After the way spring had progressed in Central Pennsylvania, Friday was a shock to the system at the PIAA Track and Field Championships.
By midday, temperatures were already well into the 80s, with plenty of humidity, to bake the athletes. And because of the artificial turf field of Seth Grove Stadium, conditions were even hotter.
“I kind of wanted some time to get used to it,” State College senior jumper Veronika Karpenko groaned of the temperature. “It went from being 50 to, like, 100 in two days.”
It meant a difficult turnaround for athletes in multiple events.
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Runners like Natasha Fedkina ran in the 4x800 relay around 9:45 a.m., then the 1,600 around 12:30 p.m., and was scheduled to finish late in the afternoon with the 4x400 relay.
“Since I’ve been doing that combination of the 4x8 and the mile, I’ve been used to it,” Fedkina said. “If I run a sub-20 (2:20) split, I knew I had three hours until the mile. I think there was enough recovery for me.”
Numerous announcements were made through the meet imploring both athletes and fans to drink plenty of water and to be careful.
“I just had to keep drinking water,” Penns Valley 400-meter runner Isabella Culver said. “I think it kind of got to me. My body felt kind of tired once I got out on the track.”
Just last week at the District 6 Class AA meet, competitors were dealing with rain and temperatures in the 50s.
“I didn’t think it would affect me that much,” Karpenko said. “It kept feeling really, really hot and I felt very drained. Nobody’s used to it. Everybody has to suffer through the same conditions.”
The heat was interrupted by a thunderstorm warning during the 1,600 relays, the day’s final event. The Class AA races were held, but the AAA girls and all boys races will instead be contested as timed finals Saturday with no preliminaries.
State College’s Alex Milligan plans to run on the track team at North Carolina next season. Milligan, who plans to study business and chose the school because of academics, picked the Tar Heels over Penn State and Wake Forest.
He thought the size of the campus in Chapel Hill fit him best.
“It was a good in-between for size,” Milligan said. “A good business school and I liked the team a lot on my visit. The combination of things made me choose it.”
Little Lion 4x800 relay teammate Anthony Degleris will be going to Stanford to study chemical engineering or computer science, but will not be putting on the running spikes.
Competitors heard a new sound to begin races Friday. The starter used an electronic “beep” to fire the runners off for each race instead of the traditional starter’s pistol. While it has been in use for years for international events like the Olympics, it was a new experience for many, and took some getting used to out of the blocks.
Fedkina, who didn’t remember it for previous races, was used to it by the time she started the 1,600, but with an early race like the lead leg of the 4x800 relay, she wasn’t quite ready.
“I was definitely a step behind,” Fedkina said. “It just didn’t register in my mind. I was waiting for a gun. It still didn’t affect me that much.”
The new system did come with at least one glitch. There was a double beep for one heat in the Class AAA girls’ 100-meter dash, and it led to the PIAA decision to hold the race again for anyone who wanted another shot. Two girls ran the race again.
Even though she didn’t advance to the finals, Culver enjoyed her first experience at the state meet. She was clocked in 59.50 seconds in the 400, and the experience was worth it.
“It was awesome,” the Penns Valley freshman said. “There’s so much good competition, and I had a really good time with my team. Just the whole experience was great.”