Cold and rain are not friends of track and field athletes, especially when the venue is the PIAA Championships. Dampness and temperatures in the 40s were the order of the day on Saturday at Shippensburg University where the best Class AAA track and field athletes gathered to try for a chance at a state medal. The temperature may have been cold, but the competition was hot.
Gettysburg junior Anne Bair, who has been triple jumping for only about a month, started slowly but finished near the top, grabbing fourth place with a Warrior school record jump of 37-feet, 9-inches. Her leap broke the record set by Cory Wargo of 37-6 in 2008.
Bair, who was seeded 10th going into the meet, had a first jump that was barely over 34 feet, which notched up the pressure a bit. Her second jump was a little better, and then her third jump in the prelims was 36-7½. It didn’t seem likely that she would place in the top nine, which would move her into the finals and earn her three more jumps.
“In the prelims I felt a lot of pressure because I had a rough first jump,” Bair said. “I had that period where they were checking the distances for the finals, and I knew I was right on the edge, but I didn’t think I was going to get in.”
As the official announced the finalists, Bair’s jump was announced first, which meant that she had the ninth best jump. It was a mere three-quarters of an inch ahead of 10th place.
“When I heard that I was in, I was super excited,” she said. “Then we had 10 minutes of run-throughs before we started the finals and that was really helpful to me. In the prelims I was moving my step up, then moving it back, trying to get it right, but after those run-throughs I felt like I had it and could just run and not look down at the board.”
On her first jump of the finals, Bair jumped her record 37-9 and moved up to fourth. Both of her remaining attempts were also over 37 feet.
“That first jump in the finals gave me a lot of confidence and I didn’t feel pressure after that,” Bair said. “It was just so much fun. The triple jump is fun. To be down here jumping with these girls was just a really fun atmosphere. Everyone is so super nice.”
The three girls that placed ahead of Bair all jumped over 38 feet. The winner was Ava Alexander of West Chester Rustin, who soared 38-9. That just gives Bair something to shoot for next year, now that she knows what she is doing.
Charles Gaither has had an extraordinary trajectory in the discus. Like other track and field athletes, the South Western senior last threw in 2019, pre-Covid. His best discus throw that season was 128-0. At the YAIAA Championships two weeks ago, Gaither tossed the disc 171-7, an astounding improvement by over 50 feet.
“My coach is one of the best coaches there is,” Gaither said. “I really like him as a coach, and he has been the difference.”
On Gaither’s first throw at states, he laid the disc out 169-1, his second-best throw ever. While a couple of athletes passed him in the finals, his prelim throw held up for a sixth-place finish and a state medal. The competition was won by Dan Norris, from Hempfield (District 7), with a monster throw of 195-10, over 20 feet ahead of the field.
Gaither also threw the shot put on Saturday, putting the iron 47-3, which was the 17th-best throw. But his throw in the discus, and subsequent medal, had him beaming.
“I felt more relaxed after that first throw, and felt that I would be able to throw even farther,” Gaither said. “Even though I didn’t throw any farther, I felt really good about that, and I’m feeling really happy.”
Other Mustang teammates did not fare as well. Dustin Edwards, who had possibly the busiest day of any athlete at the meet, was third in his prelim heat of the 110 meter hurdles with a time of 15.77. However, that time was not good enough to make the final and he was 18th.
Edwards then went inside Heiges Fieldhouse for the high jump, and was not able to match his personal best of 6-4. The high jump and pole vault moved indoors because of the wet surface outdoors, and the indoor composition floor in the fieldhouse wreaked havoc on many jumpers who did not have proper shoes for the smooth, no-spike surface. Edwards cleared 5-10, which tied for 11th place.
Next, he came back outside for the 300 hurdles, and had a rough time getting going. His time of 42.18 put him in 22nd place. His final event was the 4 x 400 relay, where the South Western 4 x 400 team ran 3:31.45, good for 19th place.
On the girls’ side for the Mustangs, Maddie Lehker, who cleared 5-5 in the high jump last week at districts to win gold, had trouble with the floor as well, clearing 5-0 and ending in a tie for 10th place. Zaiyah Marshall, with a jump over 38 feet coming into the triple jump, could only post a distance of 36-2 ¼, which was the 15th-best effort.
Rounding out the Times Area athletic efforts, New Oxford’s Nate Clyde ran a clean race in the 110 hurdles, clocking 15.32 and finishing fourth in his prelim heat. The time was not enough to put him in the final and he finished 14th overall.
As is expected at the Pennsylvania state meet, there were some national class performances in all of the track and field disciplines. In the throws, Sineru Iheoma, of Council Rock South, dominated the girls’ shot put and discus. She threw over 48 feet in the shot, and just missed the state record in the discus with a toss of 164-0, winning by ab astounding 18 feet.
Jaden Price-White was the most impressive jumper of the day. The Upper Dublin senior ruled the long jump as his jump of 23-11 beat the field by over a foot and a half.
In the sprinting events, the 200 meter dash belonged to District 3. Laila Campbell, the freshman phenom from Spring Grove who turned heads at last week’s district meet, had the eyes of the whole state on her, and did not disappoint. After burning an 11.93 to romp in the 100 meter dash, she exploded out of the blocks and ran a decisive turn to take the 200 as well in 24.27. She also had run 56.43 in the 400 at districts, but bowed out of that event for states.
In the boys’ 200, Kristian Phennicie of Dallastown just nipped Red Lion’s A.J. Virata at the line, running 21.62 to Virata’s 21.64. Virata did get his gold medal when the Red Lion 4 x 100 team streaked to a big victory with a superb time of 42.28, ahead of State College (42.57) and Coatesville (42.68).
Perhaps the most impressive performances of the meet came in the distance events. Pottstown’s Darius Smallwood won the 800 in a super-fast time of 1:51.91, but that wasn’t the most notable performance.
For the boys and for the girls, a single athlete doubled to win the 3200 and the 1600 meter runs. This double is usually feasible because the schedule in years past has allowed runners to run the 3200 on Friday and the 1600 on Saturday. With shifts this year to a one day meet for each class (AA on Friday, AAA on Saturday), the double seemed impossible. But Gary Martin from Archbishop Wood and Mia Cochran of Moon Area could not be beat in either race.
Martin took out the field in the 3200 at a state record pace, and then in lap five started to pull away. By the time Greencastle-Antrim’s Weber Long made his final push it was too little, too late. Martin ran on to a state record 8:54.87, with Long not far behind in 8:58.15. Three hours later, Martin came back in the 1600. He and Downingtown West’s Declan Rymer got locked in a battle, far ahead of the other competitors. Neck and neck entering the home stretch, Martin dug down and found the spark for a final burst to win in 4:08.67, just over a second in front of Rymer. The duo was nine seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
For the girls, Cochran was a double winner as well, but was more dominant. Her 3200 meter time of 10:20.04 was 11 seconds ahead of second place, and just four seconds off the state record. Her comeback in the 1600 placed her three seconds ahead of second place with a time of 4:51.01. Both Martin and Cochran are juniors, so next year should be interesting.
In the team standings, State College (34 points) held off Cumberland Valley (25) to take the boys’ title, while Central Bucks West (53) took the girls’ championship.
PIAA Track and Field Championships
Saturday — Shippensburg University
Team: 1.State College 34, 2.Cumberland Valley 25, 3.Arch. Wood 24, 4.Nazareth 23, 5.Butler 22, 6.(t)Red Lion, Danville, Hatboro-Horsham 21, 58.South Western 3.
3200: 1.Gary Martin (ArchWood) 8:54.87, 2.Long (Greencastle) 8:58.15, 3.Barnhill (DowningtownW) 8:59.57; 4 x 800: 1.Lewisburg 7:53.93, 2.State College 7:55.69, 3.Central Bucks West 7:59.69; 110 hurdles: 1.Allen Taylor (Williamsport) 14.15, 2.Lewis (WMifflin) 14.26, 3.Topos (Palmyra) 14.52; 100: 1.Jade Brown (Norristown) 10.65, 2.Yurich (SenecaVal) 10.71, 3.Saunders (Boyertown) 10.71; 1600: 1.Martin (ArchWood) 4:08.67, 2.Rymer (DowningtownW) 4:09.62, 3.Bigger (State College) 4:18.23; 4 x 100: 1.Red Lion 42.28, 2.State College 42.57, 3.Coatesville 42.68; 400: 1.James Jaisingh (CumberlandVal) 48.05, 2.Brown (Butler) 48.58, 3.Zeiders (YorkSub) 48.75; 300 hurdles: 1.Dontae Lewis (WMifflin) 38.32, 2.Zimmerman (Danville) 38.41, 3.Wilk (ManheimTwp) 39.15; 800: 1.Darius Smallwood (Pottstown) 1:51.91, 2.Emery (CBucksEast) 1:53.26, 3.Bildheiser (CedarCrest) 1:53.73, 200: 1.Kristian Phennicie (Dallastown) 21.62, 2.Virata (RedLion) 21.64, 3.Bessick (Coatesville) 21.68; 4 x 400: 1.Cumberland Valley 3:18.23, 2.North Penn 3:20.89, 3.Central Bucks West 3:23.15; Long jump: 1.Jaden Price-White (UDublin) 23-11, 2.Savage (HatboroHorsh) 22-3.5, 3.Adams (Altoona) 22-2; Triple jump: 1.Kyle Murr (PennManor) 46-10.75, 2.Savage (HatboroHorsh) 46-1.75, 3.Wicker (Nazareth) 45-10.25; High jump: 1.Dakota Arana (Shippensburg) 6-4, 2.Moore (State College) 6-4, 3.Ellis (J Buchanan) 6-4, t11.Dustin Edwards (South Western) 5-10; Pole vault: 1.Justin Rogers (Hershey) 15-6, 2.McGarrah (Butler) 15-0, 3.Brubaker (Shikellamy) 15-0; Shot put: 1.Dustin Hyde (Somerset) 59-8, 2.Norris (Hempfield7) 59-5, 3.Bailor (Jim Thorpe) 58-4, 17.Charles Gaither (South Western) 47-3; Discus: 1.Dan Norris (Hempfield7) 195-10, 2.Barrett (Northern) 175-3, 3.Lyons (McKeesport) 171-6, 6.Charles Gaither (South Western) 169-1; Javelin: 1.Collin Burkhart (Nazareth) 208-6, 2:Prebola (Tunkhannock) 195-5, 3.Schmidt (Emmaus) 191-8.
Team: 1.Central Bucks West 53, 2.Hempfield (7) 31, 3.South Fayette 25, 4.(t)Spring Grove, Moon, Council Rock South 20, 47.Gettysburg 5.
3200: 1.Mia Cochran (Moon) 10:20.04, 2.Mulhern (W Chester Henderson) 10:31.85, 3.Carroll (Northeastern) 10:43.86; 4 x 800: 1.Central Bucks West 9:20.15, 2.J.P. McCaskey 9:26.48, 3.Chambersburg 9:32.29; 100 hurdles: 1.Kayli Williams (Pennsbury) 14.38, 2.Anderson (Hickory) 14.80, 3.Stickle (Somerset) 14.87; 100: 1.Laila Campbell (Spring Grove) 11.93, 2.O’Connor (Avon Grove) 12.09, 3.Trout (SoLehigh) 12.23; 1600: 1.Mia Cochran (Moon) 4:51.01, 2.Haas (Blue Mtn) 4:54.83, 3.Rippey (Wilson) 4:58.89; 4 x 100: 1.South Fayette 48.17, 2.Central Valley 48.74, 3.North Penn 48.76; 400: 1.Sanaa Hebron (Neshaminy) 56.36, 2.Bey (Cheltenham) 56.99, 3.Allen (SoFayette) 57.32; 300 hurdles: 1.Annie Lemelin (MtStJoseph) 44.25, 2.Derstine (C Bucks East) 44.84, 3.Angelo (Pennridge) 45.62; 800: 1.Kate Edenson (C Bucks West) 2:12.36, 2.Dallas (Wilson) 2:12.85, 3.Haas (Blue Mtn) 2:14.48; 200: 1.Laila Campbell (Spring Grove) 24.27, 2.Duffy (C Bucks West) 24.75, 3.O’Connor (Avon Grove) 25.01; 4 x 400: 1.Central Bucks West 3:55.69, 2.Cumberland Valley 3:57.23, 3.Pennridge 3:58.79; Long jump: 1.Brooke Long (Altoona) 18-1.25, 2.Husic (Bishop McDevitt) 18-1, 3.Owens (NewCastle) 18-0; Triple jump: 1.Ava Alexander (W Chester Rustin) 38-9, 2.Mullin (StateCollege) 38-1.25, 3.Todero (Franklin) 38-0.75, 4.Anne Bair (Gettysburg) 37-9, Zaiyah Marshall (South Western) 36-2.25; High jump: 1.Payton Kleckner (Pottsville) 5-5, 2.Pavelek (Beaver) 5-4, 3.Rawson (MtStJoseph) 5-3, 10(t).Maddie Lehker (South Western) 5-0; Pole vault: 1.Chloe Timberg (C Bucks West) 13-0, 2.Bond (Selinsgrove) 12-6, 3.Hart (Unionville) 12-0; Shot put: 1.Siniru Iheoma (Council Rock So) 48-0.75, 2.Gera (Hempfield7) 44-0.25, 3.Tapper (Hempfield7) 43-2; Discus: 1.Siniru Iheoma (CouncilRockSo) 164-0, 2.Gera (Hempfield7) 146-11, 3.Tapper (Hempfield7) 142-2; Javelin: 1.Abbey Hengst (Hazelton) 135-6, 2.Ciccolini (Mifflin County) 133-4, 3.Murphy (Berwick) 131-11.
*Complete results can be found at http://track.piaa.org/