ALTOONA — There is always plenty of drama at the District 6 Track and Field Championships, but there was an overdose of it for Centre County girls on Tuesday night.
Four girls in the Class AA meet at a rainy Mansion Park qualified for the state championships with their last attempt in field events, and another slipped into the last qualifying spot on the track by one-hundredth of a second.
“It was stressful,” said Penns Valley’s Grace Gover, a dramatic athlete twice-over by qualifying in the high and triple jumps. “I wasn’t going for that (drama). That just happened.”
There also were a few who just missed out on spots at the PIAA Championships, which will be held May 24-25 at Shippensburg University.
Penns Valley had the biggest celebrations with a good collection of girls set to ride the team bus next week, with the top three finishers in each event earning state berths.
The Lady Rams earned one district title in the 400-meter relay, and they will be joined by Gover, Carolyn Darr in the 100-meter dash and Nicole Bienert in the discus.
For a while, Penns Valley also was leading in the team standings before falling to third in the final events with 68 points. Forest Hills won with 84 and Central Cambria took second at 70.5.
Also earning state bids were Bald Eagle Area’s Marissa Ward in the long jump — making it on her last attempt — and Philipsburg-Osceola’s Tiffany Bertothy in the javelin.
Gover qualified twice in the span of about half an hour.
On her last attempt the in triple jump, she moved into third place at 35 feet, 3 inches — the first time this year she has bettered 35 feet. That put her past United’s Maggie Slawson by an inch.
“That’s all that matters right now — getting there,” said Gover, who will go to Shippensburg for a third time. “Especially in triple, it’s been a rough year. I didn’t have as many problems with it last year as I did this year. It really takes a toll on my legs, so I was struggling with that. I was a little worried there.”
She then went back to the high jump and was part of a group of four girls still alive, and again on her last try she cleared 5 feet, 2 inches, leaving her alone with Tyrone’s Erika Voyzey. The Tyrone freshman had fewer misses and won the district title. Neither was able to clear 5-3.
“I definitely had to calm myself and focus,” Gover said. “I’ve been jumping against her all season, so I know what she’s capable of.”
Bienert was estatic about her opportunity to make the state meet.
She trailed Huntingdon’s Jessi Roth going into the final round of throws, with Roth throwing first and finishing with a top toss of 105 feet, 9 inches.
“I said to myself, ‘You can do this. Just focus,’” Bienert said. “I threw it and it felt really, really good. I was like, ‘Yes!’ But it probably wasn’t far enough. Then they go, ‘106,’ and I (gasped).”
The exact number was 106-5, bettering her personal-best by two feet and earning the junior her first trip to Shippensburg.
“It’s very exciting and exhilarating,” Bienert said. “I finally did it. But now I have to repeat that.”
Like the others, Ward was in fourth place going into the last round of attempts in the long jump before she uncorked a leap of 16-5 ¼ - which bettered her personal best by five inches and again made United’s Slawson the victim by a quarter inch.
“It was pouring down rain and I just beat her,” Ward said. “I don’t know. It just happened.”
Ward, who will be playing basketball in college and never thought of herself as a track athlete, was in disbelief she is headed to the state meet.
“I’m just really surprised,” Ward said. “I never would have expected, whenever I started track my freshman year, that I would be going to the state meet. I never would have guessed that. It was a shock.”
She has no delusions about contending for a PIAA medal, and plans on enjoying the experience.
“I’ll probably just watch everyone else because I don’t even amount to them,” Ward said. “I’ll just look around, look at everything.”
After missing last season because of a torn ACL, Darr is thrilled to be going back and to have plenty of teammates with her after her run in the 100.
“We have a lot more qualifiers for the state meet this year,” Darr said. “It makes it a lot more fun. As a team we do a lot of fun things, make a lot of memories that I will carry for the rest of my lifetime.”
She also went for the drama, out of a qualifying spot as she sped down the track until she barely leaned ahead of Forest Hills’ Marlee Schrift to take third by one-hundredth of a second in 13.14 and bring on a little celebration.
“I wasn’t sure about that one. I wasn’t sure I got her,” Darr said. “I had a little hint that I had gotten her. … I’m a little disappointed it wasn’t my best performance, but I’m grateful that I’m going to states.”
She was not as lucky in the 200, this time getting nipped at the finish line for fourth to Bishop McCort’s Tahlyn Miller by three-hundredths of a second.
The one district champion was the Lady Ram 400 relay team of Darr, Gover, Anna Bair and Destiny Andrus, who turned in a rather drama-free time of 51.23, winning by more than a half-second over Tyrone for the third 400 relay title in four years for the program.
“We had a rough beginning of the season for our 4x1,” Darr said. “We finally switched some legs around, found out what works for us, got our handoffs down and now we’re back.”
Bertothy merely needed her fifth of six throws to secure her spot as the lone representative for the Lady Mounties. Her top throw was 103-11.
“It’s a dream come true,” Bertothy said. “I’ve prayed to God that I could make it to states and I just made it and it’s very exciting, very fulfilling. I’m very proud of what I did.”
She was satisfied with the result given the damp conditions of the runway and her grip on the javelin.
“It’s always a challenge to throw on a rainy day because you have to worry slipping and that your hand grip is real tight or you’ll slip off your handle,” the junior said. “It’s just very hard to keep the javelin handle dry. It’s an all-around challenge for everything.”
Other place-winners at the meet included the Penns Valley 1,600 relay team in 4:18.13 to finish fourth, Chelsea Emel was fifth at 98-8 in the discus and fourth in the shot put at 31-3 3-4, Alyssa Limbaugh was fourth in the 3,200 in 12:13.58 and took eighth in the 1,600 in 5:36.32, Penns Valley’s Destiny Andrus was sixth in the 100 in 13.34 and in the 200 in 26.91, and Penns Valley’s 3,200 relay team was eighth in 11:03.06
Also for Bald Eagle Area, Michelle Kachik was seventh in the pole vault at 8-6.
The top finisher for St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy was Cecilia Surovec, who just missed a place ribbon in the 300 hurdles, finishing ninth in 51.17.