Centre County has produced plenty of talent in track and field over the years, and this spring figures to bring more of the same.
State College has a number of athletes who will be looking to qualify for, and earn medals at, the state championships in May, but the Little Lions are not alone.
Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola both return athletes who competed at the PIAA Championships, while Bellefonte and Bald Eagle Area lost theirs to graduation, but the Red Raiders and Eagles did have cross country runners at the state meet last fall.
Sporting the best chance to bring back not just a medal, but maybe even gold, from the PIAA meet will be the Little Lion 4x800 relay teams.
Both teams produced seventh-place finishes at the state finals last spring, and with most members back on both sides had strong performances during the indoor season, capped by All-America performances at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York in March. The boys finished fourth, with the best showing among Pennsylvania schools and were barely off the school record, while the girls finished sixth.
With the chill of winter finally breaking in central Pennsylvania and the snow finally gone from the tracks, teams are getting into form as they prepare through April for the tough stretch of May of the West Centra Coaches Invitational and the District 6 meet, leading into the state championships.
A look at each of the area’s programs:
Bald Eagle Area
Head coach: Jeff Jodon (25 th season)
Assistant coaches: Ron Hoover, Tim Kasper, Vicki Coffey
Last year: 5-4
Key losses: Tyler Carlin, Cole Carlous, Jake Ilgen, Doin Barnard, Damon Lucas, Evan Kiim, Sean Walizer, Cody Walley
Returning letterwinners: Darek Eckley, David Gawaryla, Hunter Hall, Cody Huyett, Jake Koleno, Evan Kilmer, Zach Moody, Adam Morgan, Nathan Styles
Key newcomers: Mike Salvanish, Austin Klinger, Seth Woodring, Stone Woodring, Gavin Schnarrs, Hunter Weston, Caleb Roberts, Garrett Proctor, James Decker, Brandon Hoover, Austin Huyett, Luke Holler, Ryan Dumond-Hatton, Tanner Cramer, Dakota Bartley, Bryce Greene, Bryan Greene
The skinny: The Eagles don’t have much depth, but with a large crop of newcomers will get them broken into their events as the season unfolds. … The Eagles do return a few who will be expected to lead the team. Among them are Nathan Styles in the sprints and relays, Jake Koleno and Zach Moody in the distance events and Evan Kilmer in the pole vault and jumps. … Moody also qualified for the PIAA Cross Country Championships last fall.
Last year: 2-7
Key losses: Marissa Ward, Olivia Hardy
Returning letterwinners: Mackenize Basalla, Alyssa Butterworth, Rylee Butler, Maddie Cingle, Haley Furrow, Abigal Gunsallus, Michelle Kachik, Jordan Gill, Angel Kottwitz, Hannah Park, Rexine Schrum, Cheynne Smolko, Sarah Van Cise, Sunshine Zimmerman.
Key newcomers: Lexi Turner, Maya Eppley, Morgan Dubbs, Caylee McCaslin, Madlynn Holderman
The skinny: Graduation took the team’s lone PIAA qualifier, Marissa Ward (long jump), but most of last year’s roster has returned with a few new faces mixed in. … Leading the team in distance events and relays will be Maddie Cingle, while Michelle Kachik will have a key role in sprints and relays. Other team leaders include Alyssa Butterworth, Rylee Butler, Abigal Gunsallus and Angel Kottwitz in middle-distance races; Hannah Park, Haley Furrow and Sunshine Zimmerman in jumping events; Sarah Van Cise, Jordan Gill and Cheyenne Smolko in throwing events and Rexine Schrum in hurdles races.
Coach Jodon says: “(With) all the new athletes, we will be trying to find their best events that will help our team. We are looking forward to the first track meet.”
Head coach: Seth Miller (sixth season)
Assistant coaches: Bob Chandler, Dave Schaub, Randy Kochik, Kyle Wintersteen, Matt Sterndale, Chris Cipro, Chris Freidhoff, Kim Gasper, Lauren King.
Last year: 8-4, 7-0, Mountain League champions
Key losses: Ben Gibboney, Sean Gipson, Andrew O’Donnell, Garrett Pensak, Austin Ranck, Mitchell Smith, Matthew Swartz, Michael Trowbridge, Cody Walter.
Returning letterwinners: Dillon Ault, Josh Cetnar, Matt Dabiero, Brett Finley, Mitchell Grasser, Michael O’Donnell, Matt Querns, Bryce Steiner, Daniel Tanney
Key newcomers: Jonathan Buchanan, Michael Fratangelo, Ian Hoaglund, Nick Howe, Noah Gaus, Spencer Massie, Mitchell Pensak, Blaze Shoemaker, Nathan Wert, Josh Brungart, Matt Feldman, Branson Harpster, Arian Okhovat, Josiah Stickles.
The skinny: Bellefonte is coming off its first Mountain League title in 30 years, but will have to replace a number of graduates who were major point-earners, including PIAA qualifiers Mitchell Smith and Sean Gipson. … While there is a lot of youth and inexperience, the Red Raiders still have depth in the throws and with the distance runners. … The Raiders will expect to be led in the sprints by Branson Harpster and Andrew Hamilton; in the middle- and long-distance runs by Matt Dabiero, Michael O’Donnell and Daniel Tanney; and in the hurdles by Josh Cetnar, Nathan Wert, Spencer Massie and Blaze Shoemaker. … In field events, Bellefonte will be paced by O’Donnell, Dion Furfaro and Josiah Stickles in the jumps; Mitchell Grasser, Matt Querns and Matt Feldman in the throws; and pole-vaulters Dillon Ault, Nathan Wert. … Grasser and Querns are both returning league all-stars. … O’Donnell is expected to show off his diverse skills in both the longer distance races and in the high and triple jumps.
Coach Miller says: “With the team being young there is still a lot for the coaches to figure out, but one thing they have found real fast is that the team has a great work ethic and attitude.”
Last year: 4-8, 4-3 Mountain League
Key losses: Laynie Steen
Returning letterwinners: Cassandra Book, Jessica Book, Sara Caldana, Kaitlyn Devore, Alexis Franks, Anya Hoaglund, Morgan Mills, Lydia Musser, Kaitlin Rogers, Brooke Shirey, Olivia Spratt, Rachel White, Kaitlyn Womer, Sadie Woodring
Key newcomers: Solana Barrier, Erinn Cavanaugh, Esther Ebeling, Raisa Gregor, Tiana Kline, Aubrey Kuhn, Anna Lawrence, Rose Maggs, Madison Marucci, Samantha McCarthy, Lindsey Schoch, Hailey Seibel, Summer Shirey, Gaby Rosado
The skinny: The Lady Red Raiders are a mix of youth and experience, with a roster filled mostly with freshmen and sophomores, but the team lost just one senior from last season. … Among the stronger areas for the team are the throws, middle-distance runners and pole vaulting. … Bellefonte’s top sprinters include Kaitlyn Womer and Sara Caldana; the top middle- and long-distance runners include Alexis Franks, Anya Hoaglund and Jess Book; and Olivia Spratt leads the hurdlers, with the team seeking more depth in that area. … Lydia Musser and Kaitlin Rogers lead the pole-vaulters; Womer and Morgan Mills pace the jumpers and the throws will be led by Cassie Book, Alexis Franks and Sadie Woodring. … Book, Franks and Woodring all posted top-five finishes in throws at the District 6 Class AAA meet last spring. … Rachel White also figures to be a point-earner in sprints, relays and the high jump. … Hoaglund qualified for the PIAA cross country championships last fall, finishing 133rd. … Maddie Durn has moved from sprints to middle distance runs.
Coach Miller says: “The Lady Red Raiders have set realistic goals of finishing the season above .500 and with the talent that the team returns, it is a very achievable goal.”
Head coach: Drew Welch (third season)
Assistant coaches: Lynda Federinko, Steve Shawver, JD Kubalak, Shawnee Heckman, Carly Lynch, Pat Federinko, Chris Houtz, Domer Smeltzer, Holli Kubalak, Tyler Shawver, Kendyl Paolini
Last year: 3-4
Key Losses: Logan Bonar, Doran Tucker, Mike Decker
Returning Letterwinners: Ian Brown, Liam Benfer, Bryan Wasson, Jason Thoms, Haven Tucker, Ben Engle, Nick Fuller, Collin Egelhoff, Gino Nicosia, Dan Kozar, Ryan Riegel
The skinny: While there were no qualifiers for the PIAA track meet last spring, the Rams still have quality, balance and a decent amount of depth heading into this spring as they expect to be contending in the Mountain League. … The roster is bigger, with 35 boys ready for this spring, helping the team get a little more flexibility for the season’s dual meets. … Middle- and long-distance runners will again be a strength for the team. They are led by Nick Fuller, who was 65th overall in helping Penns Valley finish 16th in the PIAA Class A cross country meet last fall. Gino Nicosia finished 100th in the state cross country meet. … The sprinters will be led by Liam Benfer and Dan Kozar, while key athletes in the throws will be Colin Egelhoff and Ben Engle. Top jumpers include Haven Tucker, Bryan Wasson and Jason Thoms.
Coach Welch says: “We will be a well-balanced team across all events with many athletes contributing to our team point total.”
Head coach: Lynda Federinko (fourth season)
Last season: 6-1
Assistant coaches: Carly Lynch, Shawnee Heckman, JD Kubalak
Key losses from last season: Carolyn Darr, Grace Gover, Brandilyn Heckman, Bethany Wasson
Returning letterwinners: Anna Bair, Nicole Bienert, Angelica Emel, Chelsea Emel, Emma Federinko, Rachel Long, Jenny Manning, Kayla Bracken, Marissa Hettinger, Valerie Kubalak, Alyssa Limbaugh, Kylie Orndorf, Destiny Andrus, Naomi Olse-Zelman
Key newcomers: Kaylee Corl, Cassidy Corl, Rebecca Bierly, Alexis Feidler, Maci Ilgen, Jane Kistler, Cassie Shook, Kelsey Sweitzer, Hailee Wingard, Hannah Spotts
The skinny: The Lady Rams are coming off another strong season. They also return a number of girls who competed at the PIAA Championships last spring among their roster of 33. … The team also has several key people to replace, including three-time state meet qualifier and medallist Grace Gover and Carolyn Darr. … Half of last year’s PIAA-qualifying 400-meter relay team has returned in Destiny Andrus and Anna Bair, who will lead the sprinters. … Alyssa Limbaugh and Emma Federinko will pace the middle- and long-distance runners. Limbaugh finished 51 st at the PIAA cross country meet last fall. … Kayla Bracken and Naomi Olsen-Zelman lead the hurdle crew, Val Kubalak and Maci Ilgen are key girls in the jumps, Angelica Emel returns in the pole vault and Nicole Bienert and Chelsea Emel have high hopes in the throws. Bienert competed at the state championships last spring in the discus, while Emel missed making the PIAA meet in the shot put by one spot.
Coach Federinko says: “I expect us to be very competitive in the Mountain League and I believe we will have more athletes qualify for districts than we did last year. The team would like to win the Mountain League championship and defend their Bellwood Invitational title.”
Head coach: Roy Warlow (first season)
Assistant coaches: Amanda Eason, Justin Huegel, Doug Perry, Barry Raker, Holly Rauch, Heather Sagaities, Robbie Thompson, Steve Williamson
Last year: 3-7, 1-6 Mountain League
Key losses: Caleb Bennett, Zach Hynd, Dalton Wisor
Returning letterwinners: Tim Eason, Collin Mauer, Logan Day, Nick Patrick
Key newcomers: Chase Capatch, Chucky Foster, Jay O’Neill, Alvaro Sanz, Ryan Tew, Scott Yarger, Caleb Belinda, Mike Shimmel
The skinny: After 11 seasons as the throws coach for the Mounties, Roy Warlow takes over the program as head coach from Doug Perry, who will remain an assistant coach. … Leading the Mounties this season is the team’s lone qualifier for the PIAA meet last spring, Tim Eason, who was 12th in his heat for the 800 meters. … A lack of depth may hurt P-O this season in the team standings. … Eason and Nick Patrick lead the middle-and long-distance runners, Jake Foster and Caleb Belinda pace the sprinters, Payton Moore and Collin Mauer lead the hurdlers, and Mauer also will be a key competitor in the jumps. Logan Day leads the throwers and Patrick also will return in the pole vault.
Last year: 4-6, 2-5 Mountain League
Key losses: Cheyenne Hutton, Tesha Harned, Maggie Ferguson, Joah Ceprish, Rachel Wardo, Cassie Bauman
Returning letterwinners: Tiffany Bertothy, Becky Groff, Taylor Guelich, Mandy Schmidt, Celena Garcia, Kylie Whitehead
Key newcomers: Brearr Atwood, Olivia McCafferty, Michaela Conte, Brittany Kline, Ally Ruggerio, Paige Boast, Julia Burns, Emma Riglin, Alyssa Smart
The skinny: With low numbers, the Lady Mounties will be competing in a lot of events each this spring. … Leading the returning crowd is Tiffany Bertothy, who made it to the PIAA Championships in Shippensburg last spring. … Jamie Watro joins Bertothy as a key for P-O in throws. … Other leaders for the Lady Mounties include Mandy Schmidt and Sarah Belinda in the sprints, Kylie Whitehead and Taylor Guelich in distance runs, Celena Garcia in hurdles, pole vaulting and jumps and Guelich will also help in jumps.
Coach Warlow says: “All I ever ask out of them is to give me their best and let the chips fall where they may. It’s also not a bad idea to have some fun while they’re at it as well.”
Head coach: Russell McCrea (third season)
Last year: 4-3
Assistant coaches: Jennifer Evans, Artie Gilkes, Joe Sara, Matt Seeland, Steve Shisler, Tom Kleban.
Key losses: Sean King, Sam Bollinger, Seamus Wagner, Alex Hsu, Connor Stashko, Dan Forziat, Sean O’Melia, Lathom Thompson.
Returning letterwinners: Tristan Daman, Tetsu Fujimura, Mason Post, Will Cather, Kyle Adams, Chris Golembeski, Jon Smith, Alex Banerjee, Matt Mullin, Peter Muto, Sam Murphy, Matt Beyerle, Alex Milligan, Eric Heatwole, Nathan O’Brien, Anthony Degleris, Tyler Smith, Josh Rickley, Austin Peck, Alec Aspray, Luke Hilliard, Bryce Williams, Kellin Valentine, Lucas Gray, Griffin Thompson, Jordan Weaver, Kyle Sutherland, Noah Osterling.
Key newcomers: Patrick Irwin, Lantz Hopkins, Max Herbst, Noah Woods, Nick Feffer, Jacob Witt, Owen Wing, David Wong, Aziz Salamy.
The skinny: The Little Lions have some big expectations for this season, from district titles to contending for state medals to breaking a few records, including a couple that have been in the books for years. … State College had a strong campaign during the indoor season with its 1,600- and 3,200-meter relay teams. The 4x400 team turned in the second-fastest time in program history, indoor or outdoor, while the 4x800 team won the state indoor meet and finished fourth at the U.S. indoor national meet in March. … The distance boys also helped the cross country team to a fourth-place team finish at the PIAA meet last fall. … The team returns PIAA qualifiers from last spring in Mason Post (400 meters), Jon Smith (300 hurdles), Bryce Williams (triple and long jumps), Kellin Valentine (triple jump) and the 4x800 relay team, which finished seventh. … Three-fourths of that 4x8 relay team return with Will Cather, Kyle Adams and Chris Golembeski. Other leading distance runners include Alex Milligan, Matt Beyerle and Eric Heatwole. … Other leaders in their events include: Sprints — Valentine, Tristan Daman, Max Herbst, Jordan Weaver, and Noah Woods; Hurdles — Joe Smith, Alex Banerjee, Tyler Smith and Nathan O’Brien; Throws — Matt Mullin, Sam Murphy, Peter Muto, Austin Peck and Andrew Miller; Pole vault — Griffin Thompson and Matt Suchanec. … Among those who have made college commitments, Cather plans to run at Penn State and Adams is headed to Bucknell. … Cather also finished 25th individually in the state cross country meet.
Coach McCrea says: “Our goal is always to win the district title. It has been a long time since State College won and we believe to have a team that can give Altoona a strong battle this year. One other thing I am looking forward to is seeing many school records fall. Records we believe to be within reach are: 4x400, 4x800, 800, triple jump, and 300 hurdles.”
Head coach: Jenn Evans (ninth season)
Last year: 7-1, District 6 Class AAA champions
Assistant coaches: Rebecca Donaghue, Artie Gilkes, Matthew Seeland, Joe Sarra, Tom Kleban, Rusty McCrea.
Key losses: Lauren Bonness, Hannah Grubb, and Kimberly Lightner
Returning letterwinners: Chandley Book, Larissa Burka, Hannah Catalano, Emma Cousins, Haley Crawford, Victoria Crawford, Natasha Fedkina, Megan Fry, Nika Karpenko, Mikayla Kieffer, Ellie Mhando, Kate Nese, Molly Pate, Courtney Poorman, Emily Randolph, Najla Robinson, Victoria Scutti, Korey Taylor, Kinsey Thompson, Alyssa Valent, Monye Valentine, Niara Valentine, Maria Verica, Olivia Watkins, Rachel Wylie, Sarah Wylie, Kaelyn Yoder
Key newcomers: Jordan Bair, Taylor Campbell, Catherine Curtin, Haley Garvin, Caitlin Jones, Hannah Yoder
The skinny: The Lady Little Lions are expecting another strong season with a number of big point-earners returning from last season’s District 6 championship team along with plenty of depth with 96 athletes on the roster. … The team also had a strong indoor season, with the 4x800 relay team earning All-America status at the U.S. Indoor Nationals. … A pair of middle-distance runners are back from trips to the PIAA Championships last spring with Emma Cousins and Natasha Fedkina (800 meters). … Cousins also finished 30th at the PIAA Cross Country Championships last fall. … Other leaders among distance runners include Hannah Catalano, Kaelyn Yoder and Larissa Burka. … Top sprinters include Victoria and Hayley Crawford, Chandley Book and Niara Valentine. … Hurdlers include Emily Randolph and Rachel Wylie. … Jumpers include Najla Robinson, Maria Verica, Veronika Karpenko and Olivia Watkins. … Pole vaulters include Megan Fry and Kate Nese. … Among those who have made college commitments, Yoder is headed to Campbell and Cousins has chosen Bucknell. … Burka finished 50th at the state cross country meet.
Coach Evans says: “We have a team full of veteran leadership on the track and in many field areas this season. Our athletes have faced top-level competition at big meets earlier in the year and succeeded in reaching their goals. We look forward to continuing this progress and building upon these experiences. The younger members of our team can learn a lot from these mentors. Our coaching staff offers excellent skill development, training, and support. All of these factors are key in keeping our program healthy, strong, and competitive.”
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy
Head coach: Jayson Jackson (third season)
Assistant coaches: Brenna O’Connor, Miriam Powell, Tim Kamats, Andy Zimmerman
Returning letterwinners: Stephen Forstmeier, Eli Urban, J.P. Romero, Ben Wheeler, Gabe Sandoval, Jack Rogan, Dominic Gregory
Key newcomers: Brain Hackman (Captain), Kahsim Buey, Mikey Kresovich, Mike Jabco, Kam’ron Walker, Garrett Walter, Austin Emel, Michael Peters, Charlie Ross, J.T. Mobley, Sam DeNezza, A.J. Youngmark,Jack Driscoll, Spencer Sherman
The skinny: In just the third year for the program, the Wolves are hoping to have a few athletes in the running for high finishes at the District 6 meet and possible state meet berths. … The team is showing depth and balance to earn points at the season’s meets. … The team has strength in distance running, with Eli Urban and Brian Hackman competing at the PIAA Cross Country Championships last fall. … Other key distance runners include Michael Peters, Stephen Forstmeier, A.J. Youngmark, Ben Wheeler. … The team also will be led by: Sprints — Kahsim Buey, Mike Jabco, Dominic Gregory, Garrett Walters, Mikey Kresovich, Austin Emel, Spencer Sherman; Hurdles — Charlie Ross, J.P. Romero; Jumps — Mike Jabco, Stephen Forstmeier, J.P. Romero, Dominic Gregory; Throws — Gabe Sandoval, Kam’ron Walker, J.T. Mobley, Sam DeNezza, Jack Rogan, Jack Driscoll; Pole vault — Garrett Walters, Austin Emel. … This season marks the first time the Wolves will have pole-vaulters, and the program’s first senior class.
Coach Jackson says: “I am looking for the team to take the next step. We continue to add to our district qualifiers each year, so we want make the leap and qualify several athletes to the PIAA Championships this spring.”
Returning letterwinners: Cecilia Surovec (Captain), Lexy Shelow, Jessie Grace (Captain), Nicole Zimmerman, Courtney Gregory, Mia McLaughlin, Xabine Stager-Kamats
Key newcomers: Grace Cousins, Bella Bevilacqua, Bell Bassett, Asara Clark, Sophia DeNezza, Shun Shun Lu, Marissa Wenrick, Kate Ott, Morgan Sherman, Monica Surovec, Hannah Straub, Audrey Thomas, Malloreigh Yingling, Kelsie Bennett
The skinny: The Wolves have several athletes returning who competed at the District 6 meet last season, and the team has broadened its depth to help the team grab more points at meets. … The team has a strong number of competitors in the sprints — Cecilia Surovec, Monica Surovec, Lexy Shelow, Morgan Sherman, Bella Bevilacqua, Marissa Wenrick — and throws — Courtney Gregory, Malloreigh Yinglin, Mia McLaughlin, Asara Clark, Audrey Thomas, Marissa Wenrick, Kelsie Bennett. … The team also will be led in distance running by Grace Cousins, Kate Ott, Jessie Grace, Nicole Zimmerman, Shun Shun Lu; Cecilia Surovec in the hurdles; Xabine Stager-Kamats, Zimmerman, Hannah Straub in the jumps; and pole-vaulters Stager-Kamats, Morgan Sherman, Sophia DeNezza trying the event for the first time.
Coach Jackson says: “We’re very strong across the board. All of our athletes can cover a wide range of events giving us solid depth.”