SHIPPENSBURG – There’s a different mind-set when attempting to defend a championship as opposed to unexpectedly winning a crown. Hickory High had a little bit of both during the opening day of the annual PIAA Track & Field Championships.

At Shippensburg University Friday morning, Hickory’s Brian Phillips flew 23 feet – 3/4 of an inch off his personal best – to win the AA long-jump title.

Just a few hours later his Hornets’ teammate, Brock Grundy, garnered gold in the discus for the second straight spring. On the final throw of his flight, Grundy launched a 183-2, not near his personal best (189), but good enough as a blustery breeze blew throughout the otherwise mid-70’s degree day.

“A state championship’s pretty cool, no matter how many times you do it,” Grundy admitted when asked to compare his pair of PIAA individual crowns. But the senior said, “ ... contributing to a team state championship ... winning as a team, I think, is way better than an individual. You all come together on one day and do your personal best. Winning (a PIAA Class AA team title) would be a great feeling.”

Early in the competition Grundy got off a throw of 176, enabling him to relax in spite of the clear, but windy weather conditions.

“I just felt it. As soon as I came out of the back (of the throwing circle) it was nice and smooth. I knew I could hit this one right, nice and hard, and it just came up off my fingers perfectly,” explained Grundy. “For me, I dropped my arm (angle); usually it goes really high, so I just tried to keep nice, level shoulders throughout the throw just to keep it nice, low and level.”

A well-spoken senior, Grundy is bound for Youngstown State University where he will study nursing and compete in the shot put, discus and hammer throws.

The scenario was somewhat different for Phillips, who related, “I was nervous going in – I was seeded third going into the finals – but my coach (Dan Rockage) told me what to do and I trusted in him ... hit it and put my last jump out there.

“Tons of pressure,” Phillips acknowledged, speaking from Seth Grove Stadium’s infield. “I mean, it’s the state meet, it’s my last high school meet. Not many people get to come here, so it’s just an honor to compete for Hickory. My training paid off.

“I hoped to win, I always have a drive to win – it’s in my personality; I want to place first. I’m glad to pull off a first. I’m excited!” continued Phillips. “It feels great! Last year I got ninth, so I didn’t get to medal; indoor states I got second. So I’m just glad to finish up my high school career with a first.” 

Smiling, the personable, yet frenetic Phillips concluded, “I’m excited! I get to leave my legacy there (Hickory High). People are gonna know I was a jumper there. It feels good.”

Bound for Kent State University, Phillips has a couple final scholastic events: today’s triple jump competition and the 4x1 relay, for which he serves as anchor.

• Other Mercer Countians who medalled on Friday included Sharon’s Noah Weese and Grove City’s Nick Smither in the javelin. Weese went for a personal-best and school-record throw of 187-5. Smither, who threw 174-7, battled with Weese throughout the last couple seasons.

An early-morning crosswind proved somewhat tricky for competitors. But Weese said, “I had a really good throw on my first throw; it was really windy, so it was hard to keep it from going up or nose-diving down. I just hit a really good angle on my first throw and it kept climbing ... 

“The school record is 185 (by former state champion Auston Papay), and when I heard them say ‘one-eighty-seven,’ my coach (Erin Argenziano) and I got really excited,” Weese continued, admitting his predecessors “probably would be pretty proud. Second place, not a bad job, I’d say. I’m pretty excited about that.”

• Also securing silver was Slippery Rock sophomore Maryann Ackerman in the javelin, while Greenville senior Maddie Hawthorne stood 6th (127-0). Not coincidentally, both are basketball players.

“It’s amazing!” Ackerman admitted. “One of my goals this season was to come to states and get a medal, but I was thinking a ‘lower’ medal – sixth, seventh or eighth. But getting second is amazing! It’s just as good as everybody says it is. ... I think every runway is a little bit different as far as how much traction it has. But I think coming (to state) last year really helped me this year, just with the experience.”

Ackerman threw 134-2, but her PR is 147, she said, noting, “the wind really played a factor. ... My first three throws I really felt the wind, but on my fifth throw the wind died down a little bit and I could get a good throw in.”

Related Hawthorne, “It’s a couple inches short of my PR for this season. It’s not where I want to be, but a sixth-place finish at the state tournament is acceptable. It was a great experience both years; this year I had less nerves, so, overall, I had a great time.”

A senior, Hawthorne will continue her education and throwing career at Thiel College, remaining teammates with Lady Trojans’ senior Carly Fattman.The latter will compete in the shot put today.

• Slippery Rock high-jumper Gianna Bedel (4th, at 5-4, 2 inches better than her state-qualifying seed), and Hickory thrower Molly Piso (5th in the discus at 128-5, off her personal best of 134-3). 

“I thought I’d do better, but I’m still happy ‘cause last year I got eighth and the year before I didn’t even medal, so getting up here (medals podium) feels good,” related Piso, a junior making her 3rd consecutive appearance on the statewide stage. She also served as standout goalkeeper on Hickory’s District 10 championship soccer squad last fall. 

Wilmington throwers Connor Vass-Gal (6th, 155-7) and Josh Sanders (8th, 155-4) earned medals in the discus competition.

• Individuals and relay teams advancing to today’s finals included Lakeview girls’ 4x8 (10:02.89, 3rd in heat). Also advancing to today’s finals: Grove City metric-miler Jonah Powell (4:32.38), who doubled up in the 800-meter run (1:53.71); Slippery Rock girls (50.38) and Hickory boys’ (42.84) 4x1 relay teams. Anna Kadlubek closed for Slippery Rock; however, she did not advance in the 400-meter dash (1:02.22). Also, Wilmington’s Grace Mason (800, 2:21.79) and Grove City’s Nick Murawski (400, 50.51).

Grove City senior Powell posted a preliminary pair of 1sts on Friday, so he will be busy today. He won a PIAA cross country championship last fall.

Advancing to today’s semifinals are Hickory high-hurdlers Aniyah Anderson (15.3, 1st in her heat) and Braedon Allen (15.31, 2nd), and Mercer’s Merrick Morneweck (15.71, 3rd in heat), and Grove City’s Connor McEwen (15.65, 5th). Also, a handful of 100-meter sprinters, including Lakeview’s Michaela Rose (12.47) and Farrell’s Christian Lewis (11.21) – both of whom were 2nd in their respective heat – and Hickory’s Michael Henwood (11.05), Hunter Stoots (11.17) and Kaitlyn O’Kresik (12.83). Rose also advanced in the 200 (2nd in heat in 25.52), as did Lewis (22.55, 3rd in heat).

• Those who competed, but did not advance to today’s semifinals or finals: Grove City boys (8:20.80, 6th in heat) and Wilmington girls’ 4x8 (10:16.94, 7th heat); Hickory girls’ 4x1 relay (50.53); metric-milers Cole Frazier (4:32.38) of Hickory and Sharpsville’s Lauren Mehler (5:38.60); Mercer sprinter Zach Stanton (11.60 in the 100); Wilmington high-hurdler Lindsey Martineau (16.0); intermediate hurdlers McEwen (40.16) and Becca Santom of Grove City (48.88), and Hickory’s Emma Schnolis (47.36). Santom was competing in Class AAA.

• Competing on Friday, but not placing were: discus-throwers Carly Fattman of Greenville (121-1), Wilmington’s Aleah Deal (115-9), and Ackerman (106-11); Lakeview high-jumper Joe Grim (out at 6-2), as well as Slippery ROck long-jumper Emma McDermott (9th, 17-0 3/4). In fairness, McDermott no sooner completed her leg for the Ldy Rockets’ sprint-relay quartet than had to hustle over to the long-jump pit.

• In the day’s final event, the 4x4 relay, only one squad advanced – Wilmington girls, who won their heat (4:03.11). Class AAA Grove City girls (4:09.63) and Class AA boys (3:30.87) and Slippery Rock girls (4:10.39) did not advance.

Notes: Erie First Christian School’s Steve Smith scratched from the 100-meter dash, and as the District 10 runner-up in the long jump, which created an opportunity for Grove City’s Jake Reddick, the 3rd-place finisher (20-3 3/4). Already an alternate on a Grove City relay team, Reddick jumped Friday morning. “A good story about a good kid getting a good opportunity,” D-10 Championships Meet Director Barb Dzurcsko said, adding, “It’s not always about the ones getting the medals; sometimes it’s about the ones who just get the (state) experience.” Reddick recorded a 19-8 1/4 long jump, but did not place. ...Barb and Bill Dzuricsko served as officials for the triple-jump competition. ... Barb Dzuricsko noted high-jumper Karen Krichko (1974-1975), javelin-thrower Stacey Gibbs (1986-1987), pole-vaulter Eric Sparks (2004 and 2005), shot-putter Tori McKinley and discus-thrower Evan Blair (2016-2017) were previous Hickory High athletes to win back-to-back PIAA championships. One of Sparks’ occurred in Class AAA; all others in Class AA. ... to access additional results, visit piaa.org.