State champ

Slippery Rock's Emily Campbell heaves the discus en route to the state championship in the event last weekend. She also placed 5th in the shot put.

SHIPPENSBURG — The gold medal won by Slippery Rock’s Emily Campbell in the discus event highlighted the outstanding performances of Allied News area athletes at the PIAA State Track and Field Championships last weekend at Shippensburg University.

Following are daily reports concerning all Mercer County area athletes at state, compiled by The Herald and Allied News Assistant Sports Editor Ed Farrell:

SATURDAY

Though Saturday’s success could not be measured in gold medals, the annual PIAA Track & Field Championships still served as harvest of hardware for Mercer County.

Numerous members of the area aggregation took their places on Seth Grove Stadium’s medals stand. Mercer County medalists included Hickory throwers Luke Lewis and Austin Aikins, who placed 2-3 in the discus competition, throwing 162 and 154-3, respectively.

Their performance helped Hickory to the runner-up berth behind Springfield Township, 38-32, in the AA team standings. Additionally, Hickory’s girls (22) stood 6th in the Class AAA standings, won by Hempfield Area (52).

“When we won the district titles with both teams, it was like a fairy-tale ending for all of us, never expecting to come in here for any kind of trophy, just hoping the kids would all get what they deserved individually,” began retiring Hickory co-Head Coach Barb Dzuricsko. “And then for Luke — who had a tough state meet last year — to win gold in the shot and do very well in the discus, and for Austin to follow up with (Lewis), was awesome!

“We rode the backs of (Lewis and Aikins), but it represents the level that our boys’ program is at, and I couldn’t be prouder of all of them,” Dzuricsko added.

“It’s a three-foot PR, so I did decently well for myself,” Lewis related. “Getting a PR is good enough for me; I’ll take it. It’s great! (Friday) was a good day, (Saturday) was a pretty good day, so this weekend was a success — for both of us.”

“The last two days I was around where my PRs are, so that’s pretty good. I wish I could’ve done a little better, but it didn’t happen,” Aikins explained. “It could be better — I don?t want to be satisfied. I’m always looking for more.

“But it’s an amazing experience! Coach (Keith) Woods always talked about it with us, that (qualifying for the state championships) is one of the best things you could ever do,” Aikins continued. “Since I was a freshman and sophomore, I never really got the chance, but now I can’t wait to be back next year.”

Other highlights included:

ä Hickory hurdler Heather Grober, who earned the bronze in a personal-best 44.05 clocking. Also, her teammate, Elena Marchand, who mustered 3rd in the discus (133-11). Only a junior, she placed 3rd in the shot on Friday.

“I thought it was really good experience, and I hope to improve. I just thought it was really fun,” Grober reflected. “The competition’s kind’ve intimidating — there’s a lot of nerves.”

ä Shot-putters Molly Montalvo (40-11) of Greenville and Slippery Rock’s Emily Campbell (39-10 1⁄4) finished 4th and 5th, respectively. On Friday, Campbell copped the discus gold medal, while Montalvo finished 5th. She also competed in the 4x1 last year.

\ Montalvo exceeded her shot-put PR (38-6) by almost 2èfeet.

“I think I did great! I had a personal best, broke the school record,” Montalvo mused.

ä Wilmington triple-jumper Hannah Drake tied for 6th (36-6è) after competing in the long jump and as part of the Lady Greyhounds’ 4x8 relay team on Friday.

ä Mercer senior high-hurdler Jarred Davis also stood 6th in a time of 15.18 in his 3rd consecutive statewide stage appearance. He is mentored by Mercer Coach Tom Wise, who maintains the PIAA Class AA intermediate hurdles mark (37.47, 1992).

“For the prelims and semis I was actually happy with how I performed ’cause those were, like, the best time(s) I’ve ever run here (his PR is 14.84). The finals weren’t too great, but I’m still  happy  that I medalled,”

Davis said. “For the first couple years I was pleased, but this is my senior year, so it’s like those (two previous years) really don’t matter. This was the last time.”

ä Lakeview senior Zach Van Dusen ended 8th in the long jump (21-3 1⁄4).

“It wasn’t my best performance ever — I think I had a better performance last week at districts, tying my school record of twenty-two (feet), one-half inch. So I was coming into this meet ready to break that record and I was seeded second, and I had some pretty high expectations to come into this meet and do fairly well,” Van Dusen related. “But — coming in my first year jumping here at Shippensburg, I’m satisfied that I got on the medals stand, performed decently and it was fun.”

According to Van Dusen, he and relay mates Connor Stankovich and Tanner and Blake Reddick were the first Sailors’ 4x4 team to advance to the state finals. Running the Sailors’ 2nd leg during Friday’s semis, Van Dusen posted a split in 50-51-second range. On Saturday, the Sailors stood 7th (3:29.84) in the state.

ä Area athletes who competed, but did not place included a pair of 3200-meter standouts in Hickory’s Lexi Bible (11:33.98) and Grove City’s Ryan Budnik (9:57.55); Sharon senior sprinter Carnell Hawkins; West Middlesex javelin-thrower Sarah Lucich (112-6); Grove City pole-vaulter Hailey Hall (11-0); Greenville high-jumper Trey VanAken (5-10), and Hickory discus-throwers Cailen Blaire (118-3) and Tori McKinley (94-9).

In Saturday’s semis Hawkins “had a bad start,” he painfully related and it cost him. In Class AA, there are 2 semifinal heats, with the top 3 from each heat, plus the 2 next-fastest times advancing to the finals. Trinity’s Brandon Kuntz earned the 8th and final berth in a time of 11.17, compared with Hawkins? 11.27 clocking.

ä Also competing in Saturday’s semis, but not advancing to the finals was Mercer high-hurdler Megan McKinney (15.78).

FRIDAY

For Luke Lewis, the issue wasn’t whether or not he would be standing atop the PIAA pedestal following Friday’s shot-put competition; rather, if he would etch his name as the all-time commonwealth kingpin.

Hickory High’s Lewis’ pursuit of the PIAA Class AA shot-put record (Bethlehem Catholic’s Joe Kovacs, 64-10 3⁄4, 2007) fell shy, but he nonetheless garnered gold during the opening day of the annual PIAA Track & Field Championships.

At Shippensburg University, Lewis topped out at 61-8 1⁄4 on his 3rd throw of his preliminary flight, shy of his personal best (65-6 1⁄4), but more than enough to outdistance teammate Austin Aikins (53-1 1⁄2), who secured silver.

“I thought I was gonna get it (the record) today, but I guess some things don’t happen for a reason,” Lewis allowed after stepping off the Seth Grove Stadium medals stand.

“I felt a little tired; I think I might’ve overdone it a little bit too much in the weight room this week, but … comin’ back with a win, I’ll take it,” the larger-than-life Lewis allowed. “It means a lot, especially after the last two years. Somehow, for some reason, states always screws me up — districts and states.

“But it feels great! This was my goal all season … I can’t put it into words,” added the Purdue University-bound Lewis.

It was another banner day on the statewide stage for Keith Woods-coached throwers, as Hickory harvested a handful of hardware.

“Oh, yeah! Me and ‘Aus’ goin’ one-two and (fellow shot-putters Elena Marchand and Sophia Fustos finishing 3rd and 5th). “It just shows how strong our program is … and it’s all coach,” Lewis observed. “We’re a (Class) double-A school and we really don’t get a whole lot of talent — we don’t have that one person who comes in and automatically is throwing, like, 60 feet. … I started off at 34 feet my freshman year and worked up to 46 by the end (of that year).

“It’s a testament to how good (Woods) is as a coach with his throwers in amazing ways,” Lewis praised.

And Aikins adding to that lofty legacy is potentially possible, considering he is a junior.

A key member of Hickory’s 2013 regional finalist football team, Aikins admitted putting the shot is different mental gamesmanship.

“In football mode I’m just tryin’ to zone myself out from everybody, I’m just tryin’ to focus on my technique, on my form, all I need to do that day,” Aikins explained. “For shot put, it’s more me just tryin’ not to focus on anything — I gotta get everything outta my head.  … (Lewis), he spins; I glide. In gliding, you need to have nothing in your head because if you think about your form too much it screws you up,” Aikins added.

As it has been doing for decades, Mercer County made its mark on the statewide stage. Or as Sharon senior sprinter Carnell Hawkins said, “Takin’ it back to the county.”

Slippery Rock senior Emily Campbell copped gold in the discus with a throw of 146-8, as she, Wilmington’s Julie Falvo (134-10) and Greenville’s Molly Montalvo (127-6) went 1-3-5. Campbell’s PR is 148-3, but she admitted Friday’s blustery “wind was knockin’ them down. I was lucky to get that 146-8 today.”

“There’s always pressure whenever you compete and you’re already labeled as the number-one seed,” Campbell confided. “It’s pressure that I put on myself … getting all those jitters out. You’ve been waiting all day to throw, and when you finally get that first one out … actually my first (throw) was my farthest until the finals … when I hit my last two-in-a-row.”  

Campbell complimented her support team, from family and friends, to her chiropractor, to Woods, who has worked with her.

“I give it all to him; he’s amazing!” she said. “This is my first year (using the technique of) spinning in disc, so it’s pretty crazy that I could win the state title.”

Other Mercer County medalists included Marchand (43-3 1⁄2) and Fustos (42-6), Marchand mustered a bronze medal, while Fustos finished 5th.

“I’ll tell you, D-10 is tough! District 10 is very tough to compete in,” Campbell observed. “We have so many hard-working girls that compete, day in and day out. They’re just amazing! … We all support each other. In the throws … it’s such an individual sport that you make friends and you want them to succeed as much as you want to.”

The Wake Forest University-bound Campbell will compete in the shot put today, and would like to double-double, but admitted, “that’s going to be really tough (California’s top-seeded) Kailyn Clancy’s really tough and a heckuva competitor, so I would love any medal in shot put that I’ll be able to keep with my gold.”

In his initial appearance competing on the PIAA’s playground — and with his sister, former Sharon High state sprint champion Morgan Bradley in attendance — “The Hawk” flew to an 11.21 clocking to win his morning heat.

Also advancing from Friday’s prelims were: Slippery Rock high-hurdler Aster Chmielewski (15.45) and Mercer’s Jarred Davis (14.92) and Megan McKinney (15.99). Davis won his heat. Hickory’s Heather Grober eclipsed her own school standard in the intermediate hurdles (44.62), according to co-Head Coach Mark Slezak and the Lakeview boys 1600-meter relay team advanced thanks to a great second leg by Zach VanDusen (3:27.89).

Herald coverage-area athletes who competed, but did not place included long-jumper Hannah Drake (16-9) and pole-vaulter Julia Strobel (10-6) of Wilmington.

Those not advancing to Saturday’s finals included: Wilmington girls’ (9th, 10:21.9) and Slippery Rock boys’ (10th, 8:12.45) 4x8 relay teams; Greenville’s 4x4 relay squad (3:33.68); high-hurdlers Molly Joyce of Slippery Rock (16.80) and Greenville’s Bradi Osborne (16.83); Grove City discus-thrower Boone Lyons (125-0); metric-milers Jordan Williams (5:23.36) of Sharon and Hickory’s Lexi Bible (5:22.95); Sharpsville’s Madison Przicina (1:00.02) and Wilmington’s Cody Cooper (51.83) in the 400-meter dash; the Lakeview (51.09), Mercer (51.76) and Hickory girls’ sprint-teams, as well as Hickory (44.39), Greenville (45.21) and George Junior Republic (45.78) 4x1 quartets.

Also, intermediate hurdlers McKinney (50.36) and her Mercer mates Nicole Young (49.37) and Chase Hoffman (43.59), as well as Joyce (47.81) and Wilmington’s Dwight Scott (43.74); 200-meter sprinters Grober (26.32) and Lakeview’s Blake Reddick (23.75); Slippery Rock middle-distance standout Brady Kadlubek (800-meter run, 2:00.20), and Sharon (4:08.34) and Hickory girls (4:19.83)  4x4 relay teams.

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