Payden Montana will enter next week's state meet as the presumptive favorite to repeat as AAA shot put champion.
But this year, she'll also come in as a serious threat for the win in the discus -- something she couldn't say a year ago.
At last year's District 2 AAA Championships, the Berwick senior fouled on some key attempts and left Scranton in 12th place in the discus and outside of state qualifying range. On Monday, back in the same cage, Montana won the disc convincingly -- by nearly 30 feet -- setting a new district meet record of 154-08 and, of course, qualifying for states. Earlier this season, she tossed a PA#1 164-11 at Lock Haven.
"I was nervous after last year, so to get my first throw in this year was a relief," Montana said.
In the first throw of the finals, she launched her district meet record throw.
"After my mishap with discus last year here, (I have) more confidence in myself, knowing that I am capable of throwing far," she added.
Next up came the shot put, an event where she ranks No. 1 in the nation. Once again, she didn't disappoint. Montana came away with a best throw of 50-04.25, breaking her own meet record, set last year, by over five feet. That throw is just off her PR and US#1 of 50-07, which she threw to win at the Penn Relays.
"I just got a good wind on it," Montana said of her district-winning throw, which came on her second attempt. "When I let it go, I knew it was going to be a big throw and I saw it hit the grass, so I was excited."
For Montana, she saw importance in following up her Penn Relays effort with another throw over 50 feet.
"It definitely boosts my confidence," she said. "To have two 50-foot throws going into states is really exciting for me."
Montana now turns her attention to Shippensburg and the PIAA State Championships. She'll have her eyes a repeat state title, but also on the overall outdoor state record of 50-11, set in 1997 by East Juniata's Heather Colyer.
A year ago, she won with a 47-03. The reigning outdoor and indoor state champ has since thrown over three feet better -- no slight improvement. The ante has been upped this time around.
"I'm really excited. The state meet is a great atmosphere to throw at, so it should be really awesome in my senior year."