Prep’s Rhea a diamond on the track

Sincere Rhea arrived at St. Augustine Prep four years ago as a football player.

Now, he’s the fastest high school 110-meter hurdler in the country.

“I would have never thought I’d be running track,” the senior said. “But here I am now.”

Rhea achieved his No. 1 status when he ran a wind-aided 13.52 seconds at the Glenn D. Loucks Games in White Plains, New York, last Saturday.

Let Rhea’s accomplishment sink in a bit.

The country, after all, is a big place. The list of high school top-10 hurdlers compiled by milesplit.com, a website that chronicles the national high school track and field scene, includes athletes from California, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

“It’s crazy,” Rhea said. “Even hearing people say it (sounds) unrealistic. It still hasn’t settled in.”

Rhea’s high school career is coming to an end. The South Jersey Non-Public championships will be held Monday and Tuesday at Donovan Catholic in Toms River. The state championships will be held May 31 and June 1 at Central Regional, with the Meet of Champions scheduled for June 8 at Northern Burlington.

Rhea finished second at the MOC last year. He won the 55-meter hurdles at the indoor track and field MOC this winter. He said he doesn’t feel pressure heading into the final championship meets of his career.

“Pressure does two things: It bursts pipes and makes diamonds,” Rhea said. “I feel when all the eyes are on me, I perform a little bit better.”

Rhea’s story is a lesson for all young athletes.

Today, many athletes pick a sport and stick to it. They’re not open to new opportunities.

St. Augustine coach Matt Forrest convinced Rhea to come out for track and field as a freshman.

Rhea tried the hurdles because that’s the event a couple of his friends were involved in.

He’s successful, even though St. Augustine does not have a track on its campus. The Hermits often practice at neighboring Buena Regional about 5½ miles away.

Rhea was a successful wide receiver and defensive back, but he gave up football last fall. He will continue his track and field career at Penn State University on an athletic scholarship.

Rhea often hears from seventh- and eighth-graders who look up to him and want to know the secret of his success.

“I tell them to be open-minded,” he said. “Don’t say, ‘I’m just a football player. I’m just a basketball player or I’m just a baseball player.’ Go and explore your opportunities, especially in high school. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Michael McGarry’s Must Win column appears Fridays in The Press.

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Contact: 609-272-7209 MMcGarry@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressMcGarry

Staff Writer

I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.

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