In track and field, the most important person to compete against is yourself.
The participants at the Igloo Invitational track and field meet at Altoona’s Mansion Park found themselves fighting another opponent: the wind.
When Penns Valley’s Destiny Andrus rounded the corner of the 200-meter dash, she felt the strong gust.
“It was like a wall hitting you,” the Lady Rams senior said. “You had nothing and then you hit the straightaway and the wind just hits you right in the face. I tried to drive through it but it just took a lot out of me.”
The wind didn’t stop her from winning the race, even if it wasn’t the time she wanted. Her clocking of 27.04 seconds, a full second slower than her personal best, was 0.31 ahead of Alyssa McGhee of Bishop Guilfoyle.
Andrus’s win came shortly after a second-place finish with the 400-meter relay team. The team ran a 51.99, .3 behind winner Hollidaysburg.
The mostly veteran team returns Andrus, Valerie Hosterman and Maci Ilgen, and welcomes freshman Marissa Stecko. Stecko starts the relay team from the blocks, taking the spot of the graduated Valerie Kubalak.
“It’s really exciting to have Marissa on the team,” Andrus said. “She works hard and is really fast and is definitely a major asset to the team.”
However, the day didn’t start off in the best way for Andrus. She was disqualified from the 100, an event in which she was seeded fourth, after a false start in the blocks.
“They were just holding it for a really long time so it got to my head a little bit. I immediately knew it was me when I heard the gun,” she said. “I definitely wanted to do a lot better in the 200 because I knew a win would make up for it.”
Andrus was also competing with a broken nose after the wind blew a high jump mat into the sprinter, who was doing a workout.
The Lady Rams were also supported by strong individual finishes from sophomore hurdler Sydney Riegel and junior Rebecca Bierly.
Riegel surpassed last year’s winner and teammate Naomi Olsen-Zelman for a third-place finish with a time of 17.57, a personal best. Olsen-Zeeman finished seventh at 18.53.
Riegel continued with a sixth-place finish in the 300 hurdles.
She traced the improvement to subtracting a step between hurdles.
“I got better at four-stepping between the hurdles instead of five-stepping like I did last year,” Riegel said. “I’m also better at keeping my momentum and finishing strong.”
Bierly showed improvement in the distance events. Last year, Bierly was 10th in the 1,600. This time, the junior finished third in both events. Teammate Malorie Yoder finished fifth and sixth in the 1,600 and 3,200, respectively.
“It’s a big jump from last year and a push in the right direction,” Bierly said, referring to her goal of making the state championship.
Other top Lady Ram performances came from Valerie Hosterman (seventh, 100 meters), Ilgen (10th, triple jump) and Karly Smith (11th, 800).
Bald Eagle Area was led by 11th-place finishes by Velana Stripek in javelin and Sarah VanCise in shot put.
Off of the track, Bald Eagle Area’s Evan Kilmer also fought the wind in the pole vault.
“It wasn’t too bad because it was a tailwind, but it would have been better if there was no wind,” he said.
At one point the wind was so strong, the tents in the bleachers had to be taken down because of safety concerns.
However, Kilmer fought through and found his way to a second-place finish. The senior jumped 12 feet, trailing only Kane’s Tyler Rollick’s 13-7 vault.
“I was really surprised with the finish, Kilmer said. “This is the best I’ve ever placed at Igloo.”
The finish motivates him for a strong season.
“My goal for the season is 14 feet — that’s the school record. I want to at least tie that,” he said.
Teammate Chris Dunklebarger was behind Kilmer with a seventh-place finish after an 11-0 vault. Other top Eagle finishers included Mike Savannah and Josh Fye, who were sixth and ninth, respectively, in shot put.
One of the days’ biggest surprises was Penns Valley’s Sam Gray. Seeded 32nd in the 800, Gray raced to a 10th-place finish at 2:15.07, almost a 10-second difference from his seeded time. Teammate Sam Goodwin finished 10th in the 200, while Chris Colwell was eighth in the 3,200 and 10th in the 1,600.
All the teams are hoping to see better weather conditions this week, as Penns Valley will travel to Clearfield on Tuesday while Bald Eagle Area will travel to Tyrone.