While one of the benefits of traveling to the PIAA Track and Field Championships is to hang out and have a good time with teammates on their high school teams, and meet a wide variety of people from around the state, athletes who plan on continuing to compete in college also get to meet teammates of the future.
Such was the case for Bellefonte’s Mitchell Smith, who is headed to Lock Haven to run this fall. He spent a lot of time with future Bald Eagle cross country and track teammate Jacob Fetterman of Hazleton, as well as some other future Eagles.
Smith made his commitment to Lock Haven months ago and is looking forward to the next step, when he will study history education.
“I’m real excited to go to college,” Smith said. “It will be a cool change of pace. I’m excited to run with the team too.”
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Smith, who is also contemplating joining the Lock Haven ROTC program, would like to have had a better finale to his high school career, finishing 27th in the 3,200 meters in 9:55.83.
“I didn’t run well at all,” he said. “I was going for a P-R by hopefully 10 seconds. It was my last race and I wanted to do well, but I wasn’t anywhere close.”
He will be following in the footsteps of a sister and aunt who attended the school up Route 150 from Bellefonte.
“It’s far enough away I’m in a new area, but close enough I can go back (home) every weekend,” Smith said.
While Smith will be graduating in a few weeks and had his final high school athletic competition, State College’s Sarah Almarzooqi was getting her first taste of a big meet when she also ran in the 3,200.
“I wish it would have gone better, but I’m still happy with how I did,” said Almarzooqi, who was seven seconds off her best time. “There’s so much good competition, and it’s a lot different from our regular invitationals and meets.”
The freshman had been favoring cross country, but has been getting more of a taste for track recently and is looking forward to a chance to return to Shippensburg.
“It’s showing me how good competition is, and hopefully next year I will train harder,” she said.
Almarzooqi also stands out because she is usually the only girl on a track wearing a head scarf, as required by her Muslim religion. She said she gets asked about it a lot, and does get some looks, but rarely is there a problem.
“Here they just ask me if I checked with the PIAA officials if it was allowed,” Almarzooqi said.
She finished 24th in her race in 11:38.42.
A better day
After what athletes had to endure during Friday’s events, Saturday was a much better day meteorologically.
It wasn’t that much warmer — low 60s instead of low 50s by early afternoon for temperature — and the wind was even stronger and harsher gusts, but at least the sun was out to warm everyone’s souls.
“It’s fantastic,” State College sprinter Lauren Bonness said. “I’m letting my body just soak it up.”
The sun made a brief appearance Friday — for about a minute to draw a loud cheer from the entire stadium near the end of the day’s events — but it was otherwise a cold and dreary day, which made for so many more happy athletes Saturday.
“The sun coming out today is a lot better,” Lady Little Lion sprinter Niara Valentine said. “I think we all felt better. It was good.”