SOPHOMORE SURGE

STEEDS SHINE — South Western sophomores Zaiyah Marshall, left, and Jalen Bradford pose after earning a sweep over Dallastown at the Corral on Tuesday. Marshall also broke the school’s long jump record with a leap of 17 feet, 7.75 inches.

Teams that want to get a shot in at South Western track and field better strike now. The nucleus of the boys’ and girls’ teams are only going to get better.

Seniors Kayla Brooks, Alyssa Steipler, Taylor Geiman and Megan Wolf put up some big performances against Dallastown, but the sophomores stole the show.

Recent transfer and sophomore Dustin Edwards won the boys’ 110 hurdles (15.7), the 300 hurdles (42.9) and the high jump (6-1). His classmate, Jalen Bradford, hit a big personal record on the long jump (20-2.5). Another sophomore, Dimarco Brooks, did the same in the triple jump (42-0).

As the South Western boys celebrated the 79-71 victory that left them as the last undefeated group in the YAIAA-1, Zaiyah Marshall busted out a long jump (17-7.75) unseen in the confines of the Corral prior to Tuesday. Then, a screaming celebration in which the sophomore hugged anyone in reach served as the exclamation point of a 103-47 victory. That sets up Thursday’s showdown against Spring Grove, the only other team in the division that remains undefeated.

“It’s a special class,” South Western coach Bruce Lee said of the sophomores. “They were my hardest workers last year as freshmen. I love the whole team, but this group, I’m lucky I get to coach them. They want to compete, they want to be successful and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Against a perennial power for the boys in the YA-1, 18 of the 25 places that South Western took in individual events were represented by athletes less than halfway finished with their high school eligibility. Of the nine first places, only junior Tim Shoul’s tie in the 1,600 (4:49.1) against Ryan Breighner came from an upperclassman. Sophomore Charles Gaither got first in the shot put (38-1.5), freshman Jake Zinkand picked up a win in the pole vault (12-3) and classmate Matt Feeser did the same in the javelin (120-4).

“They held it together,” Lee said. “It’s been some different group every meet that’s come through for us. Today it was our jumps. They were just incredible.”

The Mustangs took a pounding on the track, trailing 55-32 without the field. Dallastown’s Israel McLean and AJ McDaniel dominated the sprints as expected, and a false start in the 4x400 granted the Wildcats a sweep in the relays.

“For a moment I thought it was going to slip away,” Lee said. “But we had a jumping day like we haven’t had in a while.”

Dimarco Brooks got the jumping jolt started with a personal best by more than three feet in the triple jump. He needed to top his previous best to take down Matteo Conigliaro (39-10.75).

“I was always struggling with the second phase of my jump,” he said. “This week I put a lot of work in and was able to drag them out to add a foot to each jump. It felt good to get the dub.”

Bradford’s long jump came later in the day. His leap just surpassed Cameron Yarnell (20-1) by an inch and a half. Tyler Higdon’s 19-11.5 took third by the same difference.

“This was a big meet. We put in a lot of practice all week and I’m glad we could come out with it,” Bradford said. “This is only my second meet doing the long jump this year. I was a little rushy last time.”

Lee suspected his boys might be on the verge of greatness this season if they could fill holes in the high jump and hurdles. He could not have gotten a better answer than Edwards if he’d attempted to give life to a custom-made golem.

Fresh in from Elizabeth Forward School District in Pittsburgh, Edwards was a specialist in all the areas the Mustangs needed. His times in the hurdles are already sitting just outside the District 3 Class 3A qualifying guidelines.

“It’s nice being with a good program,” Edwards said. “My track and field team never really did anything. I’m just happy to be here.”

There was only one notable boys throw, a 143-1 in the discus by Dallastown’s Jordan Brabham. The young Mustangs took advantage of the weaker field, with freshmen and sophomores sweeping the shot put and taking all but two places in the other throwing events.

TUNE UP FOR A TITLE

The Mustangs girls have won two of the last three YAIAA-1 titles, absorbing a rare defeat to Spring Grove in 2017. That year, Kayla Brooks took one last spring to finish out her gymnastics career.

Unlike the rest of the seniors, Brooks doesn’t know the taste of defeat. She hopes to keep it that way with a showdown with the Rockets coming up Thursday.

“I’m really crossing my fingers this year,” she said. “I feel like we can do it. We’ve really come together more as a team, more than it being individualized. I’m really happy with how it’s going.”

The Mustang girls were in rare form as they dismantled Dallastown. The Wildcats would have taken it to them on the track had it not been for sweeps in the hurdles.

In the third meet of her first full year training as a hurdler, junior Anna Simpson ran for a personal best in the 100 hurdles (16.6) for first and grabbed another victory in the pole vault (9-6).

“I did them a little last year, but I was a little nervous today, especially with the wind,” she said. “I’ve been working with the breakaway hurdles. I’m trying to get my lean down and get my trail leg through.”

Freshman Kayla Leppo also got a new personal record in the 300 hurdles, finishing in 51.6 seconds for first. Both were on the 4x100 relay, along with Kayla Brooks and Marshall.

Kayla Brooks, the older sister of Dimarco and one of the team’s biggest leaders, was first in the triple jump (34-9.5) as well as her best event, the high jump (5-2).

“I’m still looking for the record. I really want to get it up there,” Brooks said, aiming at 5-4.5 to catch the 1997 performance of Jen Moore. “I just need to practice more. We haven’t gotten to the pit as much because I’m practicing hurdles more.”

Brooks will head to Shippensburg University next year, joining the track and field team. She is glad to have one last year to watch her brother mature into the athlete she knows he can be.

“I wasn’t down here to watch. I was so upset when coach came down and said he made the jump, only because I wanted to see it so bad,” she said. “He’s doing so well, it’s crazy.”

Dimarco has enjoyed being on the team with his sister.

“I try to one-up her in everything,” he said. “I push her and she pushes me as well. It’s a good memory to hold onto.”

Geiman led a sweep in the javelin (102-1), Steipler did the same in the discus with a new PR (106-2) and took first in the shot put (34-7). Wolf took second in the jav (98-6) and the disc (97-5) and third in the shot (34-7).

The sun was beginning to set as the final event of the day came near its finish. Marshall had already jumped twice, scratching one long jump and leaping far enough to win the event with ease in the other.

Shut it down — right after this jump, Lee said to a disgruntled Marshall, who knew she still had two remaining. Lee didn’t want to risk an injury with a championship-deciding meet in two days.

The sophomore put everything she had into her leap, but fouled by an inch or two before soaring into the pit. Lee narrowed his eyes as she landed, asked for a measurement despite the scratch, and shook his head as he realized how well she was performing.

Go ahead. Jump again, he said.

Marshall lined up again and landed a nearly identical jump. This time, though, she nailed the takeoff. The athlete waited with anticipation as officials stretched the tape. When they announced she’d leaped 1.75 inches longer than the Beth Kolmer’s 17-6 mark from 2011, she let out a loud shout and looked for someone to hug.

“I didn’t think I jumped that far, but when I heard it, I went running over to the coaches as fast as I could,” she said. “I’m happy — more than happy. It’s crazy.”

BOYS

3200 relay: 1. South Western (Shilo Bivins, Eric-David Celaya, Timothy Shoul, Connor Miller) 8:48.20; 110 hurdles: 1. Dustin Edwards (SW) 15.7, 3. Samuel Ensor (SW) 17.40; 100: 1. McLean (D) 11.1, 3. Jalen Bradford (SW) 11.5; 1600: 1. Breighner (D) 4:49.10, 1. Shoul (SW) 4:49.1; 400 relay: 1. Dallastown 44.4; 400: 1. Veins (D) 52.3, 2. Chris Lesher (SW) 54.0; 300 hurdles: 1. Dustin Edwards (D) 42.9, 3. Ensor (SW) 43.8; 800: 1. Trepanier (D), 2. Miller (SW) 2:11.1; 200 dash: 1. McLean (D) 23.5; 3. Jaden Knisley (SW) 24.2; 3200: 1. McCleary (D) 10:32.3; 2. Shoul (SW) 10:46.6; 1600 relay: 1. Dallastown 4:08.90; High jump: 1. Edwards (SW) 6-1, 2. Knisley (SW) 5-11; Pole Vault: 1. Jake Zinkland (SW) 12-3, 2. Jack McBride (SW) 12-0, 3. Tyler Higdon (SW) 11-0; Long jump: 1. Bradford (SW) 20-2.5, 3. Higdon (SW) 19-11.5; Triple jump: 1. Dimarco Brooks (SW) 42-0; Shot put: 1. Charles Gaither (SW) 38-1.5, 2. Steven Morgan (SW) 37-2.5, 3. Rheed Schmelyun (SW) 35-10.75; Javelin: 1. Matt Feeser (SW) 120-4, 3. Schmelyun (SW) 115-7; Discus: 1. Brabham (D) 143-1, 2. Schmelyun (SW) 103-9, 3. Gaither (SW) 101-7.

GIRLS

3200 relay: 1. Dallastown 11:22.81, 100 hurdles: 1. Anna Simpson (SW) 16.6, 2. Elaine Fenandes 18.0, 3. Gillian Wright (SW) 18.1; 100: 1. Shanks (D) 12.6, 2. Zaiyah Marshall (SW) 12.7; 1600: 1. Schuler (D) 5:27.9, 3. Sarah Forry (SW) 5:46.0; 400 relay: 1. South Western (Kayla Leppo, Simpson, Kayla Brooks, Marshall) 50.80; 400: 1. Ashlyn Martz (SW) 1:05.8, 2. Klinger (SW) 1:11.6; 300 hurdles: 1. Leppo (SW) 51.5, 2. Wright (SW) 53.7, 3. Fernandes (SW) 54.9; 800: 1. Robinson (Dal) 2:33.9; 3. Isabella Gilberto (SW) 2:41.3; 200: 1. Miranda (D) 29.1, 2. Emily Curley (SW) 31.5, 3. Sophia Schmidl (SW) 31.6; 3200: 1. Schuler (D) 12:07.8, 3. Forry (SW) 13:27.4; 1600 relay: 1. South Western (Leppo, McKenna Feeser, Martz, Taylor Geiman) 4:47.5; High jump: 1. Brooks (SW) 5-2, 2. Madeline Lehker (SW) 5-0, 3. Geiman (SW) 4-10; Pole vault: 1. Simpson (SW) 9-6, 3. Alexandra Nice (SW) 8-0; Long jump: 1. Marshall (SW) 17-7.75, 2. Simpson (SW) 15-5.5, 3. Nice (SW) 15-1; Triple jump: 1. Brooks (SW) 34-9.5, 2. Lehker (SW) 34-3.25, 3. Fernandes (SW) 31-11; Shot put: 1. Alyssa Steipler (SW) 34-7, 3. Megan Wolf (SW) 32-8.25; Javelin: 1. Geiman (SW) 102-1, 2. Wolf (SW) 98-6, 3. Steipler (SW) 83-3; Discus: 1. Steipler (SW) 106-2, 2. Wolf (SW) 97-5, 3. Sofia Harnois (SW) 91-5.

Adam Michael can be reached at amichael@gburgtimes.com or follow him on Twitter:@GoodOleTwoNames

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