Bryce Williams, and the State College track and field team, are flying high these days.
The term is both metaphorical and literal.
The State College senior is feeling pretty good after a strong showing at Penn Relays last weekend while posting a personal-best distance in the triple jump.
The feeling carried over to Friday night at Altoona’s Mansion Park, when he picked up wins in the long and triple jumps at the West Central Coaches Invitational.
State College’s only double winner helped the boys to the team title in Class AAA with 143 points to hold off Altoona’s 138.83, while the girls captured the team title with 147 points, outdistancing South Western’s 126.33.
“We’re very proud,” said Kyle Adams, who won the 1,600-meter run and helped the 4x400 relay team to a win as well. “It’s always fun to compete against Altoona and all these teams from around Central Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania. It’s great competition.”
Other State College winners included John Smith in the 300 hurdles, Will Cather in the 800, Emily Randolph in the 300 hurdles, Rachel Wylie in the 100 hurdles, Natasha Fedkina in the 800, Hannah Catalano in the 1,600 and Victoria Scutti in the 3,200.
The Little Lions also picked up wins in all three relays on the girls’ side and with the 1,600 relay on the boys’ side.
Last Saturday, Williams soared to a leap of 47 feet, 11 3/4 inches for a fifth-place finish in the high school triple jump at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field.
“That was my first time at Penn Relays, which is a huge meet, so to get my (personal record) there is amazing,” Williams said. “The environment is very nice. That Saturday, with all the people there, I really like it.”
Inspired, Williams has been rolling. He was just off that leap from Philly, turning in a distance of 46-2 1/2. That followed a long jump of 21-6 1/4.
“With my coach we were talking about what I was jumping last year compared to this year,” Williams said. “I’m still ahead of my schedule. I feel like I’m jumping really well and I want to keep it rolling.”
With a future filled with more jumps at Penn State, Williams is focused on continuing the strong performances at the District 6 meet in 12 days and, hopefully, one more shot at a medal at the state meet.
“It’s my last year,” Williams said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Another collection of Little Lions who had a thrilling trip to Philadelphia last weekend were the relay teams, including the 3,200 quartet which turned in a sixth-place finish in the Championship of America race.
“That was just such a fun experience,” said Adams, who stayed off the pace until the final lap when he surged into the lead in the 1,600 in 4:27.65. “Even though the time (at Penn Relays) wasn’t incredible, we’re still looking for that (school record) 7:42, but just the experience and the atmosphere is unmatched in the world of track and field.”
The same group did not run in the 4x800 in Altoona, with another foursome finishing third, but Adams joined Smith, Cather and Mason Post for a time of 3:20.09 in their team’s final win of the night.
“It carried into the whole team running well tonight,” Adams said. “When we do stuff, or when anyone on this team from top to bottom does something really exciting, everyone gets excited to work hard, train hard and just come out here and peform.”
Randolph was challenged for her win in the 300 hurdles, dueling with Bradford’s Ali Rinfrette down the final 100 meters. Randolph lunged ahead at the finish line to win in 48.02 seconds — four-hundredths of a second better than Rinfrette.
“When I got to the end I wanted to win more than anything and I wasn’t going to let her catch me,” Randolph said. “It was difficult because I started on a lane outside from her, so I couldn’t see her until I got to the corner. But I wasn’t going to let her pass me so it was a really nice finish for me.”
Teammate Wylie had a much bigger margin in the 100 hurdles, winning by more than a half-second. The key to her win was a solid jump from the blocks.
“That was probably one of my best starts I’ve ever done,” Wylie said. “My coach said, ‘Take her in the start and then you can win the race.’ I was thinking of that when I got in the blocks and I just took it out.”
For both hurdlers, and for all the athletes Friday, there was yet another battle with the elements. With temperatures in the 50s and a decent breeze blowing across the track, conditions were not ideal for staying loose and turning in great times.
“I felt really tight in the trials,” Wylie said. “My hips weren’t loose, my quads were really tight and everything, but doing the 300 before the (100 hurdle) finals really helped loosen me up so I was fine when it came to finals.”
As chilly as Friday evening might have been, they knew they couldn’t complain too much.
“It’s really difficult, but our past two workouts were in the snow and the rain and it was really windy,” Randolph said. “Training in difficult conditions leading up to this has helped us in this cold weather.”
In the boys’ 300 hurdle finals, Smith did not have his best time but still breezed around the track in 39.27 for the win. He set the school record earlier this spring at a half-second faster.
“I was a little slow because I was sick yesterday and I was a little tight and I was fatigued,” Smith said. “Our coaches reiterate, ‘Work hard in the start and finish strong, so I was just working hard in the beginning, and by the end I just kept trucking and was passing people and made sure I came up with that win.”
Cather turned in a time of 1:54.04 to take the 800, with Post just over three seconds back for second.
Catalano and Larissa Burka finished 1-2 in the 1,600, with Catalano’s winning time of 5:15.82 while Scutti took the 3,200 in 11:53.62.
Fedkina won the 800 with her time of 2:20.86, then helped the 1,600 relay team cap the night with Olivia Watkins, Chandley Book and Victoria Crawford posting a time of 4:03.78.
“We’ve had a lot of girls going in and out of the 4x4 and today we made a really good showing so we’re pretty excited for districts,” Fedkina said. “We go deep. We have other girls that can take the place of any of the girls on the team. We have a good variety on the team.”
The other relay wins came in the 400 with Niara and Monye Valentine, Wylie and Haley Crawford hitting a time of 49.86, and the foursome of Fedkina, Catalano, Burka and Victoria Crawford clocking a 9:34.27 in the 3,200.
Bellefonte finished with 14 points and placed 14th for the girls, with Cassandra Book posting the top showing of a fourth-place showing in the shot put at 32-2, and Anya Hoaglund grabbed fifth in the 3,200. The Red Raider boys took 16th with nine points, led by Mitch Grasser’s throw of 46-6 ¼ in the shot put for third place.