Xxavier Thomas has a unique spelling of his first name, so if you ask the personable teen why there’s two x’s in it, you’re bound to get an interesting and colorful explanation, right?

“I’m not going to lie. I don’t know what my parents’ reasoning was behind that,” Thomas said with a laugh. “I’m definitely not complaining about it, though, because the majority of people do spell it with the one x, so at least I can stand out a little with the two x’s.”

The first name isn’t the only thing that makes Thomas stand out, though, something the Central Catholic junior and Penn State football recruit is showcasing again this spring as one of the WPIAL track and field’s most outstanding jumpers.

While it’s not always smart to jump to conclusions, it’s a safe bet to assume Thomas will be a star in the jumping events at pretty much every meet he attends. Thomas is the defending WPIAL Class 3A champion in the triple jump and this season has emerged as one of the top long jumpers in the district, as well.

“The goal will be to defend my triple jump championship,” Thomas said. “And of course I’m going to try to win but at least place in the long jump.”

Thomas won both events at the Butler Invitational two weeks ago, leaping a season-best 45 feet, 6½ inches in the triple jump and a career-best 22-5¾ in the long jump. According to MileSplit, Thomas owns the No. 1 long jump and No. 2 triple jump in the WPIAL this spring. Mt. Lebanon’s Luke Cramer (45-9¼) is the only athlete with a longer triple jump. Cramer finished second to Thomas at least year’s WPIAL championships when the latter soared a career-best 45-11 to take home the title.

Before the season ends, Thomas said he is hopeful to reach the high-46s or low-47s in the triple jump and high-22s or low-23s in the long jump. Thomas’ best mark in the long jump entering the season was 20-4½. Thomas and Central Catholic will compete in Friday’s Baldwin Invitational.

While some football players compete in track and field just to stay active, Thomas has been attached to track, along with football and basketball, since he was 6 or 7 years old. Thomas said that his work on the track has carried over to football, where he has already been named all-conference twice as a defensive back.

“Definitely the explosive aspect of it,” he said. “Not only that, but keeping me in shape, as well. But also working on my mechanics, as far as my form when I’m running and things like that.”

Thomas, who verbally committed to Penn State back in December, said he has gotten lots of encouragement from his future football coaches.

“They like the guys being involved in multiple sports, so I know that they’re happy with me doing other sports like track,” said Thomas, also a starter on the Central Catholic basketball team.

Thomas continues to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Rodney, a former Central Catholic standout who went on to play football at Yale and is now preparing for his third NFL season with the Indianapolis Colts. Rodney was also a triple jumper and long jumper in high school, finishing fourth in both events at the WPIAL championships his senior year. Little brother has already exceeded big brother’s top triple jump, but Rodney still holds a slight edge in the long jump courtesy of a top leap of 22-9½.

In the case of Xxavier, there should be no doubting this Thomas this track and field season, even if he still doesn’t know the story behind the two x’s.

“I’ve never even asked,” Thomas said to a reporter when questioned about it. “But I might have to now that you bring it up.”

A tale of two Cramers

Luke and Lily Cramer compete in both the triple jump and hurdles at Mt. Lebanon. Luke is a senior and Lily a sophomore. The two aren’t siblings, though, but rather cousins. Their fathers are twins who were star football players at Mt. Lebanon three decades ago. Luke’s dad, Matt, played quarterback and then running back, and Lily’s dad, Mike, was a tight end and linebacker. They graduated in 1994 before going on to play in college, Matt at Washington & Jefferson and Mike at Dayton, Westminster and Washington & Jefferson. Both also competed in track at Mt. Lebanon, with Matt being a sprinter and jumper and Mike a hurdler.

Luke Cramer is a Fordham recruit and one of the WPIAL’s top triple jumpers. In fact, his jump of 45-9¼ at the Mt. Lebanon Invitational was not only a PR but also the best mark by a WPIAL athlete this season. He was the runner-up at the WPIAL Class 3A championships last season. He also runs the 110 hurdles. Meanwhile, Lily Cramer has continued to have success after placing 10th in the 300 hurdles at WPIAL’s her freshman season. She finished third at the TSTCA Championship and seventh at the Butler Invitational. She also competes in the 100 hurdles and triple jump. And on top of that, she’s a starting defenseman on Mt. Lebanon’s unbeaten lacrosse team.

Recappin’ the Relays

Butler’s Drew Griffith and Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak once again shined on the national stage last week, as the pals, rivals and Notre Dame recruits finished 1-2 in the mile at the Penn Relays at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. Griffith won the title with a time of 4:03.35, which was only a few seconds slower than the 4:00.77 he ran at the Butler Invitational a week earlier. Pajak finished in 4:10.28. Those two placed 1-2 at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championship in December in San Diego, and both broke the state 3,200 record while running in the Arcadia Invitational in Arcadia, Calif., earlier this month.

Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter bagged a top-3 finish at the Penn Relays for the second time in her career by placing third in the 3,000 with a personal-record time of 9:34.19. According to MileSplit, it’s the fastest time ever run by a WPIAL athlete and ranks fifth in state history. Addison Ritzenhein, a sophomore from Niwot, Colo., won in 9:17.81. St. John Kletter placed second in the mile at the Penn Relays her junior season.

Mohawk’s Jaxon Schoedel also put on a strong showing, placing 10th in the boys 3,000 after running a time of 8:36.36. It was a PR for Schoedel, a junior who won WPIAL and PIAA Class 1A cross country titles last fall. Ty Steorts of Hurricane, W.Va., won with a winning time of 8:24.77.

Vaulting to success

It has been a strong season for local girls pole vaulters, as three of them have already produced marks that rank among the best in WPIAL history, according to historian Jim Faiella. The terrific trio consists of Hempfield senior Grace Iwig, North Allegheny sophomore Lindsay Breneman and Beaver senior Elizabeth Michael.

Iwig boasts a top vault of 12-6, which has been surpassed by only five girls in WPIAL history. Larisa Debich, a 2012 Hempfield graduate, holds the record of 13-0¼. Breneman and Michael have both soared 12-3, which ties them for 15th on the all-time list.

Breneman placed third and Iwig sixth at last year’s WPIAL Class 3A championships, while Michael is the defending WPIAL Class 2A champion. Iwig finished third at the PTFCA Indoor State Championship.

This and that

Hampton senior Dale Hall ran a sizzling time of 1:52.28 to successfully defend his title in the 800 at the South Fayette Invitational. Hall’s time was a PR and ranks first in the state this season. A Liberty recruit, Hall is the reigning PIAA Class 3A champion in the 1,600. … Gateway junior thrower Dino Nadarevic continued his breakout season by winning titles in the discus and shot put at the South Fayette Invitational. Nadarevic went 165-0 in the discus and 57-6 in the shot put, both personal bests. He ranks 10th in the state in the discus and seventh in the shot put. Coming into the season, Nadarevic’s career bests had been 117-1 in the discus and 38-0¾ in the shot put.

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.