BY JEFF FALK
SHIPPENSBURG – Stanley Miller’s District Three Track and Field meet got off to a slow start on Friday. Let’s just say it picked up some speed as it went along.
On a damp Saturday at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium, during the final day of competition at the 94th annual District Three Track and Field Championships, Miller put a on display of speed that turned any doubts about his prowess as a sprinter into a distant memory. After finishing a close second in the morning’s Class AA 100-meter dash, the senior ‘fly guy’ from Annville-Cleona capped his district performance with a dramatic victory in the afternoon’s 200-meter dash.
In between, Miller anchored the Little Dutchmen 400-meter relay squad – which also included Marcus Weston, Dominic MacMillan and Don Friday – to a seventh-place showing.
Miller’s triumph in the 200-meters represented the only gold medal mined by Lebanon County competitors at the District Three meet, but the locale was certainly active on the lower rungs of Seth Grove’s medal stand. Cedar Crest sophomore sprinter Shayla Bonzelet joined Miller as a multiple-medal winner, while Palmyra senior Kirstin West quietly added to what has become quite a collection of medals in the javelin.
But no local impacted the District Three Track and Field Championships like Miller did.
“I don’t like losing,” said Miller, indirectly referencing a disappointing seventh-place showing in the Class AA long jump on Friday. “When losing happens, I want to go above and beyond in the next event. I’m here to compete. I’m not going to let one loss get to me.
“The long jump was difficult,” continued Miller. “Those guys were really good. My coach always says the long jump is my thing, but it might be the 200. The 200 was awesome.”
Miller entered the 200-meter competition as the top seed by .03 of a second, and that was exactly the margin he won by in the finals.
Miller exited the blocks quickly and battled Ryan Curfman of Bermudian Springs most of the way. He had enough left at the end to lean Curfman out at the finish line.
“I didn’t know I won until I looked on the scoreboard,” said Miller. “Wow! It’s awesome. My goal was to get one district medal and I got four. I’m shocked more than anything. I wasn’t really prepared. I was taking a nap after the four-by-one, and I got up late. Maybe that’s the secret.
“I knew the guys I was going to compete against are giants,” added Miller. “You can’t take them lightly. I did what I could.”
Miller’s trip in the 100-meter finals was shorter, and almost as dramatic. The second seed coming in, Miller ran an 11.24 but was edged by Brendan Sparr of Schuylkill Valley by .18 of a second.
“You can always do better,” said Miller. “I could’ve run more sprints. The weather could’ve been better. It’s how you react to things.
“It’s (next weekend’s PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg) going to be a bigger challenge than ever,” Miller added. “Leagues (Lancaster-Lebanon) was a big wake-up call for me.”
Bonzelet was nearly as fast, but in a different way.
She also ran in the 200-meter dash, where she was sixth among Class AAA girls. But in the 400, which has morphed into her signature event, Bonzelet was third.
Bonzelet qualified for states in each event.
“That’s what I was seeded in both,” said Bonzelet of her finishes. “It (the 400) was pretty good. I got out a little slow. The back (stretch) was fine, and I pushed a little more in the turn.”
And down the stretch, Bonzelet just didn’t have enough speed to out duel either Jada Burton of Susquehanna Township or Donegal’s Alice Fernald. Burton won the race in 57.34.
“It’s hard,” said Bonzelet of the 400 dash. “You can’t sprint the whole way. It’s a tough race to figure out. I have it down pretty good, but there’s room for improvement.”
Fellow Falcon female Hannah Woelfling finished third in her favorite event, the Class AAA discus. Woelfling managed a 126-10, after going 135-9 earlier in the spring.
Also finishing third was Annville-Cleona junior Kayla Long, in the Class AA pole vault. The top seed in the event, Long cleared 10-0, inside Shippensburg University’s rec center.
Palmyra’s Maliyah Stough’s bronze in the Class AAA 100 high hurdle events was a pleasant surprise. Stough, a sophomore, ran a 14.71 in the finals, after a 15.34 had her seeded eighth coming in.
West uncorked a 124-6 on her second throw in the Class AAA javelin, but couldn’t improve on it and finished fourth. Mackenzie Hainley of Cocalico enjoyed a top throw of 140-5.
“At the beginning, I was really calm,” said West. “Normally, I have the jitters, but I warmed up well. I’m definitely happy with fourth, but I wanted to push myself more.
“Normally I go off to the side between throws and go through my steps,” West continued. “I try to go through my approach in my head.”
Last season, West struck gold in the discus at the District Three meet, after finishing sixth in the event as a sophomore. Throughout her career, West has collected more than 15 medals from javelin competitions at the Lebanon County, Mid-Penn Conference, District Three and PIAA Track and Field Championships.
“I always prized them,” said West, who was fourth in the discus at states a year ago. “But now what I feel is a more valuable thing is beating what I did in the past.
“There are so many Palmyra people who come here,” added West. “It’s nice to have people cheer you on. You throw for yourself, but you also throw for them.”
West’s Cougar teammate, senior Jannae Bonds, finished in a tie for fourth in the Class AAA high jump, also contested inside.
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