PTFCA Indoor States: Girls Story - Unique Journeys End in State Gold
The PTFCA State Championships is always full of interesting story lines, and this meet certainly did not disappoint. There was the winning relay team, fueled by individual disappointment, the sprinter who overcame the flu and her competition, the mid-distance runner who exceeded expectations and transcended her age, and the team title won with team depth.
False Starts can be a Blessing
Leah Nugent (Left) had dreams of victory in the 60 meter hurdles and all was going well as she advanced to the semi-finals with the 3rd fastest time. A false start dashed her hopes of individual glory and she was left to refocus for team efforts in the sprint relay events. First up was the 4x200 in which Abington had to contend with very talented Swenson and Central Bucks East squads. The race unfolded as Notre Dame took an early lead with Swenson and CB East giving chase. Abington was with the rest of the pack. Swenson eventually moved to the front on the 3rd leg with Abington giving chase and CB East fading back to third. Nugent took the baton for the anchor leg and "ran mad" as she circled the Penn State oval. Closing down the final 50 meters Nugent said she was confident that she would get the win. One race for redemption down, one more to go. In the 4x400 Abington had the second ranked time, just behind Penn Wood and their unflappable star, Brittney Wallace. The race unfolded as predicted with Penn Wood and Abington trading the lead through the first several legs. Notre Dame was able to mix it up through the early stages of the race as well. As the anchors took the batons, Penn Wood's Wallace was slightly ahead of Nugent... game over, or was it? Nugent remained within a few meters for most of the way, at which point you expected Wallace to begin to open up a large enough gap to win, but instead Nugent found another gear and began to inch closer to Wallace's shoulder. With less than 5 meters to go Nugent pulled even and edged Wallace by a shoulder blade as Wallace fell to the track. Nugent had completed her mission of vindication and helped her teammates realize the dream of double state gold.
One Foot in Front of the Other
(Rayiana Johnson - Female Athlete of the Meet - Photo by Megan Clugh)
To what lengths would you go to win a state championship? Most of us would say that we would do anything. Chester junior Rayiana Johnson actually did. Johnson came into the meet with the flu and left with two gold medals and one meet record. Rayiana sailed through the 60 meter dash prelims and semis, and looked great doing it. Only after the races could you see that she moved a little slower and looked more fatigued than usual. In the 60 meter dash final Rayiana summoned her inner strength and smoked the competition, winning by 3-tenths of a second. Her time of 7.45 broke Breehana Jacobs 2006 meet record of 7.46 and also tied for the US #1 time this indoor season. An impressive accomplishment, but Rayiana wasn't done. Up next, the 200 meter dash. Rayiana again blew away the competition, winning with a US #2 time of 24.04, a time that was only .02 short of breaking Juanita Broaddus' 2002 record of 24.02. Broaddus was inducted into the PTFCA Hall of Fame during this year's meet. With the racing over, it was time to rest, but Rayiana still gave a video interview to PennTrackXC. When asked if she had any doubt about being able to win her races she replied, "I didn't let anything get in the way of what I came here to accomplish." A class act champion by definition, Rayiana Johnson was every bit deserving of the honor of Girls 'Athlete of the Meet. As celebration for her accomplishments, Rayiana was planning to "eat some soup, take some medicine, and go to sleep". A well deserved rest for a hard days work.
Stellar Soph with a Senior Attitude
Chloe Schmidt (Left)could easily be misidentified as an upperclassman. Not only does she run fast, she also carries herself with a veteran air that allows her to focus and stick to the routine that has led to her success. Chloe won the mile run in a time of 5:01.89 with a well-executed race strategy. For the first 800 meters she sat back and watched the race unfold as Natalie Bower took the early pacing. Just after 800 meters Chloe surged to the lead and pulled away with a decisive move for a 3 second victory. PennTrackXC saw her after the race and asked her for an interview. We were asked if we could wait until after the 800, in a sign of that unwavering focus that a veteran athlete possesses, but that is rare to find in a sophomore. The focus paid off, as Chloe ran the race of her life, winning the 800 meter run by nearly 2 seconds, in a US #3 time of 2:11.99. To stress just how fast that time is, a comparison to Chanelle Price must be made. Price ran 2:10.57 at PTFCA States as a sophomore and ran a season best of 2:08.47 at the NSIC Championship meet. Schmidt's time was only 1.5 seconds slower than Price, after having run a 5:01 mile. But she wasn't done there. Chloe also ran on State College's 4x400 and 4x800 relays, which gave her teammates a chance to compete at the state level. Chloe has achieved a lot of success in two short years of high school, but the ability to handle pressure and focus on the task at hand will surely carry her to greater heights and lower times over the next two years.
Winning without Winning
(Girls' team champion Swenson - Photo by Megan Clugh)
All too often in track and field a team championship is won by one or two superstar athletes who win events and score a lot of points. Swenson won this year's indoor state championship with a team mentality and a team effort. Swenson did not have a winning individual or a winning relay in the meet, but put enough athletes in scoring position to come out on top with 33 points. Swenson had four athletes competing in three individual events and one relay. By focusing on their events and finishing as high up in the standings as they could, enough points were amassed to win the meet. Even more amazing, runner-up Notre Dame also relied on a team effort to earn their trophy. Notre Dame used five athletes in four individual events and two relays to earn their second place 28 points. Go team!
Abby Hewitt (Left), Latrobe, won the 3000 meter run with a 19 second PR of 10:09.08. Hewitt waited patiently behind the early pace set by New Oxford's Jordan Jenkins before taking off with 800 meters to go. She carried the effort through the line to win her first state championship. A surprised Abby reflected that she didn't think that she would ever win a state championship.
Alysha Cook, Harrisburg, won the 60 hurdles with a time of 8.89. Cook powered through the hurdles to win by .02 over Swenson's Anthonia Ballard.
Brittney Wallace (Below right), Penn Wood, won the 400 dash in style with a time of 56.02. Her closest competitor was Notre Dame's Ayanna Fields, finishing second with a time of 56.83.
Conestoga won a narrow victory in the 4x800 with a time of 9:24.90 to beat North Penn, 9:25.14, and Downingtown East, 9:25.78. It came down to a battle of the anchors over the last 400 meters of the race with Conestoga able to hang on in the end. Coatesville came from behind in the DMR to win by 6 seconds with a time of 12:22.73. A big anchor leg of 5:02 by Sheena Crawley sealed the deal for the Coatesville foursome.
Tory Worthen, Council Rock South, won the pole vault with a mark of 12-06. Ashley Adams, Freedom, won the shot with a put of 46-06. Brittney Howell, Cheltenham, won the long jump with a mark of 18-04.75. Taylor Morgan, Upper Dublin, won the high jump with a height of 5-06. Kelly Monteleone, Penn Hills, won the triple jump with a leap of 37-09.75.