grade science class, who went out for junior high cross country, which Sobocinski also kept an eye on as varsity coach of that sport in the fall.
“He was still involved in baseball and ice hockey,” Sobocinski said. “He was a good athlete who came out for the junior high team.”
Soon, Sobocinski learned he had more than a good athlete on his team.
Junior high coach Justin Mazer, while trying to keep Hockenbury from overdoing it by running too many miles, told Sobocinski that he thought the Black Knights had a special runner in their program.
Nobody, however, could have predicted what was ahead.
“I knew we were going to have some opportunities and I knew that he was talented,” Sobocinski said. “Did I know he was going to win five state gold? Absolutely not.”
Hockenbury, a Syracuse University recruit, won his third 3200-meter run state title at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Track and Field Championships May 28, adding that to the two PIAA state gold medals, one silver medal and one other medal he won in four seasons as a cross country runner.
“If you would have told me we were going to win just one, I would have signed on the dotted line,” Sobocinski said.
Sobocinski got more than he expected to the point where by the time Hockenbury was done, the state titles seemed almost routine. That was in contrast to Sobocinski’s phone calls home and to school two years ago when he could hardly speak when trying to share word of having just coached a state champion.
Hockenbury’s latest state championship was part of another strong Back Mountain performance that also produced second-, third- and fourth-place finishes.
Katie Kravitsky was second in the high jump and Ally Rome was third in the 3200-meter run for the Dallas girls in Class AAA. Caroline Banas, a Holy Redeemer senior from Dallas, was fourth in the high jump in Class AA.
By the time Hockenbury passed through junior high at Lake-Lehman, he was immersed in running. He had already developed his running style of going out aggressively and trying to break the rest of the runners early. In eighth grade, he dropped baseball to add track and field to his time in cross country and was taking aim at some of the more impressive established records at junior high meets.
When he made his debut in varsity cross country as a freshman at the Robbins Invitational, Hockenbury declared he wanted to win a state medal that season. Although the coach cautioned Hockenbury to keep that goal to himself for the time being, it was the first of many that were accomplished.
The latest came in the scorching heat at Shippensburg University where Hockenbury won in 9:13.70 to finish more than seven seconds ahead of the rest of the 25-runner field.
“Even though it’s expected, a lot can go wrong, obviously on a hot morning like it was down there,” Sobocinski said. “To his credit, he did what he had to do. He just broke the pack and ran away with it.”
Kravitsky, a senior and University of Cincinnati recruit, earned her second state medal in the high jump moving up to second out of 24 with a height of 5-8.
Rome, like Hockenbury, a two-time state champion in cross country, closed out her high school career with her first state medal in track. The Princeton recruit finished third in a 31-runner field in the 3200-meter run in 10:44.81.
Banas, who a week earlier led Holy Redeemer to the District 2 Class AA team championship, finished fourth out of 23 high jumpers by clearing 5-4.
Uzojie Ukattah from Dallas missed reaching the semifinals by one spot in two events. He finished 17th in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes where 16 competed in the semifinals.
Lake-Lehman’s 3200-meter relay team finished 20th in Class AAA girls.
The Black Knights boys 400 relay team did not finish after a mix up on a baton exchange.
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