HIGH SCHOOL TRACK AND FIELD: Two claim titles on Day 2 of District 6 meet
May 15, 2014 10:40 AM
by MIRZA ZUKIC
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ALTOONA — The district title in the 400-meter dash is back with the Bearer boys in Northern Cambria.

Meanwhile, Homer-Center’s Capitosti brothers couldn’t come away with a title, but younger brother John’s wish to run with his older brother once more will come true, and really, that’s all that matters.

Seth Bearer became the third member of his family to win a district title in the 400 on Wednesday, joining his brother and father, as the District 6 Class AA championship meet wrapped up at Mansion Park.

The meet was postponed Tuesday when a powerful storm rolled through Altoona, with severe thunder and lightning to go along with so much rain water bubbles began to form under the Mansion Park turf.

The meet was completed in about 2½ hours Wednesday without delays and with light rain at times.

“I don’t get much bragging rights,” Seth Bearer said, “but carry on the tradition, keep it going, a third generation now.”

Bearer and Saltsburg’s Kia Clayton won titles on the second day to highlight the local contingent’s showing, and five more area athletes punched their tickets to states, bringing the total Heritage Conference contingent headed to states to 17 individuals — nine girls and eight boys — and three relay teams. The state meet is May 23-24 at Shippensburg University.

Clayton won the long jump with ease on Wednesday for her second district title of the meet after winning the triple jump on Tuesday. Clayton cleared 16 feet on all of her jumps in the finals, winning with a leap of 16-7½ to beat her closest competitor by 11 inches.

The top seed in both of those jumps, Clayton felt good in the long jump, but she had cause for concern as she warmed up for Tuesday’s triple jump, she said.

“When I was doing my run-throughs, I couldn’t hit the board so I was worried,” she said. “But I did better so I was happy. That was exciting.”

Clayton and Ligonier Valley sprinter/hurdler Jasmine Connor qualified for the PIAA meet in three events apiece, and Penns Manor’s Sarah DaBella qualified in two.

Clayton also advanced in the high jump. DaBella, last year’s district champ in the discus, took second in the javelin Wednesday to follow up her second-place finish in the discus on Tuesday. She is making her second trip to states in the discus and first in javelin.

Eight of the nine local state qualifiers on the girls’ side punched their tickets on the first day, with Marion Center freshman Taya Whitfield joining the mix Wednesday. Sporting her signature knee-high neon-green socks, Whitfield ran a strong final lap to take second in the 800 and qualify for states in her first season.

Her teammate, Hannah Fulton, who qualified in the 1,600 run Tuesday, missed states by 0.72 seconds in the 3,200. She finished fourth with a time of 11:35.72. The top three finishers in each event automatically qualify for the state meet. Anyone outside the top three qualifies by reaching the predetermined qualifying standard, regardless of place.

The qualifying standard in the Class AA girls’ 3,200 is 11:35.00, leaving Fulton one place and less than a second short of a berth to states.

After winning the 400 and 300 hurdles on Tuesday, Connor took second in the 200 on Wednesday and will run all three at the state meet. Hanging back near the middle of the pack at the halfway point of the 200, Connor kicked it into another gear and glided to second place down the straightaway.

“That’s really my technique,” the junior said. “That’s how I do it. That’s how I do it in the 400. That’s how I do it there. It’s really like second nature.”

That’s what she did in the 400 on Tuesday to win the second of her district titles.

“I was really surprised. It hasn’t sunk in yet” that she won two district titles, Connor said. “I’m still waiting for it to sink in. And I don’t think my coaches were surprised. I know I definitely was, but they weren’t.”

On the boys’ side, the lone athlete to qualify in more than one event was Homer-Center sophomore John Capitosti, who took third in the high jump (6-2) Wednesday after a third-place finish in the long jump (21-2½) on Tuesday.

Also qualifying for the state meet Wednesday on the second day of the meet were United’s Gage George, who took third in the 400 dash (52.71 seconds); Homer-Center’s Cody Miller, who took third in the discus (133-11); and Purchase Line’s Dan Learn, who finished third in the 800 (2:03.25).

Though happy with his personal successes, John Capitosti is most looking forward to running the 1,600 relay with his brother one final time.

John and Joe Capitosti, along with John Ireland and Ben Wolford, teamed up to take second place in the 1,600 relay and earn a berth to the PIAA Championships.

“I went big in long jump, I went over 21 (on Tuesday), which was huge for me,” John Capitosti said. “Placing third in that and high was huge, but the most memorable thing for me was getting my brother to states. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to get him to states. He deserves it. He’s put in a lot of hard work, especially after missing the whole season last year because he had jaw surgery.

“That’s what I wanted most, and also for my teammates. We all get to go together. They’ve been working hard. Ben Wolford stepped up this year, and so did John Ireland … and they’ve all helped us get to where we are.”

Joe Capitosti appreciates having another chance.

“I don’t know why, but for some reason I wasn’t nervous until I got up to run,” he said. “When I stepped on the line to run today, all I could think about was, ‘Man, I might not make it to states my senior year,’ and I wanted to so bad. I’m glad we pulled it off.”

The top seed, the Wildcats were taken by surprise by eventual winner Bald Eagle. When Joe Capitosti got the baton to begin his anchor leg, he was in third place. Within the first 150 meters, he moved into second and stayed there to make sure his season wouldn’t end just yet.

“Bald Eagle, they just came out of nowhere,” Joe Capitosti said. “We ran against them at the West Central Coaches Meet (on May 2) and they only beat us by about a second. That was the time they were seeded at, 3:38. We were seeded 3:35 and they ran a 3:31 today, so hats off to them. They deserve that one. They came out of nowhere.

“I told the guys that as long as they kept me close, I was making sure that we got to states, no matter what. I was glad I came out and took that St. Joseph’s kid real fast.”

Just like his brother Derek two years ago, Seth Bearer won the title as a junior. Their father Andy started the tradition with his title in the 400 in 1989, and he is still Northern Cambria’s school-record holder in the event with a time of 50.2, according to Gazette accounts.

Derek came within a second of his dad’s record but couldn’t break it. With time on his side, Seth hopes he can get it next season as a senior.

“By next year, I hope to be able to get there,” he said.

The Richland boys and girls’ teams won the district team titles.

Homer-Center led the way with a fifth-place finish on the boys’ side, and the Ligonier Valley girls, fresh off their Heritage Conference title, took sixth.

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