ALTOONA — The State College girls’ track and field team ran away from the competition once again at the District 6 Class AAA meet Friday.
The Lady Little Lions put together a dominant performance at Altoona’s Mansion Park en route to capturing their ninth straight district title. State College finished with a team score of 228.50, more than 100 points better than runner-up Altoona (127.50). The Lady Little Lions won eight individual events, took the 3,200 and 1,600 relays and boasted five state qualifiers who didn’t take gold.
“Overall as a team we come together and year after year, we come out of this on top,” State College coach Jenn Evans said. “And we try to take as many kids to the state meet as possible and we’re really super proud of our competitors. A lot of the other district schools came after us hard in different events, and we just persevered so I’m very proud of these girls.”
State College will continue its season at the PIAA Championships at Shippensburg on Friday.
Bellefonte placed sixth in the district with a score of 43. Anya Hoaglund provided the highlight for the Lady Red Raiders, breaking the school record in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 12:01.66 — good for third place.
Hoaglund said her previous personal best was 12:23, a mark set last season. Her best this season was 12:32, both times well off the previous record of 12:02.77.
But Friday, she did not compete in the 1,600 before the 3,200, allowing her to save her energy and go after the record.
“It’s been my goal all year,” Hoaglund said. “And I was just really nervous before this because I always run this race after the 1,600 so I’ve been kind of tired out. So I wasn’t sure that I could do it, but I did it and it’s just like who knows what’s possible? It’s really exciting.”
Much of the excitement belonged to the Lady Little Lions as they piled up victories to take the title.
Emily Randolph, the top seed in the 300-meter hurdles, could barely contain herself in school before making the trip to Altoona.
“Oh my goodness, first period, second period, third period, I couldn’t do anything but shake,” Randolph said. “I was so excited and nervous, drinking all the water I could and trying to focus all my energy and when I got on the bus, it hit me, it was real.”
Randolph entered the meet hoping to secure her first PIAA berth. She said she’s been dreaming of winning the 300 hurdles for three years and she felt ready when she stepped to the starting blocks.
She was exhausted at the finish line as she waited to hear her time. After learning she finished in 45.53, a new personal best, she dropped to the ground in celebration.
“Best moment of my life,” Randolph said. “I crossed the finish line and once I found out my time, I was the happiest person on the track probably.”
She shared that joy with teammate Rachel Wylie, who finished second and qualified for states with a time of 45.92.
Randolph and Wylie pushed each other at practices and meets in the hurdles all season. That friendly competition helped both earn spots in Shippensburg for the first time.
Wylie will also be competing in the 100 hurdles after winning the district title with a time of 15.21.
“My start wasn’t one of my better ones I would say,” Wylie said. “But I wanted it so bad. I was like I need to get to states.”
Hannah Catalano was driven by the same goal throughout her senior year.
Catalano won the 3,200 in districts and went to states as a sophomore in 2012. But after switching to the 1,600 last season, she experienced a setback and missed out on the PIAA meet.
She worked through that disappointment and captured the 1,600 with a time of 5:14.21 Friday.
“The fact that I get to prove myself one last time before I graduate really means a lot to me,” Catalano said.
Natasha Fedkina will be making her second straight appearance at states after winning the 800 in 2:17.51.
Fedkina, Emma Cousins and Catalano all bolted to the front of the pack at the start of the race. By the end of the first lap, Fedkina and Cousins ran side-by-side, separating from the rest of the field.
And then Fedkina made her move, leaving everyone behind.
“Second lap I really pushed it, telling myself I really want this,” said Fedkina, who finished second in the event last year. “I want this so bad, I want to win this race and I came out with it and there was a good weight lifted off my shoulders.”
She credited Cousins, who won the 800 in the district meet last year, for pacing her throughout the race.
In the long jump, Veronika Karpenko shattered her previous best with a throw of 17-6.50 to win the title.
“That was my best ever by a lot,” Karpenko said. “It was by 5.5 inches and I’m so happy. It was a really big breakthrough, and I’m happy I got it at districts.”
Karpenko also qualified for states in the triple jump with a distance of 37-10, good for second behind Altoona’s Abby Wagner (38-3.50).
“It’s kind of surreal right now,” Karpenko said. “This has been my goal ever since I went to high school. And now I have to set new goals and do well at states.”
Victoria Crawford won the 400 (58.28) for State College, Haley Crawford won the 200 (25.59) and Victoria Scutti took the 3,200 (11:29.18). In the 3,200 relay, Kaelyn Yoder, Catalano, Fedkina and Victoria Crawford finished first with a time of 9:24.68. And in the 1,600 relay, the team of Fedkina, Olivia Watkins, Book and Victoria Crawford won in a time of 4:02.20.
Other state qualifiers for State College include Megan Fry (second, 11-0) and Kate Nese (third, 11-0) in the pole vault and Haley Crawford in the 100 (third, 12.63).
Each contributed to another memorable day as the Lady Little Lions continued their streak of dominance.
“It’s awesome that our school has continued all these years,” Catalano said. “And I’m really happy that I could contribute as much as I could. It’s my last year and I’m really proud of how everyone’s done and it’s really the best thing that could end my senior year.”