The Herald, Sharon, Pa.


May 24, 2014

Hickory's Lewis, Slippery Rock's Campbell grab gold at PIAA Championships

- — SHIPPENSBURG — 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, sixty feet. … I started off at thirty-four feet my freshman year and worked up to forty-six 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.

“(Thursday) night we were sitting in the (hotel) room just talking about how great it would be to be one and two in the state, and we knew that we could do it,” Aikins allowed. “For me, it was more of a tight race throughout the whole thing. I was fifty-one-seven and some other guys were fifty-one-six, so I knew, on my last throw I  had to really get out there ’cause I wasn’t gonna let Luke beat me by ten feet.”

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 High 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 one-forty-six-eight (Fri)day.”

“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. Hawkins will compete in today’s semifinals, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

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 today’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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