While most 2012 graduates of Penn Wood High School are preparing to enter college after this summer, one of them is focusing on winning gold.
As one of Pennsylvania’s top student-athletes, Eric Futch of Lansdowne, is working to earn a spot on Team USA, which will compete in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain, this week.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I’ve been dreaming to make the USA team my whole life.”
The talented track-and-field sprinter will compete in the men’s 400 meter hurdles, having emerged victorious at the USA Track and Field Junior Nationals. The Junior Nationals meet was held last month on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. Futch posted the fourth best time in the world, 50.73, among qualified athletes between 16 and 19 years old from 186 nations.
Futch has proven his ability to balance athletics and academics. He was a distinguished honors student on the National Honor Roll and earned the United States Navy Leaders of Tomorrow Award while mentoring elementary school students and youth in an after-school program. He worked as an aide with teachers at his high school and has volunteered as an official at youth track-and-field meets.
Futch also ranked among the top seniors academically at Penn Wood, earning a scholarship to the University of Houston, which perennially ranks in the top ten among National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I track and field teams.
As a future member of the Houston Cougars, Futch will be coached by Leroy Burrell, one of the nation’s premier coaches and former world record holder in the 100 meters.
Burrell, who is a Lansdowne native and Penn Wood graduate, won Olympic gold 20 years ago in the same stadium Futch will compete in — Montjuïc Olympic Stadium.
“Leroy Burrell, you can’t go wrong with that,” Futch said during a press conference announcing his decision to attend Houston. “He’s built from the same cloth (that) I’m built from. He ran on what I run on.”
Futch has cemented his name in Penn Wood’s track and field history, joining Burrell’s sister, Olympian Dawn Burrell, and fellow Houston teammates Brittany Wallace and Darrell Hill.
During his high school career, Futch was named the 2011 Gatorade Pennsylvania Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year, broke the 32-year Pennsylvania state record in the outdoor 300 meter hurdles, won the 400 meter hurdles at the 2011 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) National Championship and earned All-Delco and All-State honors.
In 2012, Futch posted an impressive record becoming the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Indoor Champion in the 200 meters, the 4x200 and the 4x400 meter relays on his way to being named a Track and Field News High School Boy’s All-American.
Closer to home at the Penn Relays, Futch won the 400 meter hurdles, becoming the first Pennsylvanian to win this event, ranking sixth in Penn Relays history. He also was a member of the 4x400 meter relay team that won the Suburban A/B and Philadelphia Area Championships.
Futch has a good chance of getting Team USA back on the medal stand at the IAAF World Junior Championships in the 400 meter hurdles. Regardless of the results, Futch will be sprinting off to college to continue his bright academic and athletic future.
“He’s a real good kid,” said Yeadon’s Recreation Department manager, Elroy Hunter. Hunter worked with Futch as an assistant coach at Penn Wood, getting to know him on and off the track. “He’s bound to be an Olympian someday. He’s a good model for other student-athletes.”