BY JEFF FALK
SHIPPENSBURG – Seeds.
It’s a system for ranking competitors at major sporting competitions, based on past performances. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best we’ve got.
On a brilliant Saturday, the final day of the 95th annual District Three Track and Field Championships, Lebanon County student-athletes made a mockery of their seeds. Let’s just say local competitors did a lot of ‘planting’.
Heading the local charge at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium were Annville-Cleona senior Kayla Long, who struck gold in the Class AA pole vault, and the Cedar Crest 3200-meter relay team of Ryan Scicchitano, William Sheffield, Jake Barrett and Nate Shutter, who were crowned champions in Class AAA.
Annville-Cleona junior Neil Waldhausen made it a great day for Dutchmen vaulting by copping a second-place medal among Class AA males. Harvesting a pair of silver medals was A-C’s sophomore sprinter Michael Moran, in the Class AA 100 and 400-meter dashes.
Also discovering a silver lining was Cedar Crest senior Hannah Woelfing, the third seed in the Class AAA discus. Woelfing finished second to Berks Catholic star Keeley Suzenski.
Cedar Crest Falcon Shayla Bonzelet ran third in the Class AAA 400-meter race, as did teammate fourth-seeded DeAsia Holloman in the Class AAA 100 high hurdles. A third Falcon, Gwyneth Young turned a fourth-place seeding in the Class AAA 1600-meter run into third-place hardware on the medal stand.
Annville-Cleona freshman Braetan Peters grabbed a bronze medal in the Class AA 1600-meter run.
Overall, it was a very productive meet for Lebanon County student-athletes, to say the least.
Maybe the only local competitor not to exceed pre-meet expectations was Long. She entered the morning’s pole vault competition as the defending champion and number-one seed.
Long came in at 9-6 and was the only competitor to clear 11-0. She missed her attempts at 11-9, which would’ve been a District Three record, an Annville-Cleona school record and a personal best.
“She did well,” said Annville-Cleona first-year pole vault coach Erin Winters. “She was pretty clean the whole way up. She was working on new poles all week in practice.
“Yeah, I think she felt a little bit of pressure,” continued Winters. “I told her to go out and have fun. It seemed to work for her.”
Amazingly, Long captured last year’s District Three championship without the benefit of a pole vault coach. Long’s budding relationship with Winters has only made her better.
“She’s been around, but she’s also a gymnast,” said Winters of Long. “And that helps her out. It’s my first year working with her. Last year, she didn’t have a coach.
“For me, it’s important to have someone to bounce things off of,” Winters added. “There’s more support involved too. It helps. I’m just proud of her. I wish her the best at states.”
The Flying Falcons’ four-by-eight entered the competition seeded third based on a season-best 7:59.69. But Scicchitano, Sheffied, Barrett and Shutter combined to run almost eight seconds faster to win by more than four seconds.
“The main priority is the the team,” said anchor Shutter. “We thought we had a good chance to win the medal. We just threw it on the line.
“We’ve been having a really good season,” Shutter continued. “We just really popped off today.”
For Cedar Crest, it was its third District Three Class AAA championship in the 3200-meter relay, and it validated the Falcons’ title in the event at last week’s Lancaster-Lebanon League meet.
“I think the key is going out strong, closing strong, good splits and not getting off the gas,” said Shutter. “I thought we did a good job of keeping the baton moving throughout the relay.”
Waldhausen came into the Class AA pole vault event seeded sixth. He cleared 14-0, the winning height turned in by Brody Myers of Camp Hill, but he was awarded second due to more misses.
“It was unbelievable,” said Waldhausen. “Fourteen feet is the school record. It was more than I could ask for. I was seeded sixth, finished second and got 14. I knew I could do it, but I hadn’t done it.
“We got a coach this year,” added Waldhausen. “She really helped me with my steps and where to hold the pole. I’ve had a really good season.”
Moran was edged out by .02 of a second by Zachary Risser in the 100-meter dash, and finished as the runner-up to Josiah Taylor of Wyomissing in the 400-meter dash. Yet he also experienced disappointment, when his 1600-meter relay team was disqualified and his 400-meter relay team dropped the baton.
Moran was the fifth seed in both the 100 and 400 dashes.
“It was a pretty good day,” said Moran. “It would’ve been nice to get firsts. I had to pick some events. I like the 200, but I like the 400 more. The 100 is my favorite, because it’s nice and quick, and you’re not dead at the end of it.”
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