Thirty two AA teams headed to Altoona’s Mansion Stadium hoping to win a district championship and qualify some of their athletes for the state track and field meet. Throw out the seeds and regular season performance as each athlete must perform with everything on the line. The pressure is tremendous as competitors battle each other for that one chance to be rubbing noses with the best in the state at the biggest show know as the State Track and Field Championships on Friday, May 23, and Saturday, May 24, at Shippensburg University.
Bellwood-Antis senior Ben Hatch rallied from a tough middle portion of his final high school track season to post two big triumphs at Tuesday’s District 6-AA track and field meet at Mansion Park. Hatch had been ill and had some adversity as well earlier in the Shippensburg Invitational, but rebounded in style to win both the 400 and 800 meters. In the 400, Ben set a new school record, and while not running his best time in the 800, he still cut 0.13 seconds off the meet record in placing first in the 800 as well.
Hatch, who will forego the 400 at states to concentrate on the 800, also helped Bellwood-Antis to win the 1600 relay, coming from behind on the anchor leg to pull out a win. Hatch won the District 800 as a a freshman and was second to teammate Brandon Pruznak last year.
“Ben had such a great day,” said Bellwood-Antis boys coach Nick Lovrich. “In some of the other big meets things didn’t go his way, he felt he had something to prove. He now has seven district gold medals, that is an outstanding accomplishment on his part.”
The Tyrone 400 Relay Team of Larry Glace, Shane Emigh, Shayne Tate and Johnny are DISTRICT CHAMPIONS.
“We didn’t have the greatest handoffs,” Tyrone’s second runner Shane Emigh said. “This was the first district title I was a part of in my athletic career at Tyrone and it feels great.”
Despite a few problems with handoffs the Golden Eagle Relay Team won easily. “I really think this team can place in states and possible break the school record if they hit those handoffs,” Coach Yaniello said. “Passing the baton at full speed through the relay zones is the secret to a good time. They know they have to finish strong at the end of each leg and the outgoing runner has to start fast to do this.”
The B-A 1600 relay (3:29.51) included Hatch, Kyle Canfield, Dustin Pruznak and Alan Wertz, edged a relay team from Central Cambria by 0.5 seconds.
“This is something we have been known for,” said Lovrich. “This is the third straight district championship for our 1600 relay. The first three guys ran great races to keep us in the running and then Ben finished it up for us. The guys wanted to go back to states again.”
B-A junior Tim Collier pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the district meet. After being seeded ninth and battling sore leg muscles all season, Collier improved his personal best by nearly a foot on his next-to-last jump to win the long jump with a leap of 20-11.
“We knew that Tim had the potential. We saw the guys seeded in front of him,” said Lovrich, “and hoped he could bump up into the top four or five. It was great to see him win. He is not very emotional, but I actually saw him smile for a couple seconds after he won.”
The 400 Relay was not the only bright spot for Tyrone. Junior Kyle Updike leaped 6-2 and punched his ticket to states with a second place finish losing only by total misses. “Kyle had one miss at 6-2 which cost him the championship,” Coach Yaniello said. Kyle has been solid all year for us and going to states is going to be a great experience for the junior. Usually 6-3 or 6-4 will get you a medal at states.”
Tyrone junior Ben Ingle placed a strong second in the 1600 to qualify for the big show. Ben has the fifth best time in the state according to the Penn Track web sites that ranks the athletes. Unfortunately the top runner in the state, in Jim Spisak of Bishop McCort, is also in District 6. “I’m looking forward to running in the state meet this year,” Ingle said. “I feel I have a excellent shot at medaling if I can run my best.”
Junior Larry Glace will be competing in two events at state with a third place finish in the long jump (20-4) and qualifying for states.
Johnny Franco won his heat in the 100 and ran well in finals placing fourth by only a few step from the winner. “It’s great to see Johnny runner that fast,” Coach Yaniello said. “He was leading the 100 after 60 meters and is running faster than ever. When he has the baton anchoring the relay team no one is going to catch him.”
Freshman Richie Stever placed eighth in the 1600 (4:49) and looks to be a force along with Ingle next year. Stever also placed 10th in the 3200 (10:40).
“We have three kids coming back next year that are under five minutes in the mile,” Yaniello said.
Dustin Elder also qualified for districts and ran a 4:57 at districts.
The B-A boys, who won the team title in 2007, slipped to a third place (52 points) tie with United. Bald Eagle Area won the boys crown with 78.5, followed by Central Cambria with 61.5. Tyrone was tied with Bishop McCort for sixth place with 39 points.
Lance Hughes finished fourth (15.76) in the 110 high hurdles for the Blue Devils, and sixth (42.86) in the 300 low hurdles. Dustin Pruznak was seventh (4:49.41) in the 1600, Anthony Jenkins was eighth (44-3.75) in the shot put, and the B-A 400 relay team of Zach McCaulley, Hughes, Josh Kalinowski and Brandon Humphreys was eighth.
“Lance Hughes has worked so hard this year to get down to the times he has run,” explained Lovrich. “The best thing is, that he will be back next year and I think he will use this experience as inspiration. This was a good cap for Anthony Jenkins career in high school track.”
The Bellwood-Antis girls had Jenna Nevling (13.42) tie for fifth place in the 100 and their 1600 relay team (4:17.77) was fifth, to highlight their district meet. Emily O’Shea (16.70) was sixth in the 100 intermediate hurdles and Emily Sinisi (8-3) was eighth in the pole vault and Chelsea Wilson (1:03.39) was eighth in the 400.
Blair County Track Officials awards were presented to Tyrone’s Johnny Franco and Sarah Halter and to Bellwood-Antis’ Hatch and Jannell Wilt.