High School Sports

State College battles through wet day at West Central Coaches Invitational

State College’s Erik Ebel competes in the shot put during the 67th Annual West Central Coaches Invitational at Mansion Park in Altoona on Friday.
State College’s Erik Ebel competes in the shot put during the 67th Annual West Central Coaches Invitational at Mansion Park in Altoona on Friday. adrey@centredaily.com

At one end of the infield, it looked like a pond had taken over the high-jumping area. There were puddles on the track, and the sand in the throwing and jumping pits was heavy.

Throw in the wind and bitter chill for the first weekend of May, and it was a less-than-optimal day for track and field at the West Central Coaches Invitational on Friday at Mansion Park.

“It’s been a long day,” State College sophomore Taylor Givens said. “It’s cold, the sand’s all wet, the boards are just wet — it’s just rough. I was slipping on the board. I had a rough day in the long jump.”

The conditions were so bad, competition in the pole vault and high jump were wiped out by conditions that were just too dangerous.

It may have been rough, but Givens made the best of it, winning both the long jump and 100-meter dash while taking third in the triple jump.

It led a parade of State College winners on both the boys’ and girls’ side. The Lady Little Lions easily won the Class AAA team title with 162 points, 104 better than runners-up DuBois and South Western. The Mountain Lion boys prevailed, however, by a mere 142.5-140 over State College.

The highlight of the day for the State College boys was a win and two runner-up results for thrower Erik Ebel, earning him Outstanding Performer of the Meet for Class AAA boys.

It also provided a preview for the District 6 meet in 13 days back in Altoona.

“On the distance side of things I’d say it was a good preview,” said senior Alex Milligan, who had a hand in wins in the 1,600 meters and 1,600 relay. “We had a lot of sprinters and jumpers that weren’t here today. It will be nice to have them here to get us some points — a lot more points, actually.”

Givens cleared 17 feet, 6 inches to take the long jump, well off her season best thanks to the sloppy conditions, but good enough to win by two inches.

Before her winning jump, she sprinted down the track in 12.37 seconds for the 100 finals, her best time of the year and not at all bothered by the rain.

“I do really well in this weather,” Givens said. “This is my favorite kind of weather to run in. I (hit personal records) in this weather. I P-R’ed in the 100 today, so this is my favorite kind of weather to run in.”

She ran side-by-side down the track with teammate Haley Crawford, who was second. Having her in the next lane was a special benefit, not typical for most meets.

“She’s a great training partner to run with,” Givens said. “I know how she runs, she knows how I run, so it’s nice to have her right next to me. We don’t get to run right next to each other too much.”

Crawford added another runner-up finish in the 200, and she and Givens were joined by Zoe Wicks and Rachel Wylie to win the 400 relay in 49.53 seconds.

Wylie raced to a 47.04-second win in the 300 hurdles, and she and Jordan Rohrbach placed 2-3 in the 100 hurdles.

Earlier in the day, Rohrbach, Catherine Curtin, Julia Neely and Emma Simon combined to take the 3,200 relay.

The Lady Little Lions also saw wins for Curtin in the 1,600 (5:18.79), Neely in the 800 (2:26.32), Sarah Almarzooqi in the 3,200 (11:21.00) Jordan Bair in the shot put (37 feet) and Veronika Karpenko in the triple jump.

The senior and defending state champion is coming off a win at Penn Relays last week. Her best jump Friday of 37-10 1/4 was well off her personal-best of over 40 feet, but it was a matter of surviving the rain. The conditions also led to her scratching out of the long jump without an attempt.

“It’s just too cold,” said Karpenko, who hit her top mark in her three preliminary jumps and did not attempt any more jumps in the finals. “It’s not a great day to jump. … This weather is just not ideal. It’s just not too good to be outside.”

The boys also had to struggle through the tough conditions.

Ebel slogged down the runway in the javelin, unloading a winning throw of 169-4, better than 10 feet shy of his season best. He also was second in the shot put, struggling through a throwing circle that at times was filled with water.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Ebel said. “My toes were pretty cold because they were just drenched.”

The shot put official would not sweep the water out of the circle for the competitors, but when the official stepped away, one of the other shot-putters cleared the circle for everyone a little.

While happy with the high finishes, Ebel would like to see higher marks by this point in the year, off his distances from the winter.

“My transition from indoor to outdoor has been really rough because of the different types of shots,” Ebel said. “For me, indoor just goes better.”

State College had a few lineup changes because of the conditions and also having the meet between the Penn Relays and the Mid Penn Championship and District 6 meet in the next two weeks.

The Little Lions also saw wins from Noah Oesterling in the 400 in 51.03, Owen Wing in the 3,200 in 9:50.91 and Brandon Clark in the triple jump at 42-10.

Milligan and Joey Feffer paced the field in the 1,600 by finishing 1-2, paced by Milligan’s 4:21.79.

Milligan then capped his day by helping the 1,600 relay team with Craig Hilliard, Oesterling and Tony Degleris to a win in 3:29 – with many hours of waiting in between.

“It’s hard to stay focused on your race when it’s so cold and so rainy,” Milligan said. “The 16 was a good effort, and the 4x4 is always just kind of a bonus at the end. We did the best we could despite the weather.”

Bellefonte finished 11th among the boys with 15 points.

The day started well for the Lady Red Raiders, who got a third-place effort from the 3,200 relay team of Jess Book, Anya Hoaglund, Samantha McCarthy and Madeline Durn in 10:08.10. Individually, Hoaglund took seventh in the 3,200 and eighth in the 1,600.

The Red Raider boys were paced by a fourth-place from Bryce Steiner in the 300 hurdles in 43.24 seconds, and James Boland’s fourth-place effort in the discus at 125-4.

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @GordonCDT