SLIPPERY ROCK – There were many outstanding performances during Saturday's District 10 Track & Field Championships, but only one show-stopper on Slippery Rock University's stage.
Hickory High's Aniyah Anderson annexed 4 gold medals, helping hoist the Hornets to the Class 3A team title. Hickory harvested 169 points, outdistancing McDowell (160) and Grove City (156).
"I'm really proud of myself, honestly. My goal here was just to win the hundred-meter hurdles, and whatever happened after that ... But being able to win not one, but four gold medals it's just extremely amazing!" Anderson admitted.
At SRU's William Lennox Track at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium, Anderson answered the pressure of being top-seeded in 4 events by sweeping the high (14.78) and intermediate hurdles (45.94), the 100-meter dash, and as part of the 4x1 relay (50.12). Her sprint-relay mates included Daphne Borowicz, Kayla Saylor and Christie Boren.
"I'm very proud of her," said Hickory co-Head Coach Bill Viccari. "We knew coming in that that was something she could do, and we actually tried to set it up to give her that opportunity. After the year she's had, just a chance for her to shine before we move on to the state meet. ... We thought we would give her this day to shine, and she took advantage.
"She's worked hard, and fought and earned everything she gets," emphasized Viccari, who broached names of other Hickory athletes of recent vintage – Heather Grober and Will Gruber – who performed as well as Anderson at the D-10 Championships.
"It's not an easy task, especially on a hot day. Luckily there're shorter events – she's not a distance runner – so it's more doable. But a tough day, and she fought through and came through in every event," Viccari added.
Anderson admitted she's a slow starter coming out of the blocks, and dreads running the grueling 300-meter intermediate hurdles.
"I think especially from playing basketball – which, to me, is very competitive – I HATE losing. So no matter how tired I am I'm gonna do everything I can to win," Anderson asserted.
"We thought that maybe we'd have a chance on the girls' side of things, but I think Hickory is just a little too tough this year," related Grove City Head Coach Ben English. "They've got some really big 'horses' in a couple places, and you just can't compete against that."
Grove City standout Abby Steffler swept the 800- (2:22.35) and 1600-meter (5:23.91) runs – English intimated that Steffler, orginally a sprinter, has been competing in the latter event for only a week or so – but Hickory's depth prevailed.
Christie Boren won the 400-meter dash (1:01.05) and ended as runner-up in the high jump to teammate Paige Griffith (5-2). Viccari noted that Boren's berth at state in the high jump may have been compromised by her unselfishness in competing in the 200 and 400 to gain team points for Hickory. In Class 3A, only the D-10 champion (and any place-winner 2-through-8 who meets the state qualifying standard) advances to the PIAA Championships.
"I'm honored to lead us to a championship, just to say we came here and gave it our all, and knowing that I'm a big part of that is extraordinary," Anderson admitted.
Other team titlists included Slippery Rock girls, who edged Wilmington, 78-76, for the 2A crown; Grove City boys, who 3-peated in Class 2A, according to English, by outscoring Wilmington, 89-79; and Cathedral Prep, which dominated Class 3A, amassing 150 points.
The Hickory and Grove City programs have forged a friendly rivalry, according to the coaches.
"We've done well on big stages, winning states and districts, but one of the unique things is we struggle to beat (the Lady Eagles) in regions, so it's always a battle," Viccari said.
"It's really competitive in this district, especially in this county," English said. "Bill (Viccari) and I are great friends, and it's always nice to compete against Hickory, because it's gonna bring the best out of you, too. And he's said the same thing about us, So it's nice to have that reciprocity between the two of us, just the competitiveness between our two schools."
In addition to Anderson and Steffler, other outstanding performances were posted by:
• Wilmington's Connor Vass-Gal, who swept the shot put (66-6 3/4) and discus (152-3). He came close to the D-10 2A record (Hickory's Evan Blaire, 66-10 1/2, set in 2017).
"All I wanted was the record, but I can't be mad at a PR (personal best) and a school record," Vass-Gal related, admitting, "I'm ecstatic.
"It came outta my hand really nice, and everyone was cheerin' – I knew it was a big throw – I kind've knew right off the get-go on my release that it was gonna be big. It was close to clearin' the (throwing) sector. But I'm just waitin' for next week (PIAA Championships) to get the big one.
"I'm still goin' for the state record, then after that just goin' for the big seventy (feet)," Vass-Gal added.
• Wilmington's Lindsey Martineau swept the high (15.19) and intermediate hurdles (47.11).
• Slippery Rock's Anna Kadlubek swept the 100- (12.52) and 200-meter (25.60) dashes, and her Lady Rockets' teammate Maryann Ackerman swept the javelin (140-4) and discus (114-9). Their Rockets' teammate, Ethan Folmer, forged a sweep of the high (6-1) and triple jump (44-11 1/2) in Class 3A.
• Wilmington's Lizzie Miles won the 400-meter dash (59.88) and her teammate Grace Mason captured the 800-meter run (2:20.05).Then they joined Becka Book and Martineau to form the Lady Greyhounds' victorious sprint-relay quartet (51.01).
• Hickory's Cole Frazier fashioned a sweep of the 400 (50.51) and 800 (1:57.7), establishing a school standard in the latter by besting Grove City's Gabe Nichols. However, the fluid Nichols notched a sweep of the 1600- (4:23.24) and 3200-meter runs (9:34.01).
• Wilmington's Ethan Susen sprinted to victory in the 200-meter dash (22.85), then joined his football backfield mates Darren Miller and Luke Edwards, as well as Trevor Sturgeon, in getting the Greyhounds gold in the 4x1 relay (43.95).
• Other Mercer County gold medalists included triple-jumpers Grace Bresnan of Reynolds (36-4 1/2) and Grove City's Abigail Nichols (33-6 1/4) in 2A and 3A, respectively; West Middlesex intermediate hurdler Ty Tate (41.18), and Lakeview pole-vaulter Isaac Lightcap (14-0) in 2A; and Reynolds’ Dietrich Williams in the 2A long jump (21-10).
• From the district's northern tier there were several Class 3A athletes who garnered gold in 2 or more events, including: Fort LeBoeuf hurdler Hayden Skinner in the highs (15.85) and intermediates (40.59); Cathedral Prep sprinter Demario Crawford in the 100 (11.17) and 200 (22.70) – he also was part of the Ramblers' victorious sprint-relay quartet (43.79) – and Gen. McLane distance ace Dylan Throop, who swept the 1600 (4:22.83) and 3200 (9:22.59). Prep's Kody Klein captured the 800 (1:59.40) and lent a leg to the Ramblers' winning distance-relay foursome (8:39.45).
In Class 2A, Franklin thrower Ashley Alcorn doubled in the disc (112-3) and shot (37-5), while Youngsville's Jake Hogg high-jumped (6-5) and triple-jumped (44-10 1/4) to a pair of gold medals.
Two years ago Anderson placed 3rd at state in the Class 2A high hurdles.
"Obviously, triple-A, it's a whole 'nother world, but she could be right there in the hundred hurdles," Viccari said.
Reminded of Anderson's angst in running the intermediate, a smiling Viccari related, "We found that out when she was a sophomore, when she PR'd at districts and made states – and that was her best time, by far. It's just, when push comes to shove and somebody gets on her tail, she doesn't want to lose and hits another gear.
Echoed Anderson, " ... From the last few years triple-A was very, very competitive, and I feel like a little bit of it has switched to double-A, because so many teams have gone back to double-A (D-10 included only 7 Class 3A girls' teams). But I already know once we get to states it's gonna be back to that very competitive nature.
"When you see the work you put in come out, it just makes you feel more proud of yourself," Anderson admitted, later adding, " ... I can't expect myself to do anything more. I'm just really happy that I came out here and did what I was supposed to do, 'cause I was very nervous (Saturday) morning – butterflies and stomach-cramping – but I got myself together in the end.".
Notes: In the 2A boys' team standings Hickory (62.5), Reynolds (58.50) and Lakeview (45.50) placed 3rd, 4th and 5th, respectively. Hickory's Hornets were hampered by a hamstring injury sustained by senior standout Michael Henwood. He tweaked the injury at last week's Mercer County Invitational, and pulled up midway through Saturday's 200-meter trials. Courageously Henwood attempted to compete in the 100-meter finals, but again pulled up owing to the injury. ... In the 3A boys' standings, Gen. McLane (99) ended as runner-up and Slippery Rock finished 5th (67.5). ... The top 2 place-winners (and any athlete finishing in the top 8 who meets a state-qualifying standard) earned a trip to Shippensburg next weekend. ... Complete results are posted on various sites, including MileSplit and PennTrack. Slippery Rock University's athletic web site also included a link.
AREA D-10 CHAMPS
100 hurdles: Lindsey Martineau (Wilmington), 15.19.
300 hurdles: Lindsey Martineau (Wilmington), 47.11.
100: Anna Kadlubek (Slippery Rock), 12.52.
200: Anna Kadlubek (Slippery Rock), 25.60
400: Elizabeth Miles (Wilmington), 59.88.
800: Grace Mason (Wilmington), 2:20.05.
400 relay: Wilmington (Becka Book, Grace Mason, Lindsey Martineau, Elizabeth Miles), 51.01.
1600 relay: Wilmington (Becka Book, Grace Mason, Lindsey Martineau, Elizabeth Miles), 4:03.38.
Triple jump: Grace Bresnan (Reynolds), 36-4 1/2.
Javelin: Maryann Ackerman (Slippery Rock), 140-4.
Discus: Maryann Ackerman (Slippery Rock), 114-9.
100 hurdles: Aniyah Anderson (Hickory), 14.78.
300 hurdles: Aniyah Anderson (Hickory), 45.94.
100: Aniyah Anderson (Hickory), 12.88.
400: Christie Boren (Hickory), 1:01.05.
800: Abby Steffler (Grove City), 2:22.35.
1600: Abby Steffler (Grove City), 5:23.91.
400 relay: Hickory (Daphne Borowicz, Aniyah Anderson, Kayla Saylor, Christie Boren), 50.12.
1600 relay: Grove City (Clara Hannon, Abigail Nichols, Abby Steffler, Becca Santom), 4:11.39.
High jump: Paige Griffith (Hickory), 5-2.
Triple jump: Abigail Nichols (Grove City), 33-6 1/4.
300 hurdles: Ty Tate (West Middlesex), 41.18.
200: Ethan Susen (Wilmington),
400: Cole Frazier (Hickory), 50.51.
800: Cole Frazier (Hickory), 1:57.7 (school record).
1600: Gabe Nichols (Grove City), 4:23.24.
3200: Gabe Nichols (Grove City), 9:34.01.
400 relay: Wilmington (Darren Miller, Luke Edwards, Ethan Susen, Trevor Sturgeon), 43.95.
1600 relay: Grove City (Trey Reznor, Hunter Harris, Ryan Locktosh, Cael McEwen), 3:31.19.
Discus: Connor Vass-Gal (Wilmington), 152-3.
Long jump: Dietrich Williams (Reynolds), 21-10.
Shot put: Connor Vass-Gal (Wilmington), 66-6 3/4.
Pole vault: Isaac Lightcap (Lakeview), 14-0.
High jump: Ethan Folmer (Slippery Rock), 6-1.
Triple jump: Ethan Folmer (Slippery Rock), 44-11 1/2.