Two medals landed around the necks of State College athletes during the first day of competition at the PIAA Track and Field Championships on Friday.
State College’s Jordan Bair took sixth in the shot put and the Little Lions’ Brandon Clark was seventh in the triple jump at Seth Grove Stadium.
Also, the Little Lions’ 3,200-meter relay teams advanced to the finals for both the boys and girls, along with Sera Mazza of St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, Penns Valley’s Isabella Culver and State College’s Nick Feffer and Owen Wing.
The meet resumes at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Clark turned in a leap of 44 feet, 11 inches, but it was a disappointment for the junior.
“I just had a bad day of jumping,” said Clark, who hit 46-6 at the District 6 meet. “I wish I did better.”
Clark, who also plays football and basketball, is already making plans to get back next season and grab a medal after finishing his first state meet appearance.
“I’m going to be in the weight room every single day and working out,” he said.
Bair was nearly two feet off her personal best with her top throw of 40-6, but she had a lower mark during preliminaries and was worried about even making the finals.
“I’m lucky I made it into finals,” Bair said. “My preliminary round was not so hot. I’m glad I got into finals and stepped up to the plate, and I got onto the podium.”
After missing a medal last season by less than an inch, however, the senior easily took the optimistic view.
“I have a medal around my neck,” said Bair, who will compete in the discus on Saturday. “That’s what I was looking for. I did the best I could do.”
Brothers Lance and Stanley Hamilton missed out on medals. Stanley, of State College, scratched on two tries in the triple jump and was only able to register a 42-6 1/2 mark. Lance was 18th at 20-6 3/4 in Class 2A for St. Joseph’s.
The State College girls’ 1,600 relay team put on a scintillating race, winning their heat in 3 minutes, 54.84 seconds and then excitedly celebrating together at the finish line.
“We haven’t been able to run as a whole group this entire season,” said Taylor Givens, who joined Jordan Rohrbach, Zoe Wicks and Esther Seeland for the race. “This is the first time we’ve run with girls pushing us, and it was just awesome.”
Among those who advanced in track preliminaries, the Lady Little Lions’ Sophie Bollinger, Catherine Curtin, Elly Haushalter and Esther Seeland turned in a time of 9:25.29 in the 3,200-meter relay. Their male counterparts, defending their state title, had a time of 7:51.67 for Joey Feffer, Chris DiPerna, Wing and Nick Feffer.
Nick Feffer also made the finals in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:56.05. The senior was stuck back in a large pack of runners with about 300 meters to go, then made a move on the backstretch, including using a small opening right along the inside rail to pick off a number of runners to move into third in his heat.
“They always say not to (do that) because it’s dangerous,” Feffer said. “The kid was running basically in Lane 2, and so I took it. It was gutsy, but I knew I had it.”
In the 1,600, Wing advanced with his time of 4:18.78, while in Class 2A Mazza was clocked in 5:17.56. Mazza’s time was two seconds better than her previous best, though she has been faster in a non-high school race.
“I think that was one of my best races of the season,” Mazza said. “I gave it my all the whole time. It felt like I couldn’t give any more.”
The sophomore had a little bit of a battle around the track with some sharp elbows from competitors.
“The more competitive you are, the more pushy you are,” she said. “This race was definitely the most pushy race I’ve ever had. I battled the elbows with one girl.”
Penns Valley’s Isabella Culver made it to the finals in the 400 in 59.27, but couldn’t quite get her teammates to join her in the 1,600 relay. Sheri Bowersox, Sydney Riegel, Marissa Stecko and Culver were clocked in 4:09.32 for third in their heat — which wasn’t fast enough.
Missing out on medals were State College pole vaulters Lyndsey Reed and Lily Plute, each of whom cleared 11-6 but missed their three tries at 12-0, which would have put them on the stand.
They tied for ninth.
It was a long day for the vaulters, with a stiff breeze and a light rain that fell for a few minutes when Reed and Plute were attempting their 12-foot jumps.
“This is kind of what we’ve been dealing with all year, so it wasn’t a surprise, but I was hoping for better weather,” said Reed, who sat on the infield for nearly two hours before she finally had her first attempt. “If I keep a towel wrapped around the pole, it does some good things.”
Other Little Lion runners who did not advance to Saturday’s finals include Curtin (1,600, 5:30.02), Givens (100, 12.73), Zoe Wicks (400, 59.36), Ben Oesterling (400, 51.14), Jordan Rohrbach (300 hurdles, 47.56) and Seeland (800, 2:16.43). Also, the 1,600 relay team of Oesterling, Matt Russell, Chase Longenecker and Joe Messner didn’t advance with their time of 3:30.27.
For St. Joseph’s, freshman Zach DeCarmine set a school record in 41.05 but finished fourth in his heat and did not advance in the 300 hurdles, while Michael Peters ran the 800 in 2:12.74 and did not move on.