ALTOONA — State College’s Bryce Williams outjumped his competition at the District 6 Class AAA Track and Field Championships on Thursday night.
Bellefonte’s Sean Gipson went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in less than an hour.
The duo led a group of Centre County qualifiers who will head to Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium for the PIAA Championships on May 24-25.
Williams had the biggest individual day, with wins in the long and triple jumps and a second-place result in the high jump.
“I’m really excited for the chance to compete at states,” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to spending the time with my teammates and it will be a new experience.”
He will be joined by fellow Little Lions Mason Post in the 400 meters, John Smith in the 300 hurdles, Kellin Valentine in the triple jump and the 3,200 relay team.
Gipson in the 800 and Mitchell Smith in the 3,200 also will make the trip for the Red Raiders.
Altoona captured the team crown for the 18th straight year with 224 points while the Little Lions had 178 and Bellefonte with sixth with 33.
Williams bettered his season-best distance by one foot in the long jump to win at 21-5. Williams then led a 1-2-3 State College sweep in the triple jump, winning with a personal-best 46-2.
“I came into past district meets and didn’t do so well,” Williams said. “To be able to land it in a top-notch meet like this, it’s really fun.”
Teammate Kellin Valentine also made the state meet after leaping 45-5 to also surpass the state-qualifying standard. Sean King was third.
“I came into the meet knowing I was going to have to work hard,” said Williams, who was second in the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 11 inches. “I kind of knew I was going to do well, but I felt good and everything just landed today. It was just a really good situation today.”
The 4x800 relay team put in a scintillating time to win its race in 7:52.51. The clocking barely missed breaking the district record of 7:51.98, which was set by the Little Lions and has stood since 1981.
Altoona was leading at the end of the third leg before anchor Will Cather cranked up the heat to grab the top spot and beat the Mountain Lions by over two seconds. Sam Bollinger, Connor Stashko and Kyle Adams joined Cather.
Gipson had a wild swing of emotions. He was a possible state medal contender in the 400 after making the trip to states in the event last year, but he left the starting blocks early and was disqualified. Gipson almost immediately sprinted the entire length of the field, left the stadium and hugged his mother.
“Going into it I was very scared how it was going to go, with the (400) and the (800),” Gipson said. “I was a little nervous, got scared, I think. Nerves got to me. The gun went up, the set command and I was ready to go before the starter was. It wasn’t meant to be.”
Post took advantage to earn his spot at the PIAAs with a winning time of 50.68.
“I wanted him there to push me, but I still got a (personal record) by about a second,” said Post, who ran on the 1,600 relay at states last year. “It felt good, obviously, and now I want to get under 50 (seconds) at states. It’s my first time running an individual event at states, and that’s exciting.”
Less than an hour later, Gipson was back on the track in the 800, and he ran with a purpose, knocking more than two seconds off his season-best time in his 1:55.85 to edge Cather.
“I wanted a race that the team could be proud of today,” said Gipson, who also ran on the 1,600 and 3,200 relays. “It was for all of them, every single guy helped me today. … I had to redeem myself for them.”
In the 3,200, Bellefonte’s Mitchell Smith could not catch Mifflin County’s Jon Colwell, but Smith, who finished in 9:44.31, will make the trip to Shippensburg after Colwell decided to only run in the 1,600, which he also won, at the state meet.
Also for State College, Kellin Williams grabbed second in the long jump at 20-11 while teammate Sean King took sixth, Sam Bollinger was fifth in the 1,600, Alex Hsu was third and Seamus Wagner sixth in the 400, Post and Hsu were fifth and eighth, respectively, in the 200, Chris Golembeski was fifth in the 800, Matt Beyerle and Alex Milligan were sixth and seventh, respectively, in the 3,200.
Tyler Smith was seventh and Alex Banerjee eighth in the 300 hurdles, Matt Millin was third and Sam Murphy was sixth in the shot put, and Mullin was eighth in the discus, Alec Asprey was seventh in the javelin, Hsu took fourth and Dan Forziat seventh in the high jump, and Lathom Thompson and Lucas Gray were second and eighth, respectively, in the pole vault.
The State College 400 relay team was third and the 1,600 relay team took second, with Altoona’s Joe Reffner barely edging Post at the finish line by .27 seconds.
Also for Bellefonte, Mitchell Grasser was fifth in the shot put, while the Red Raider relay teams produced a third-place effort in the 3,200, a fifth in the 1,600 and an eighth in the 400.