The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Sports

May 18, 2014

Hickory track teams sweep D-10 titles; Lady Hounds AA champs

- — HARBOR CREEK — They can relocate the annual Class AA track & field championships to Erie County, but District 10 remains the domain of Mercer County’s contingent. On Saturday, the area aggregation made Harbor Creek High’s Paul J. Weitz Stadium its personal playground.

Wilmington High girls and Hickory boys completed a sweep of the AA team titles. Hickory harvested a 65-60 victory over Greenville, while Wilmington was victorious over Villa Maria Academy, 102-100.

The year 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the sport of track & field at Wilmington High, and J.R. McFarland has been a part of the program for 41 years as an athlete and coach, so he lends perspective.

“We knew it would be tough because we knew (the Victors) had a heckuva track (squad),” McFarland said. “We moved a couple people around, told the kids where they had to score … maybe they’d do a little bit better and maybe Villa not quite as good, and that’s exactly what happened.

“A tremendous win for the girls; they’ve been a great group of girls all year,” McFarland praised. “Talented athletes and kids that just work hard.

“I’m the head coach, but we have tremendous assistants — Mrs. Sarver, Mary Beth Acker, Brandon Phillian, Mrs. Perrine, Jules Guido, Tim Nan … great junior high coaches … These coaches are super, they really are. There’s no way one person pulls this off. I’m basically just a ‘figure-head,’”  McFarland humbly related.

“Everybody who was here really contributed. It wasn’t a huge crew that was here, but the guys that were here did a fantastic job. The kids that came here, came through,,” Hickory co-Head Coach Mark Slezak assessed, later admitting, “This is so much fun because it’s unexpected.”

“This is a fun one. We weren’t nervous ’cause we never thought about it,” echoed co-Head Coach Barb Dzuricsko.

Following a late-morning break, the county crowned a pair of champions almost in the blink of an eye. Mercer’s Jarred Davis 3-peated in the high hurdles, then moments later Sharon’s Carnell Hawkins flew to the title in the 100-meter dash in a time of 11.17.

“I just came back off a hamstring injury, so I’m kind’ve happy with my performance,” Davis related. “Obviously, it’s not where I want it to be (he ran 15.11; his PR is 14.84), but it’s up there. It actually feels amazing!” Davis admitted after clinching 3rd consecutive crown. “I actually never thought that I’d be out here three years in a row, with me being the champ.

When it was suggested to him following the morning heat that Hawkins was headed toward a gold medal, he replied, “God willing.” Following the finals, he related, “I’ve been prayin’, practiced hard, and my teammates have been pushin’ me, too.

“It’s really competitive, but you’re doing it by yourself. So to make it by myself, I thank God,” Hawkins continued. “But they’re all fast runners, like (Hickory’s) Matt Voytik, Luke (Houpt) from Greenville, (Hickory’s) DeQuan Lewis, Brandon Gavins (Farrell). … I had to work hard.”

Slippery Rock’s Emily Campbell copped a double-double, sweeping the the shot put (39-2 1⁄2) and discus (143-2) to secure a 3rd consecutive berth on the statewide stage. She finished 5th at state in the shot as a sophomore, but did not place as a junior, so she opted, “… to come back with a vengeance now. First or second (at state) would be amazing!” Campbell confided. “I would love that more than anything. That would be worth everything I’ve sacrificed — late practices, getting in a hundred throws every day ...

“It feels really good, ‘cause this is the first year I’ve qualifed in both,” the Wake Forest University-bound Campbell commented. “It’s really nice to see all my hard work over the summer pay off.”

Campbell had company in collecting a couple gold medals in the throws, as she was joined by Hickory’s Luke Lewis, who also swept the shot (61-5 1⁄2) and disc (159-8). His Hickory throwing mate, Austin Aikins, also made state in the shot (51-1 3⁄4) and disc (153-8).

“It feels great, especially after the disappointment of the last three years. I always under-perform at districts,” the Purdue University-bound Lewis related. “So it’s kind’ve nice comin’ in here and takin’ over.”

While Lewis led the Hornets, he and Aikins will have plenty of company at Shippensburg, including the Hornets’ sprint-relay foursome of DeQuan Lewis, Chase Moretti, Dozie Ezi-Ashi and Voytik). The Hornets edged Greenville, 44.32 to 44.71.

“Just a great group of guys, with a lot of confidence in each other -- and unselfish,” Hickory Assistant Coach Bill Dzuricsko said. “The guys worked hard in practice. We knew (the key to a championship) was handoffs, we knew we really haven’t had good handoffs all the time.

‘You try to make as mathematical as possible, something that’s human,” Bill Dzuriscko continued, explaining, “You try to come in at the same speed all the time in practice, try to take off at the same time. But it’s just the self-discipline that they showed (Saturday), and it worked out great.

“We knew that Greenville had beaten us several times during the season, so it was nice to see the kids’ mental toughness. Dozie made the finals of the two-hundred, Matt and DeQuan placed in the one-hundred, and we knew Greenville had two guys there (in the 100, Houpt and Hunter Hause) there, too, so it was gonna be a ‘wash,’ so we knew it was gonna be the other two guys who might be the difference.

‘It’s the ultimate team sport in an individual sport,” Dzuricsko summarized.

Mercer’s Megan McKinney multi-tasked her way to winning the intermediate hurdles, placing 3rd and qualifying for state in the highs (15.71) (46.25) and anchored the Lady M’s winning sprint-relay quartet (including Alexis Stanton and Courntey and Emily Young) as they outlasted Lakeview, 51.27 to 51.37.

“This is what I’ve been working up to. I knew what I had to do – I had to compete, I had to run and I had to finish strong. That was my focus (Saturday): Finishing and competing with everybody else who was here to compete,” McKinney explained.

“I do feel a little pressure, because ‘Megan McKinney’s seeded first,’’” she continued. “I don’t like that. I feel like there’s so much pressure on me that I have to get first; nobody’s gonna be, like, ‘Oh, she got second (place), good job.’ … I can handle it, but it’s kind’ve tough.”

Other gold-medalists were Lakeview long-jumper Zach VanDusen (22-0 1⁄2). Greenville high-jumper Trey VanAken (6-4), and Wilmington triple-jumper Hannah Drake (36-2 1⁄2). Also, West Middlesex siblings Sarah Lucich (javelin, 121-3) and Eric Lucich (triple jump, 41-11 1/4), and Wilmington intermediate-hurdler Dwight Scott (41.14), and Wilmington pole-vaulter Julia Strobel (10-0).

Greenville’s Trojans triumphed in the 4x4, as Devin Sulick, Hause, Craig Trumball and Jacob Rickert recorded a 3:31.15 time to outlast Lakeview (3:32.83). The state-bound runner-up Sailors included Connor Stankovich, VanDusen and Tanner and Blake Reddick,

Drake double-doubled by also winning the long jump (17-0 3/4), and was part of the Lady Greyhounds garnering a trip to Shippensburg by clocking in a school-record 10:01.63 effort, placing behind perennial power Villa Maria Academy (9:29.42).

“I’m proud of my girls for what they accomplished. Chasing Villa is an accomplishment,” Acker said.

Lead leg Rikki Brumbaugh said, “It’s an honor, actually, to run against (the Victors). They ran at the Penn Relays, they’re the state champions

Brumbaugh has qualified for the PIAA Championship twice in track and 3 times in cross country emphasized that, on Saturday, “I was running for my team, and that’s all I thought about the whole time – this is for my team, it isn’t for myself.”

Bolstering Brumbaugh were teammates Drake, Hannah Winters and Allison Baldwin. Baldwin blew past her Gen.McLane counterpart at approximately the 300-meter mark of the last leg.

“Oh, my gosh, she is such a great competitor,” Brumbaugh said in praise of Baldwin.

“The Gen. McLane girl started out really fast, but I thought Allison did a good job of not burning too much too soon, but still staying in contact, then making her move when the time was right,” praised Acker. “I thought she ran a strategically-smart race and very hard race and really fought for that, and did a great job wrapping things up.”

Other Mercer County-area state qualifiers included: Greenville’s Elijah Dangrow (pole vault, 2nd, 13-0); Wilmington’s Julie Falvo (disc, 2nd, 132-8; shot, 2nd, 36-11) and Tessa Sikora (high jump, 2nd, 5-0); Slippery Rock high-hurdler Aster Chmielewski (2nd, 15.46);

Sharpsville’s Maddie Przicina (400, 3rd, 59.35); Greenville’s Molly Montalvo (discus, 3rd, 129-4; shot, 3rd, 36-9 1/2) and Bradi Osborne (5th, high hurdles, 16.0); Wilmington’s Cody Cooper (400, 2nd, 51.51); Lakeview’s Blake Reddick (200, 2nd, 23.28); Reynolds’ Rachel Toy (disc, 4th, 114-1), and a trio of intermediate-hurdlers in Mercer’s Chase Hoffman (2nd, 41.34), Molly Joyce of Slippery Rock (4th, 46.91) and Mercer’s Nichole Young (5th, 46.98). Joyce also made the cut in the highs (4th, 15.92).

The Lakeview Lady Sailors (Sydney Silloway, Taylor Reed, Andrea McConnel, Marla Holland) and Greenvile Trojans (Jacob Rickert, VanAken, Hause and Houpt) – respective runners-up in the sprint-relay – also are Shippensburg bound, as are the Sharon Lady Tigers’ 4x4 quartet (Leonna Bell, Ra’Kiya Rice, Jessica Talbert-Kirsch and Xsila Powell, 2nd, 4:08.83).

Perhaps summarizing the sentiments of the county’s conquest on Saturday afternoon Mercer’s Davis simply said, “I just like to come out here, relax, and run. … It’s just another place to run the hurdles.”

CLASS AAA

It took approximately 72 hours, but Hickory High’s girls track & field team finished what it started.

After building a significant lead during Wednesday’s weather-interrupted event, the Lady Hornets harvested the District 10 Class AAA championship Saturday at Harbor Creek High’s Paul J. Weitz Stadium.

In completing the deal the Lady Hornets joined their male counterparts in sweeping crowns, as the Hornets won the AA team title earlier in the day.

Hickory accumulated 155 1/2 team points to roll past 2nd-place Meadville (83).

Coach Tom Meling’s Slippery Rock boys rallied to win the AAA team title. Meling has coached the team for more than 20 years and commented that it is the first D-10 boys team championship in school history. The Rockets notched 91 points to best 2nd-place Cathedral Prep (80).

“It feels like we’ve been in a three-day meet – which we kinda have been,” began Hickory co-Head Coach Barb Dzuricsko. “But just the durability of our kids all season long – and really, everybody – to handle the weather and everything, and stil perform at a high-caliber level, it’s just unbelievable!

“For Mark (Slezak, co-head coach) and I and all our staff who won’t be returning (they announced their retirement earlier this season) is just icing on the cake, It just far exceeds anything we could’ve imagined,” Dzuricsko admitted. “Next weekend (at the PIAA Championships) we’re going to be so excited to take a busload to states and enjoy this with all of them.”

On Saturday, Hickory’s school record-setting sprint-relay team outdid itself, as the foursome of Lauren Bell, Victoria Russo, Heather Grober and Nikki Arbanas annexed the crown in a time of 51.06. That eclipsed the mark it set at last week’s Mercer County Invitational (50.31).

Also, Grober grabbed gold in the 200-meter dash (26.56), as well as the intermediate hurdles (45.67), while Lexi Bible – who won the 1600-meter run before Wednesday’s weather set in – completed her own double-double by copping the 3200-meter run (11:27.46).

The Hickory 4x4 relay team of won also, in a time of 4:12.41.

Other outstanding performances were posted by:

Slippery Rock’s trio of 800-meter standouts, as Brady Kadlubek (1:59.96), Josh Jones (2:02.55) and Mark Cessar (2:03.12) roared to a 1-2-3 sweep.

Grove City’s Ryan Budnik blistered to a 9:42.11 in winning the 3200-meter run, while Lady Eagle Hailey Hall harvested the pole-vault crown (10-6).

George Junior Republic’s Shukiem Murray captured the 200 in 22.88.

Dzuricsko, Slezak and their assistant coaches departed from Hermitage at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. But approximately 12 hours later -- or 72  hours, since the AAA championships began … or approximately 3 decades, the length of time passed since Dzuricsko, Slezak, et all began with Hickory’s program – has passed.

“It’s emotional, but at the same time  great,” Dzuricsko said. “We COULD NOT have scripted it any better. It is unbelievable, it really is! What a great group of kids that we have – and it started in November with indoor (track).They’ve put in a lot of time. And with the cooperation of our coaches and our school district.

Dzuricsko noted several of her standouts played soccer and/or basketball – Hickory teams that narrowly missed out on a trip to state in their own right.

“I work very well with B.J. (soccer coach, Rudge) and Jeanette (Whitehead, the basketball coach), and I can hardly wait to tell them that we got some of (the girls) to taste (state); hopefully some of them will get back (to state) in those sports,” Dzuricsko concluded.

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