A former wrestler wins first state title for his school in 40 years. The last one was a wrestler.
Junior Eric Skedel of United High School took up the javelin after 14 years as a wrestler. We'll never know if he would have won a state title as a grappler, but all that he, his family or his school knows and cares about is, Eric is a state champion in the AA Javelin. The last state champion from United, according to Eric, was a wrestler named Larry Strong. The year was 1967. Skedel came into, and left the meet with the state's 2nd best throw by just five inches - 208-04. But his winning toss of 198-07 didn't come without some anxious moments. "The pressure definitely affected me, and this time not for the best." Skedel says his form was off, and that is was simply a case of being too excited. Fortunately, he got his good throw in during the prelims, because on his 2nd throw he felt something in his elbow. "I don't think it's anything serious, but I knew I was done right there." He took his first throw of the finals, and then skipped the last two, hanging out near the tent just in case someone passed his mark and he'd have to make another attempt. "This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I just wanted to make my family and my school proud."
Banks completes sweep of 2007 shot put and discus titles.
Louisville-bound Wes Banks of Hempfield (District7), knows he's had a pretty good senior year. First, he won the indoor state title in the shot put in late February. He came into the AAA discus competition on Friday as the top seed, and 2nd seed for Saturday's shot put. He walked away with two golds for his efforts, despite strong challenges from Andrew Fahringer of Whitehall in the discus, and from top seed Zane Parr of Williamsport in the shot. The two throwing disciplines not only require different techniques, but emotions, as well. For the discus, Banks says he takes his time, "I take a few deep breaths" to control the adrenaline. For the shot, he says, "I go in there, get the adrenaline, use it when I have it, and get out. You can definitely be a lot more aggressive in the shot than you can in the discus." He obviously mastered both styles well. His final throw of the finals in the discus was 180-05, just off his qualifying mark. But Fahringer had one more throw. It was Fahringer's only weekend shot at a state title since a ligament injury during his district meet in the javelin had caused him to withdraw from his best event. When he let if fly, it was obviously his best of the day. Banks says everyone in the crowd thought it was the winner. But upon measuring, Fahringer's 178-08 simply improved his standing in 2nd. "I threw 8' feet off my PR. It could be because of the injury, or it could be me having an off day." His possible UCL tear may require surgery, and Fahringer says that was in the back of his mind. "But I did my best today. Talk to Banks, he's the guy that deserves it today." While Fahringer settled for 2nd, his 187-02 remains the top mark in PA this season. Banks' threw 63-02.50 on Saturday to secure his second shot put title of his senior year. He'll spend the summar taking some time off, if you call "lifting like crazy" time off... and getting ready for his first year at Louisville.
20 years from now, Shump may smile about her 3 straight shot put titles (or will it be four?).
To the untrained eye, Karen Shump of Penncrest did not look like someone who had just won her third straight PIAA AAA shot put title. That was the competitor's look. "I was really hoping to throw better." Those who have followed Shump's great prep career know that she has been chasing the 50-foot mark since she started excelling at the event as a freshman. The closest she has come is the 49-04.25 during indoor this year... a year in which she quit one of her other spring sports as a championship-level pitcher in softball, to concentrate on the shot and to make time for more practice in the discus. The decision has paid off with PRs in the shot of 49-00.75 outdoors (twice this season), and a huge 21' improvement in the discus to 154-00 from last year to this year. Both marks are PA #1's. Shump says her shot form was off because she was a "little hesitant in the middle." But she lit up when talking about the discus. "It was always shoved aside between softball and the shot. The shot was my event." But when she threw her PR 154 at the District 1 meet, she says it surprised even her. "There's such a difference with not playing softball. But it's all coming together." Shump didn't get her discus PR on Saturday, but she did finish 2nd with her 3rd best throw of the season at 147-09. Winning the event was fellow junior Kim Kanala of Hempfield (yes, the school where Wes Banks is from). Kanala had been 2nd to Shump on Friday with a PR 42-06 in the shot put. But her PR 149-09 in the discus proved to be the winner.
Two throwers, two days, three golds, one silver.
Calling it one of the best weekends of his life, Hempfield (7) throws coach Dave Murray could not contain his pride for throwers Wes Banks, Kim Kanala, and Alicia Dupilka. You already know that Banks won the shot put on Friday and the discus on Saturday. And Kanala took 2nd in the shot on Friday and captured the discus on Saturday. You probably didn't notice that Dupilka, who weighs all of 130 pounds, took 9th in the discus with a throw of 129', a distance that often medals in the top four. "This is a great group of kids. I have no doubt that we worked harder than anyone. We spent so much time in the weightroom. They (worked out) with 100% intensity." While Banks had already banked one state title in indoor, Murray knew that the discus would be Banks' biggest challenge. "(Andrew) Fahringer is a great competitor. We knew he was capable of hitting further." As for the shot, "I knew no matter what anyone threw, he would throw further." But Murray's seemed most pleased with the development of junior Kanala. "I told her that whoever was the most relaxed would win." It helped that Murray had seen her hitting 160's in the discus all week in practice. The shot surprised him a little. "I've been waiting for her to hit that (42-06) for two years. She did it at the perfect. time."
Kovacs knew he was ready during his warmup throws in the shot put.
The crowd knew they were in for a great day of throwing from Bethlehem Catholic senior Joe Kovacs when his warmup throws were out there. 60', 62' and 66' to the naked eye. But not one under 60'. Bring on the competition so we can start measuring these. Kovacs' first throw was "ugly." His words. "I was like, what was that? A 52 or something? It could have been further, but I wanted to stay safe." For his 2nd throw, Kovacs says he wanted to set a mark so that he could be securely in the lead. He threw 58'. His main competitor on the day, Denes Veres of Riverside, then threw his 59-06. Kovacs followed with a 62+. But he was after something more, the AA state record of 64-05.75 that had been set by Union City's Justin Clickett in 2003. "I have been working on speed and positions, and I knew I was peaking at the right time" Kovacs said. "I knew exactly where the state mark was, and it feels good to make a goal like that." He started the finals with a foul. But then it came together with his record toss of 64-10.74 to secure his first state title, and his place in the record books. Kovacs added a second state title on Saturday, easily winning the discus with a throw of 179-11.
Carly's race plan: Don't let Kara pass. Win. Set a state meet record. (Two outta three isn't bad.)
With the temp in the 80's and the humidity approaching mid-summer form, Central Cambria junior Carly Seymour was pleased that she completed two of her three goals. The weather was a bit warm for a state meet record... but the first two goals were definitely top of mind, mainly because Boiling Springs junior Kara Millhouse was the defending state champ, and coming into the meet, was seeded about a second behind Seymour. "Kara's such a good runner. I wasn't going to allow that (finishing 2nd in 2006) to happen again." Carly took off from the gun, and came through the half in 2:29, definitely a quick pace. "I was extremely pumped up for this race today." Seymour knew that Millhouse had run a quick 800 (2:16) in anchoring her team to a 3rd place earlier in the morning session in the 4x800, so that played nicely into her strategy. "She had run that other race, so I had the advantage over her. I probably would have gone out at the same pace, but knowing how Kara races, I knew that even if she started off with a good mile, after that (2:16), it's going to hit her." Carly slowed over the last mile, but finished in a very strong 10:38.33, within .1 of her district time which was run under much better conditions. Seymour also hoped that her win would help her freshman sister Kelsey relax for her final in the 800. "I think seeing my race, it gives her a lot of spirit going in there. She was nervous." Kelsey would finish 4th in her first state final, running 2:16.51, her second PR in two days.
Defending champ Kara Millhouse fought fatigue...
By Kimberly Jaick Soden
Kara Millhouse, a junior at Boiling Springs, came into the 2A 3,200-meter run as the No. 1 seed. But the heat and a very fit Carly Seymour were too much for her and so she settled for third this spring.
"I'm not happy, but that's OK," Millhouse said. "First is always nice, but third is not horrible either.
Millhouse said she expected Seymour to set a fast pace, which is exactly what the junior did, clocking 10:38.33. Millhouse finished in 11:06.26. Lauren Zarger, a sophomore from Harbor Creek, was second in 10:57.42.
"I knew there was no way she was going to die," Millhouse said. "It was horrible the last three laps, I felt like I was going to fall over."
Millhouse said she also felt a little more fatiqued than she would've liked because she had run on her school's 4x8 relay, which also finished third.
"I'm happy with the 4x8, I ran my best split (2:16)," she said. "Everybody went out and ran their best times."
Strath Haven senior Rob Speare trains as if he's chasing someone. He is. And the style got him another state medal.
Strath Haven senior Rob Speare has had a great high school career, capped by a 3rd place 9:10.09 under the steamy conditions late Saturday morning in the AAA 3200. Many years, he'd be among the top two in the state. His senior year – as was his entire prep career – was spent racing and chasing several of the best to ever grace the tracks in PA... Jason Weller of Boyertown, Paul Springer of Unionville, and Kyle Dawson of Coatesville. Each have a different style, but the results are the same.... they generally win. Weller won this race and the Millrose mile, plus the AAA title in cross country. Springer was a Foot Locker Finalist. And all Kyle did was lead his Coatesville team to the Nike Team Nationals title, plus anchor the Penn Relays DMR title team against a top miler. Pretty impressive resume of runners ahead of you. But for Rob, that's the way it's always been. And they're a big reason he has become as good as he has become. "I'm good at holding on for dear life. When I was a freshman, the seniors used to beat me up every day. That became my style of running. And because of that, it makes racing a lot easier." Well, Speare makes it sound easier than it is, but his thought process is simple, and effective. "In a field like this, all you have to do is sit for the ride. If you train hard enough and are brave enough to stay with them, hopefully it works out. At the end of the race, they're going to kick away. But they keep pulling you." Speare has great respect for his competitors, calling distance runners in general "down to earth." He sees Dawson as the most fearless, toughest runner he has ever seen. He sees Springer as the thinking runner. "His speed. He covers moves." And he sees Weller as just gutsy. "They all have their styles." But what he sees most in them that he admires is their desire to lead. Speare is hoping that in college he can learn how to just go for it when he's thinking "pass them" at the end of a race. For now though, it's time to prepare to become another freshman runner. This time in the Ivy League, running for the Princeton Tigers. "Maybe I'll try to get by them in the 5K or 10K. Those guys are too speedy for me in the mile." Shippensburg-bound Bryan Beegle of Gettysburg was 4th in 9:17.04.
Philly's AA Paul Robeson made all three relays finals, and earned two medals. But that's not what their coach is calling their greatest success of the season.
The smaller Philadelphia high schools did very well in AA, thank you. Swenson won the team title with 50 points. And Carver Engineering & Science garnered 24 points for a 4th place finish. But only Paul Robeson qualified for the finals in all three relays, the 4x100, 4x400 and 4x800. In fact, neither Swenson or E&S qualified for more than one each. In the 4x800, Robeson missed a medal by less than a second (Shatievah Lewis, Dashera Richardson, Rochelle Hill-Hunter, Quanisha Grimes). Swenson came back in the afternoon in the 4x100, but were missing sprinter Aatiqah Ali due to injury. Not to worry, just substitute distance runner and two-time state cross country medalist (15th in 2006) Shatievah Lewis, a junior, on the third leg. Lewis handed off to anchor Rochelle Hill-Hunter (in PTXC photo), who stopped the clock at 49.33, good for 3rd place (1st leg: Nikeyah Stafford, 2nd leg: Dashera Richardson). In the closing event of the day, in the rain, Robeson raced Richardson, Lewis, Stafford and Hill-Hunter again, this time in the 4x400. The girls clocked 4:01.78 for 2nd place. (They had run 4:00.93 in the prelims). Not a bad day for the school. But coach Walter Peques, while thrilled with the outcome, says the showing surprised him, especially with the key injury in the 4x100. What most impresses him about this group is the mutual respect they have for each other. "When one of them is going through some kind of adversity, on or off the track, they seem to always be there for each other. There never seems to be any kind of jealousy or envy for one person's success."