BY JEFF FALK
SHIPPENSBURG – Nothing can match the intrigue and excitement of team sports. But that doesn’t mean that individual athletic pursuits like wrestling, swimming, golf and tennis are without their own special merits.
Individual sports can foster responsibility, enchance self-worth and teach independence.
On an overcast Friday afternoon at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium, a handful of Lebanon County student-athletes advocated the advantages of individualism during the opening day of competition at the 94th annual District Three Track and Field Championships. Relying exclusively on their own talents, hard work and experiences, three Annville-Cleona throwers realized their potential and surpassed everyone’s expectations, besides their own.
Little Dutchmen sophomore Mackenzie Drane was the runner-up in the Class AA discus, Annville-Cleona senior Noah Myers came in third in the Class AA discus and sophomore teammate Evan Heilman finished fourth in the Class AA javelin. The three Little Dutchmen medals were the top prizes earned by local individuals at the District Three meet, which continues and concludes on Saturday.
All three Annville-Cleona competitors achieved their personal-bests.
“I like the individual sports better because you can focus on yourself,” said Drane, who also competes in basketball and soccer. “You have people supporting you, but it’s all on you. That’s what makes my mindset better. If I don’t do well, it’s my fault.”
“I loved the team sports,” said Myers, who starred on the gridiron and the court for the Little Dutchmen. “Especially in throwing, I had to compete against other schools. But I had to work for my own goals in this. I just try to work towards my best in whatever I do.
“I think it’s more of a mental thing,” continued Myers. “You try not to let other people in your head. You have to focus on what you’re doing and not what other people are doing.”
“This is an individual sport, but I’m part of a team,” said Heilman, who also wrestles and plays football. “I’ve got to do my part and score as many points as I can for the team. It’s about you and your win and your team.
“During the regular season, it’s about the team,” added Heilman. “But after the last meet, everyone starts practicing for their own events. It’s always about doing better than you did yesterday. Once you reach a certain accomplishment, you set the next goal. You’re never really finished.”
That Drane was seeded second by 30 feet to Mallory Kauffman of Greenwood in the Class AA discus and finished second to Kauffman by 34 feet was of little consequence. Drane entered the competition content on competing against herself.
“I watched a lot of the girls throw on the computer, and it helped me see what they can do and how I could be better,” said Drane, who was fifth at districts last season. “I was hoping to make it to states. At the beginning of the season, no, I didn’t think I could make it.”
Drane’s second-place heave of 112-5 beat her personal best by two inches. She fouled twice during the competition, but every throw she got in measured over 100 feet.
“I thought I did really well,” said Drane. “At the beginning of the season, I had a hard time hitting a hundred. Then I started going 102 and 103, and bringing it up from those throws.
“You see what you can do, and you tend to focus on the little things,” continued Drane. “I’ve been concentrating on my foot work and my elbow. And my coach tells me to do the leg pat.”
Myers was a solid third to winner Dante Manetta of Trinity – and his 161-7 – and runner-up Isaac Almoney of Delone Catholic. He popped his personal-record of 140-9 on his final attempt of preliminaries, but couldn’t improve upon it in the finals.
“I’m happy with my performance,” said Myers. “I couldn’t have asked any more of myself.
“I was seeded fifth, and I knew if threw what I could throw, I could get into the finals,” Myers added. “When the kid (Manetta) threw 161, it kind of rocked me.”
Heilman was seeded seventh and his fourth-place throw of 166-7 represented a personal improvement of more than five feet. Top-seeded Hunter Niedrowski of Wyomissing claimed the competition with a monster heave of 199-8.
This season, Heilman improved on his freshman year by some 20 feet.
“Last week at leagues (Lancaster-Lebanon meet), I wanted to rise to the occasion,” said Heilman. “I wanted to peak at the perfect time. What I’m looking to do next year is improve by another 20 feet. If I want it, I can get it. I’m a consistent thrower.”
Meanwhile, Cedar Crest freshman Gwyneth Young ran fifth in the Class AAA 3200-meter event, in a time of 10:50.50. Elco’s Jared Weaver finished in a tie for fifth in the Class AAA pole vault, Palmyra’s Garrett Miller was seventh in the Class AAA shot put.
Annville-Cleona senior leaper Stanley Miller finished seventh in the Class AA long jump.
Elco junior Ryelle Shuey was eighth in the Class AAA shot put, as was Palmyra freshman Jackolby Fackler in the Class AAA 3200-meter run.
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