BY JEFF FALK
SHIPPENSBURG – All season long, the Palmyra girls 3200-relay team had been running under a certain mantra, one they embraced to a point of turning it into their own personal motto.
‘Ask yourself if I can give more. And the answer is usually ‘yes’.
Yesterday, Cougars Olivia Farabugh, Miranda Salvo, Maria Tukis and Katie Dembrowski ran their final race together, and to commemorate the event they each asked themselves and each other ‘Can you give it your all.’ The reply was an emphatic ‘YES!’.
Competing against bigger schools at the PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University, Palmyra’s four-by-800-meter relay squad captured the gold medal in the Class AAA competition. With sophomore Katie Dembrowski kicking and re-kicking the anchor leg in dramatic fashion, the Cougars ran a 9:13.17.
Officially, Palmyra won by nearly four seconds over runner-up Great Valley, after the squad Dembrowski and the Cougars were dueling throughout – Pennsbury- was disqualified for dropping the baton at the end. After getting a nice lead from Tukis, Dembrowski twice lost it during the anchor leg and twice got it back, including a from-the-gut burst at the very end that included a winning lunge.
“I would never want to share a state championship with anyone else,” said Salvo.
“I was extremely nervous,” said Farabaugh, the only senior in the bunch. “We always do a fist thing before each race and I didn’t think I could do it. But I looked into everybody’s eyes and then I was able to do it.”
“It’s the end of the school year too,” said Tukis. “It ends everything perfectly. It’s the best closing to anything ever.”
With a strong start from Farabaugh, the Cougars were able to establish a slim lead early. Salvo did an admirable job of increasing the advantage and handed off a nice lead to Tukis.
Fighting off the natural urge to peek at her competition’s proximity over her shoulder, Tukis gave up some ground but still transferred a comfortable margin to Dembrowski. Though Dembrowski surrendered the lead on the track, she never gave it away in her heart.
“I just wanted to do my thing,” said Dembrowski. “It was definitely nerve-racking at the end.”
“I had an issue this season looking behind me and my goal was not to do it,” said Tukis. “I knew they were coming up behind me but I didn’t want to look. I just wanted to give it my all.”
“I had to stick up with the top two or three girls,” said Salvo. “And I wanted to give Maria the lead.”
“I knew we had this amazing team and that we were going to run well,” said Farabaugh. “This is my last season with these amazing girls. I just wanted to run with everything in me.”
Last week at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium, Farabaugh, Salvo, Tukis and Dembrowski won the gold medal in the 3200-meter relay at the District Three Meet. Last month, they combined their talents to win the event at the Mid-Penn Conference Track and Field meet.
“The thing is we’re so young,” said Tukis. “Being so young it’s crazy. I have so much ahead of me. It’s so important being a team. In cross (country in the fall), we didn’t know how good we were. Here, I rely on her and she relies on me.”
“It’s so surreal,” said Salvo.
Salvo was a member of the Palmyra girls’ cross county squad which won the Class AA state championship in the fall, featuring Tukis and Farabugh as its top two runners. At the same time, Dembrowski was competing for the Cougars’ state-level field hockey program.
Dembrowski and Tukis were also members of the Palmyra girls’ basketball team which went 29-1 over the winter.
“You’ve got to take advantage of it,” said Tukis. “I’ve only had two years with Olivia (Farabaugh). She wasn’t a stud when I was a freshmen. Now she’s a stud.
“We’re in high school,” Tukis continued. “When it’s in your grasp, you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
“Field hockey is my thing,” said Dembrowski. “But I enjoy all the moments in the other things I do. It’s fun to do it all.”
In the girls’ Class AA pole vault competition on Friday, Annville-Cleona junior Samantha Becker took home bronze with a 11-0 effort. Then on Saturday, Little Dutchman teammate Avree Wright, who came in seeded 12th, claimed some fourth-place hardware in the Class AA shot put with a 39-1.5, a heave that was more than nine inches past her personal best.