To quote Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, “Oh What a Night!”
The last few meets we have had slow starts, but have been able to regroup midway to finish strong. On Monday and yesterday, I challenged the group to start fast and set the tone for the day. I was especially calling on our first competitions of the day, boys and girls 4x8s, Asara in the discus, Mary in the triple, and Lance in the long jump. To simply put it, we wanted to impose our will throughout the day and our first competitors was the perfect group to do this.
The other things I made clear was that while the intensity would need to be cranked up today, no one needed to do anything other than just be themselves. We didn’t need any super-human performances. They just needed to be them. Everyone was capable of greatness, it was simply a matter of what they were willing to do.
As the jumps and throws were underway, the girls 4×8 lined up for the first final of the day. As the gun went off, it was obvious the intensity I was looking for was there. Lucia was sitting in second through 300m, then coming off the bend she moved into first and it was her and our old rivals, Central Cambria, running stride for stride. As they hit the backstretch, Lucia did perfect thing as she held the Central Cambria girl off down the backstretch forcing her to run wide on the bend. They would hand off together and Lindsey attached herself quickly to the leader. Around 450, Central Cambria began to pull away as they were chasing the meet record. Lindsey kept us comfortably in second by closing well with great last 150 as she passed the baton to Kate who kept the pressure on in the opening lap. Kate continued a strong push as she entered the second lap as she was urged on by Lindsey and Lucia and other members of the team. You could see as they were cheering that their season goal was close to coming true. Kate used a fast last 75m to open up more space on 3rd place as she handed off to Sera. The first 3 girls put us in a great position and it was time for Sera to finish off the deal. Luckily, we were starting to lap people, so it gave Sera more runners to chase. She was able to get into a group that was on their opening lap during her second lap that propelled her to the finish. The girls demolished their school record by 22s to run 9:44 for second placed. The time is currently the 5th fastest AA time in the state. It was exactly what we needed to open the meet. In the process, they became the first girls to qualify to states.
There were two heats of the boys 4×8, which gave me chance to check on the field events. Lance started with 19-7 in the long jump and we were waiting to see if that made finals. Mary had opened up with a best jump in the 29s. While Asara broke the school record in the discuss again with a toss of 95 feet and was getting ready for the finals. She was sitting in 5th place.
The boys 4×8 was ready to hit the track. Following the girls lead, the boys went out hard as Eli launched himself in first place in the opening 200m. As they hit 400m, there were two teams in tow, while the field was already stretched and their panic had begun. On the backstretch, a challenger pulled up on Eli’s shoulder and he found another gear and began to create a gap that would grow with every step. On the homestretch he turned it up another notch and passed the baton to Kaelan with a lead we would never relinquish. Kaelan started a theme the next three runners would follow, he got out hard forcing the teams to chase him down, then closed with a strong last 100m. Kaelan added to our lead as hammered home a 31s last 200 to get the stick to Charles who started with with 27s 200 to put his stamp on the race. As the opposition tried to chase Charles down, they ran out of steam and he gave Michael more than enough lead to work with on the final leg. Michael was completely in the zone as he cruised around the track. I commented to David Carmack how great a feeling that is, being out front and just rolling along in a great rhythm. When Michael broke the tape, the boys had established a new school record of 8:20. While we have had different pieces on the 4×8 over the last four years, this was really four years in the making. They went from finishing 4th in the first heat with Eli and JP running great legs during their freshman year to being 4th overall the next year and missing states, which was crushing considering we were the top seeds. Then last year they were second. Eli has been a part of all four teams, while Michael has run on the last 3 and Charles the last 2. We were off an running on our day.
After the 4x8s, we learned that Lance just missed the finals by an inch and half. Asara did not improve on her opening throws. With her fifth place finish, she became the first field event scorer in school history for boys for girls! Hats off to Asara and Brenna for this historic accomplishment. Lance, Mary, and Asara answered the call and got us going in the field.
After the break, the finals were ready to get underway. Sera, Jordan, and Kaelan were up first in the 1600. Jordan was in the first heat and got herself in good position as she set the pace through the 400m. After being passed on the second lap, she stuck with the leaders in a tight pack of five until the bell lap. As they prepared for the final charge she got gapped with 300 to go. But she was able to battle back in the last 150 for a strong finish to close out her career. Next up was Sera in the fast heat. The plan was to go out hard and make it a race and not a sit and kick affair. From the gun, Sera set the pace as only two runners went with her. The three of them ran stride for stride for 1350m as they had 40m+ gap on the field. As Sera started her kick, the other two girls found another gear and were able to pull away. Sera finished 3rd in a new personal best of 5:18 and earn an individual trip to states.
Kaelan had a crowded heat of 20+ runners that made positioning difficult. He was able to get out well and stick with the lead pack through the first lap. As they passed 600m, the eventual winner started his charge, unfortunately Kaelan was boxed and couldn’t get free until the homestretch. After getting free, he was able to get himself back in the top 10. He continued to battle over the next two laps and was able to climb into the top 8. He had his customary lightning quick last 200m to finish 7th overall in 4:44, a personal best.
Next on the track was the girls 4×1 team of Xabine, Monica, Sarah, and Mary. Last week when the girls hit the standard at Hollidaysburg, they were super excited and looking forward to the championships. Monica has been out all season and last Thursday was her first race. When I told her Mom, Janine, about it she was shocked Monica raced and asked how Monica’s leg was doing. I simply said it was still attached, which made her laugh. Monica and the girls were flying high after their school record run last week and ready to race. The girls worked on their handoffs when we got there and felt comfortable with everything. That was their first time practicing on the track in the zones. We have exchange zones painted on the street by the school, but it is not the same being on an actual track in spikes. In the finals yesterday, they nearly matched their record-setting effort as they ran 56 for a strong day.
Next up were Lindsey and Michael in the 800m. Lindsey’s 800m heat has 24 runners which was a very crowded field. Lindsey was able to work her way through the masses on the first lap to get just outside the top half. She maintained her positioning through the 600. As she hit the scoreboard she was able to hit another gear to work her way up to 12th for a strong race.
Michael had a smaller heat of 15 which gave him more space to move. He got boxed and knocked around the first 200 and wasn’t able to find his usual rhythm. He stuck in the top 5 through 400, but lost a few places on the backstretch. He was able to wake up the last 75m for a strong finish.
Lance and Mary were now up for their next jumps, Mary in the long and Lance in the triple. The lights were on in the stadium as the competition was heating up on the runways. Mary had a best jump of 14-9, which was a little short to make the finals. But concluded a great first season for her. Lance got off to a great start as opened up with personal best of 42-7 to make everyone take notice. He had a great opening series of two more jumps in the 42s as he sat in 4th place heading into the finals. In the finals he was able reach down and get a little more as he leaped 43-3.25 for big time jump that moved him into 3rd place and put the pressure on his competitors. He continued his strong series as all of his jumps were over 42 feet. After the dust settled, Lance’s leap held up for third place which established a new school record and made Lance our first field event state qualifier. The jumpers are in similar boat as the sprinters with a lack of facilities. To be able to perform as they did with very limited pit time is a prime example of overcoming adversity. But it also illustrates the importance of drills and repetition. When you focus on the little things, great things happen. Great day for the jumpers and Tim.
Next up on the track were our five-person 3200 contingent of Lucia, Kate, Lea, Eli, and Andy. The girls were up first and headed to the front of the race to set the tone with Lucia in the lead and Kate and Lea right behind her. By 500m Lucia had opened up a lead on the field while Kate and Lea were in the chase pack. Lucia continued to open up a lead as Kate was with a pack of 6 and Lea just off their pace. As they hit 600m to go, a runner from United had closed down to Lucia while Kate was in 7th and Lea in 15th. Over the last 600m Lucia and the runner from United were stride for stride. With 80 to go, Lucia gapped her, but the opposing runner had one more final burst with 30 to go to nip Lucia before the line. Kate used a strong last 600m to move into 6th place and break 12 mins for the first time. Lea was a little off her best in 12:45. Great races considering all that goes into the day.
In the boys 3200, Eli set the pace as Andy stuck in the lead pack. Eli keep everyone on task through the halfway point, while Andy was in the chase pack. On the backstretch of the 5th lap Eli and the eventual winner from Central Cambria opened a gap. The Central Cambria runner was able to continue to force the pace and created separation to Eli. Andy was mid-pack with a strong group of runners. With 1000m to go, Eli now had company as two runners had caught up to him. He did a great job of holding them off over the next 550m. With 450 to go, Eli and the runner from Southern Huntingdon took off and got some breathing room. Andy was beginning his final charge as well. The Southern Huntingdon runner overtook Eli in the last 150, but Eli hung on for third to make a return trip back to states. Andy was just off his best with a 10:51. Strong days for both runners.
The 4x400m relays were our last events. We had a some shuffled lineups. For the girls, it was Lindsey, Sera, Sarah, and Lucia and the for the boys, Charles, Kaelan, Jacob, and Michael. Both teams were in the second heat. The girls were up first. Lindsey got out well and stuck us in the pack. Sera was able to charge on the second leg to move us into second. Sarah ran strong, but lost a little ground on leg 3 as we fell back in the pack. Lucia maintained our positioning to close out the day for the girls.
The girls combined to score 29 points and finished 10th overall our highest finish to date.
In the boys 4×4, Charles used a strong lead off leg to get Kaelan in a good position. Kaelan had an unmatched surge over the last 120m that propelled us into the thick of things. Unfortunately Jacob collided with another runner to start his leg, but was able to rebound and run well and get the baton to Michael who closed it out for us. The boys ran 3:46, four seconds off their season’s best.
The boys were the top finishers in the county as they ended up 16th with 24 points.
It was a historic day for the school and our program.