ALTOONA — When the first drops began to fall, it did not take long to go from a sprinkle to a downpour.
And when lightning flashed near Mansion Park as runners circled the track during the 400-meter dash, the end of competition also was near.
Mother Nature prevented the District 6 Class AA Track and Field Championships from reaching the finish line Tuesday evening, and athletes will have to wait at least another day to try to earn berths to the state championships.
“It’s a little disappointing because the kids are psyched and ready to go,” Penns Valley girls’ coach Lynda Federinko said. “Now they have to get up and get the energy to do it again (Wednesday).”
Before the final heat of the boys’ 400 could be run, at 6:58 p.m., officials suspended the event, sending competitors and the crowd scrambling for cover. Then 27 minutes later, with another strong thunderstorm cell making a bee-line for the area, the meet was called for the night.
With 10 girls’ events and nine boys’ events completed out of 18 for each, the meet is scheduled to resume at 4 p.m. Wednesday – weather permitting.
The rain had been so heavy for better than 15 minutes, it appeared a lake had formed over the ends of the football stadium, submerging the sand pits for the long and triple jumps. There also was more standing water on the track, and the artificial turf field began to bubble with water pooling beneath it.
A pool of water was so large in the grass in front of the javelin runway, that as a meet official was winding his tape measure through the small pond, one competitor joked that it looked like someone was reeling in a fishing line.
Most of the athletes seemed to handle the delay and inconvenience in stride. A few even ran onto the field and splashed in the puddles.
“They seemed just fine with it,” Federinko said. “They adapt better than the adults, I think.”
About a minute before the first drops began to fall on the stadium, a little history was made.
St’ Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s Brian Hackman finished third in the 1,600-meter run, turning in a time of 4 minutes, 32.54 seconds, to earn a berth in the PIAA Championships. He is the first St. Joe’s track athlete to earn a spot at states, and he enjoyed the “fireworks” that arrived soon after he crossed the finish line.
“It was awesome. I loved it,” Hackman said. “After the (1,600) which went really well for me, I was just happy, and that made me enjoy it more.”
The top three finishers, plus those who meet the qualifying standard, earn spots at the state meet May 23-24 in Shippensburg.
Hackman and a trio of teammates nearly made school history a few hours earlier, finishing fourth in the 3,200 relay. Mikey Kresovich, Michael Peters and Eli Urban also were a part of that relay.
Other top-eight finishers for the Wolves include Kahsim Buey (seventh in the 100), Gabe Sandoval (seventh, shot put) and Cecilia Surovec (seventh, 300 hurdles).
Bald Eagle Area’s Zach Moody was right behind Hackman for fourth in the 1,600, just missing a spot at PIAAs.
For Penns Valley, Nicole Bienert also just missed a PIAA berth by taking fourth in the discus, while teammate Chelsea Emel was sixth and Destiny Andrus was fourth in the 100-meter dash. Valerie Kubalak added a seventh in the high jump, Haven Tucker placed fifth in the pole vault and Nick Fuller was seventh in the 1,600.
Philipsburg-Osceola’s Collin Maurer took seventh in the 110-meter high hurdles.
Forced to wait overnight for the second half of events, some athletes were upset over having to make a return trip to Altoona, but others were glad to have a little more recovery time than usual, and are hoping it plays to their advantage.
“It’s tough but since we have a small school, we have a lot of kids doing a lot of events,” said Hackman, who will run in the 800 and 1,600 relay when he returns. “It’s really a good thing for our team. The only problem is the weather might be bad again (Wednesday).”