Travis Zimmerman reassured all those who followed him that he would be back and healthy for the District 3 Class 2A Track and Field Championships. It was the right thing to say after taking a leadership role in his senior season, but even he wasn’t sure how things would play out.
The Fairfield shot put specialist still wasn’t throwing the distances he knows he’s capable of at Shippensburg on Saturday, but he did enough to advance only two weeks after taking an errant shot put to the midsection at a meet in Greencastle-Antrim. A 51 foot, 6.5 inch throw at Ship earned him district gold for a second straight year.
“I was worried, if I’m being honest,” he said. “That hip hasn’t felt the same since, but it felt a lot better today, that’s for sure.”
Zimmerman was already bothered by an ankle injury when he suffered what would have been a season-ending blow for a lot of athletes. Superior core strength and lucky placement helped him avoid broken bones or damaged organs, though he still suffered some nerve damage.
The pain he experienced Saturday began in his lower back and wrapped around to his groin and hip, he said.
“To be off for two and a half weeks and pull that number off, that felt awesome,” he said. “Especially on such a big stage like this. But there’s going to be a lot of ice in my future, I can tell.”
Making it more satisfying was the fact that Zimmerman completed three 50-foot throws as he swapped leads with Wyomissing sophomore Evan Niedrowski.
“He pushed me and I pushed him. It was an awesome competition,” Zimmerman said. “He led a couple of times. It shook me up and made me nervous, but to be able to match him as a competitor was awesome.”
A year ago, Derek Herr didn’t seem able to enjoy his experience at the District 3 or PIAA meets at all, even as he made Littlestown history. A series of headaches stemming from a neck injury made the every performance feel like punishment.
His demeanor did a complete 180 degree spin after finishing his second of two gold-medal winning races at Shippensburg on Saturday. His 110 hurdle victory, matching a career-best 14.73 seconds, was flawless, coming within half a second of a 27-year-old district record. He followed with a career-best 38.99 300 hurdle time that was .31 seconds off the best mark in district history. He holds Littlestown’s school record in both events.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good. I’ve had that adrenaline to get me through it all that I’ve been missing the past few weeks,” he said before focusing on the 300. “This race, I was just hyper the whole time. I’m confident going to states now that I know what to expect. I’m going to go there and do my best.”
TAKING AFTER STEVE
If Milly Heinbaugh has one regret from an unforgettable track season, it’s that she’s been so busy with her own achievements that she wasn’t able to see her brother compete in college.
Steve Heinbaugh, Fairfield’s pole-vault record holder, continued his track career in stellar fashion two weekends ago, winning the decathlon for Gettysburg College in the Centennial Conference Championships.
“I try to live up to all of my siblings and beat them, but definitely Steve the most since he was our first track star in the family,” she said. “He’s such an inspiration to me. Ever since I was younger, we were always doing something outside, running around. We compete with each other in sports. I’m definitely a stronger person having an older brother, especially one who did wrestling and football.”
Not to be outdone, Milly dashed to first places in the 100 (12.46) and 200 (25.48), lowering her school record in the latter.
“I just keep surprising myself,” she said. “It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”
Almost immediately after the 200, Heinbaugh went back to the track to run in the 4x400 relay with Zoe Logue and sisters Honey and Rio Strosnider. They reduced their season-best time to 4:11.07, for third place, just missing a state qualifying performance. Heinbaugh is also going to states in the long jump after taking second on Friday.
“It’s so tough to multi-task this whole thing,” she said. “I’m dead, but I’m so happy for us, even getting third. That PR was awesome.”
FASTER AND FASTER
As the competition gets tougher, Bermudian Springs’ Kayla Pyles keeps hurdling faster.
The Eagles’ 110 hurdles specialist lowered her school record performance in her marquee event, finishing in 15.32 seconds to repeat as the champ in the D3-2A championships.
“I really don’t like to lose, especially since I was the champion last year,” she said. “I have to assert my dominance as the alpha for the team. I can’t let anyone top me. It’s a competition within myself, really.”
Pyles also reduced her season-best 300 hurdles time to 48.54 seconds to take third place. She missed the PIAA qualifying time by less than a second.
“I’m not super sad about that to tell you the truth,” she said. “That is my least favorite race. I’m glad to end it the way that I did. It was a good race for me and I’m satisfied.”
Many have told Carter Tatara that he didn’t have the typical body for the pole vault. Some might have buckled after that criticism, but that only made the Biglerville senior work harder.
Through the course of the season, Tatara dropped 20 pounds and continued to work on his craft. It culminated in a 13-6 leap that matched a PR and bought him an automatic bid for the PIAA-2A Championships, as well as a fifth-place medal at Shippensburg.
“It feels like four years of a lot of work from my whole team led up to this,” he said. “I want to say thank you to my coaches and my team for always being there to support me.”
The 6-foot, 2-inch, 174-pound Tatara is in some of the best shape of his life now, but acknowledged the challenges he faced when he was edging up on 200 pounds.
“It’s a lot harder for me to get up there and get up to the speed I need to launch myself,” he said. “It’s also a lot more to work with when you swing up.”
Each pole comes with a weight requirement, forcing Tatara to take a look at his dimensions at every stage of the season.
“I had to eat healthier — not eating those everyday cookies with lunch,” he said. “None of my friends had to do the same, so when everyone’s sitting around eating the bad food, I’m there with something that tastes awful but I know it’s good for me.”
Tatara planned to break his diet Saturday night before returning to his regimen.
“I have chinese food waiting at home,” he said.
Biglerville was without a vault coach at the start of this season, but former Canner Jake Grim returned to practices to help his friend stay active in his favorite event. Only one year separates the two. Tatara laughed when asked if the power got to Grim’s head.
“It was more of a discussion. I told him what I thought was wrong and he’d give me recommendations,” he said. “It was nice because we’d already been together for a whole year of track season.”
NEW BAR FOR DUNBAR
Two years ago, Littlestown’s Jess Dunbar never imagined making it to the District 3 meet, let alone as a thrower.
The former high jumper hung up her cleats to focus on volleyball after her sophomore season, but returned this year at the behest of some friends to try to score some points for the Thunderbolt girls.
It turned out she had more to offer than an occasional score or two in regular season dual meets. On Saturday, she turned out a 34-1.25 shot put toss to take fourth in the D3-2A Championships. Only throwing shot for a month, she just wished she’d started sooner.
“It’s just been a lot of core exercises to move quickly through the circle and get the motion that you need,” she said. “I’m going to miss this. Everyone’s laid back and fun. Getting this experience was good.”
Dunbar plans to play volleyball at Millersville next year.
See Wednesday’s Times for more from the District 3 Track & Field Championships.
Adam Michael can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at @GoodOldTwoNames