By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
SHIPPENSBURG — 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.
At Shippensburg University, 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).
ä “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).