The State College girls’ track and field team has been atop the District 6 world for eight years now, and has always had some impressive performances.
Thursday night at Mansion Park, however, may have had the most dominating showing ever for the Lady Little Lions.
State College won all but three track races and put three runners in the top five in five events to pile up a gigantic team victory with 250.5 points to runner-up Altoona’s 142.5.
The Lady Little Lions swept all three relays, capped by Victoria Crawford holding off 400 champion Megan Becker of Mifflin County in the 1,600-meter relay to close the meet.
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“I was pushing myself. I couldn’t let my team down,” said Crawford, who will run two relay races at the PIAA meet May 24-25 at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium. “It’s so exciting that everyone gets the opportunity to be a part of states.”
State College also got 1-2-3 finishes in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 along with Lauren Bonness setting school records to take the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Kimberly Lightner joined the fun with a victory in the javelin.
“It’s a team effort,” said Hannah Grubb, who led one of those 1-2-3 finishes in the 1,600 meters. “We’ve got school records and … it’s just really cool how we’re all at different places on the track and the field and we can all get back together and share the good news and feed off each others’ points.”
The 4x800 relay team got the day started right for the Lady Little Lions, with Natasha Fedkina, Victoria Crawford, Emma Cousins and Larissa Burka clocking in at 9:33.26, winning by nearly a half-minute.
The 4x100 relay team also earned a win with Bonness, Olivia Watkins, Hayley Crawford and Niara Valentine winning in 49.43. Kaelyn Yoder, Chandley Book and Valentine joined Victoria Crawford in the 1,600 relay win in 3:59.90.
State College dominated the middle- and long-distance events with sweeps in the three longest races.
The first sweep was led by Hannah Grubb in the 1,600, with the senior taking first with ease in 5:12.29, followed by teammates Yoder and Hannah Catalano.
“It was really cool,” Grubb said. “We were all trying to pace it together and stay as close as we could. We were just trying to get the points for the team at the end.”
Later in the 800, Cousins, Fedkina and Burka had the sweep, with Cousins’ 2:16.65 winning and Fedkina’s 2:17.13 also good enough to qualify for the state meet by meeting the preset standard.
“I always tell (Fedkina) before the race not to worry about it,” Cousins said. “I will will try to do the work for her. I tell her that to get her confidence up. Really, she helps me, we help each other.”
Having her teammates right there helped Fedkina also qualify.
“Whenever I’m alone and running, durin a relay or something, it’s like I don’t know what I’m doing,” Fedkina said. “I just kind of run, I don’t know my time or anything. Emma’s such a good pacer, and I know she’s always on the time and everything. I just stay with her.”
The final distance race, Sarah Almarzooqi had the top time of 11:47.69, with Victoria Scutti and Jingyi Jiang finishing the Lady Little Lion sweep.
“I had a lot of competition from my teammates, and that’s who I had to fight for my state spot, said Almarzooqi, who was handed a celebratory dish of mint chip ice cream as she stepped off the track. “We have lots of competition on this team, but it really pushes us along.”
The 3,200 actually had a Centre County sweep of the top four, with Bellefonte’s Anya Hoaglund following the State College girls.
Bonness sprinted to a victory in the 100 with her school-record time of 12.29, just edging out Central Mountain’s Jena Toner by less than two-tenths of a second. Valentine took third and Hayley Crawford grabbed fourth in the race.
Later in the 200, she got her second school mark at 25.68.
“It’s sort of like a shock. I don’t even know how it happened,” Bonness said. “I can’t even grasp how well I did. I’m so pumped. It’s amazing.”
Teammate Hayley Crawford was second and Monye Valentine took fifth.
“It’s so cool to see you best friends up there at the line with you and you all just push each other,” Bonness said. “I think that’s a really cool feeling, and in every event to scream for our girls running and really working.”
Lightner contributed to the total with her win in the javelin, unloading a personal-best of 131 feet, 6 inches, winning by more than 25 feet over Mifflin County’s Makayla Pearce. It was almost four feet beyond her previous personal best.
“It’s going to definitely be more serious, so I want to get on the (medal) pedestal,” said Lightner, who also competed at states last year but was focusing more on the experience. “Definitely having fun is key, but also I want to stay relaxed and enjoy it.”
Former state champion and current Penn State standout Lauren Kenney was among those cheering Lightner.
“I love it when all the alumni come back,” Lightner said. “It’s a fun time. I always look forward to districts.”
Bellefonte, which finished seventh in the team standings with 26.5 points, got a big finish in the discus, with Alexis Franks taking third and Sadie Woodring fifth with throws of 97-10 and 92-1, respectively.
The one non-hurdle track event State College did not win was the 400, with Victoria Crawford second and Book third.
Also for State College, Emily Randolph was third, Megan Vonada was fourth and Rachel Wylie sixth in the 300 hurdles, while in the 100 hurdles Vonada took second (16.32), Wylie sixth and Randolph seventh.
Also, Megan Fry and Kate Nese finished 2-3 in the pole vault, with both clearing 10 feet. Maddie Marshall grabbed fourth in the discus; Maria Verica was third and Vonada seventh in the high jump; Najla Robinson was sixth and Courtney Poorman seventh in the triple jump; Christine Irwin added a third in the javelin while Korey Taylor was eighth, Lauren Ebel was third and Marshall seventh in the shot put, Veronika Karpenko was fourth and Olivia Watkins sixth in the long jump,
Also for the Lady Red Raiders, Rachel White was fifth in the high jump, Kaitlyn Rogers was seventh in the pole vault, Cassandra Book was fifth in the shot put and the 1,600 relay team captured seventh.