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May 29—SHIPPENSBURG — He should have been here, said the four sprinters on Aliquippa’s relay team, whose thoughts were with their fifth teammate, hospitalized in Pittsburgh.

Aliquippa placed fifth in the 400-meter relay Friday at the PIAA Class AA track and field championships, but instead of cheers, the Quips tried not to show any tears.

Antonyo Anderson, their injured teammate, classmate and friend, was shot Tuesday while driving in Aliquippa, according to police, and flown to UPMC Presbyterian in critical but stable condition.

“Sonny,” as his friends call him, was on their minds throughout the trip, from the quiet three-hour ride to Shippensburg to the 43.82 seconds they spent sprinting around Seth Grove Stadium.

“We wanted to go out and do it for him,” sophomore Nate Lindsey said.

“He’s like our brother,” added junior Tajier Thornton. “He would have been up here with us. And he can’t even be here.”

The teammates said they’ve received updates from Anderson’s girlfriend and remain optimistic he’ll eventually recover. Staying focused on track was difficult, yet thoughts of Anderson gave them motivation.

“We had to keep thinking about Sonny,” senior Vernon Redd said. “Like, ‘This is what Sonny would have done.’ He would have kept pushing for us too, if it was us in his position.”

The Quips entered the meet seeded sixth in the 400 relay, so they gained one spot in the final standings. They finished seven-hundredths behind Washington. Southern Columbia won the event in 43.59 seconds.

Aliquippa finished fourth in the state in 2017 and ’18, and third in 2019. So, this was the fourth state championship in a row that the Quips earned a top five finish in the event.

For that, they were grateful.

“There’s a whole history behind it,” Thornton said. “We’ve got to keep the legacy going.”

Thornton ran the opening leg of the race, followed by Cyair Clark, Lindsey and Redd. Only one of the four is a senior, so the others already were planning for a return trip to states.

“We’re definitely going to be back here next year,” Thornton said. “I’m proud of my whole team. We ran a good race.”

The performance was remarkable considering what the team had experienced in the past three days. Understandably, the ride to Shippensburg was more somber than usual, coaches Sherman McBride and Vashawn Patrick said.

“There was a lot on our minds,” Redd said. “A lot of things to think about.”

“Your mind is racing,” Thornton added. “You just don’t know what could happen next.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at or via Twitter .