High School Sports

How State College, Penns Valley fared on Day 1 of the PIAA Boys’ Track and Field Championships

Knipe breaks PR, takes gold at PIAA championships

State College's Luke Knipe takes the 3A gold in the pole vault at the PIAA State Track and Field Championships on May 24, 2019. This video was provided by WTAJ, through a partnership with the Centre Daily Times for daily news content.
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State College's Luke Knipe takes the 3A gold in the pole vault at the PIAA State Track and Field Championships on May 24, 2019. This video was provided by WTAJ, through a partnership with the Centre Daily Times for daily news content.

Two State College athletes are already bringing home a pair of gold medals.

Luke Knipe came into the PIAA Boys’ Track and Field Championships as the second seed in the pole vault, but he finished with a gold medal after posting a height of 16 feet. (He won a tiebreaker over CR South’s John Franco, who needed one one more attempt to reach that height.) Earlier in the day, fellow senior Lance Hamilton — the top seed in the triple jump — grabbed gold with a distance of 49-6, a full 18 inches better than the runner-up.

“It was really a special feeling to be able to bring some points to State College,” Knipe said. “Contributing to the team title is really what I’m all about.”

Here’s a closer look at how State College and the other Centre County boys’ team, Penns Valley, fared on the first day of states at Shippensburg’s Seth Grove Stadium:

State College (Class 3A)

Friday’s medalists (top 8): Lance Hamilton (1st, triple jump), Luke Knipe (1st, pole vault), David Wasson (6th, pole vault)

Friday’s non-medalists: State College relay team (T-16th, 400 relay), Stanley Hamilton (15th, triple jump), Jake Hefkin (21st, triple jump), Alex Hynoski (27th, 200), State College relay team (12th; 1,600 relay)

Moving on to Saturday’s track semifinals/finals: State College relay team (3,200 relay), Lokey Howell (110 hurdles), Zachary DeCarmine (300 hurdles)

Luke Knipe and Lance Hamilton proved to be the Little Lions’ heroes Friday, as they both came away with gold medals in their respective events. That raises the stakes a little bit for State College now.

“Everyone’s really hype going into (Saturday),” Knipe said. “They wrote us off as not having a chance at the team title, but I think we have a good chance if we can line things up.”

David Wasson also contributed points to State College’s team total, as he placed sixth in the pole vault with a personal-best height of 15 feet — which gives State College three more points to its team score. Coach Artie Gilkes said his team has earned the right to be in the discussion for a team title now, but it’ll have to prove it Saturday.

Fortunately for the Little Lions, two individuals in Lokey Howell and Zachary DeCarmine moved onto Saturday’s 110 hurdles semifinals and 300 hurdles finals. And the 3,200-meter relay team put on a clinic Friday.

The relay team came into Friday’s race with the 25th-best time in the state and it left the preliminaries with the fourth-best time (7:55.11) and a ticket to Saturday’s finals. The relay team — which consists of Hank Ballard, Marc Allerheiligen, Joe Messner and DeCarmine — bested their seed time by more than 25 seconds.

“Chris Cipro coaches those guys,” Gilkes said, “and he’s been preparing them for the state meet, and he’s been shuffling the order around, he’s been juggling their workouts, and those guys have kept each other in check to make sure they stepped up at the right moment.”

State College is hoping to get more team points in the high jump Saturday from fifth-seed Conrad Moore. And the long jump, where it has three competitors ranked in the top 11, will be crucial to where the Little Lions wind up in the standings. Knipe, Lance Hamilton and Jake Hefkin all have the potential to place.

“If we want to have any shot at talking about a team title, which we’re still a long way from getting, those guys need to come through,” Gilkes added.

Penns Valley (Class 2A)

Friday’s medalists (top 8): None

Friday’s non-medalists: Brendan Colwell (21st; 1,600)

Moving on to Saturday’s track semifinals/finals: Colton Sands (1,600)

Sophomore Colton Sands is in for quite the Saturday.

He qualified for the 1,600 finals and he’s taking part in the 3,200 — two races that, if he’s lucky, might take place about four hours apart — so Sands has a lot to prepare for.

“It’s tough,” Penns Valley coach Kendyl Wittenrich said. “We see a lot of hydration issues with that two-mile first thing in the morning, so we’re encouraging all our distance kids to make sure they’re drinking. But they’re well-trained for it.”

Despite Sands’ youth, he’s one of the favorites in both events. He came in with the state’s second-best seed time in both the 1,600 and the 3,200.

His time of 4:24.03 in the 1,600 preliminaries was slower than he’s used to — about eight seconds worse than his seed time — but Wittenrich said that number was a bit misleading.

“He ran a really nice race. He didn’t really go all out; he was kind of sitting to see what everyone was going to do,” she said. “Knowing what his seed was, as high as it was, he could coast a little and then go all out in (Saturday’s) final.”

He’ll be joined in the 3,200 by fellow sophomore Brendan Colwell, who is seeded 17th.

“They want to medal,” Wittenrich added. “There’s no ‘happy to be here’ for those two. It’s win or nothing for them.”