HIGH SCHOOL TRACK AND FIELD: Indiana boys that third at West Central Coaches Meet
ALTOONA — All season long, Pat Snyder has been telling anyone willing to listen: This is the best boys’ track and field team he’s had at Indiana High in a long time. Maybe ever. It’s time others take notice, too.
Riding the efforts of a deep senior group, the Indiana boys recorded seven top-five finishes, including wins in a pair of relays, to finish third in the Class AAA competition at the West Central Coaches’ Meet at Mansion Park on Friday in one of the biggest regular-season meets on this half of the state.
“That’s a complete surprise to me, but that’s definitely good news,” Indiana senior Corey Denlinger said of the Indiana boys’ third-place team finish.
Indiana opened the day with a somewhat surprising win in the 3,200 relay, and the Indians also won the 400 relay later in the day.
In Class AA boys’ competition, Homer-Center senior thrower Mike Newhouse won the shot put, and Northern Cambria’s Gus Yahner won the pole vault.
On the girls’ side, Saltsburg junior Kia Clayton continued her banner season with a couple more victories, scoring first-place finishes in the Class AA long jump and triple jump to highlight the area contingent.
United’s Kennedy Fletcher won the Class AA discus, and Indiana freshman Jess Stever won the Class AAA high jump.
But the story of the day was the Indiana boys.
Knowing they would face the likes of State College in the 3,200 relay got the Indians’ competitive juices flowing. State College was coming off an impressive showing at the Penn Relays a week earlier, taking sixth place in the nation in the 3,200 relay with an impressive time of 7:45.
Although State College didn’t field its best relay team at Friday’s meet, it was still enough to challenge the Indians, who responded by running their best time of the season by a wide margin.
“In my 35 years of coaching, we’ve never beaten State College in the 4 by 8 at this meet, until today,” an ecstatic Snyder said.
“Coming in, I was definitely a little anxious, and I know the guys were, too,” said Cole Rosenberger, who ran the anchor leg of the 3,200 relay. “We heard State College’s 4 by 8 team had done really well at the Penn Relays, so we knew it’d be better competition than we’ve seen in our section all year in the 4 by 8, and we just wanted to give Altoona and State College a run for their money, hopefully get close to an 8-minute time.”
The Indians’ foursome of Darrious Carter, Adam Lenze, Ryan Louther and Rosenberger ran an 8:04.03, by far their best time of the season.
“That was our best by about 20 seconds this year, for the four of us, which is pretty good,” Rosenberger said.
Indiana also won the 400 relay in 44.85 seconds with the team of Edu Campos, Denlinger, Chris McConnell and Tyler McCrea.
“With every meet, we’re getting stronger, and definitely, with the relay, we just put a statement out for other teams,” Denlinger said.
Homer-Center’s Newhouse sent a statement too: He’s back.
After tearing his ACL during football season, he’s been on the long road to recovery, but his winning throw of 48 feet, 2¾ inches showed he’s almost back to full strength.
“I just came off surgery a couple months ago, so I’m just trying to get it built back up,” Newhouse said. “I still don’t have all the muscle I did. That was my best throw this year. I knew I was capable of that throw, because I was there last year. I was concerned about my knee, but I had to get over it, and that’s what I did. Every meet, it gets better. I feel more comfortable with it. It’s getting stronger, it’s a time thing.”
Northern Cambria’s Yahner, a state qualifier last season and the defending Heritage Conference pole vault champion, won the event Friday despite a lackluster showing by his standards. He cleared 13-6 to win, though he was hardly impressed by his effort.
“That’s the height I usually start with,” Yahner said.
Denlinger took second in the javelin with a throw of 183-1, which meets the state-meet qualifying standard of 178-0. In the triple jump, Darrious Carter took second with a jump of 45-5½, which also eclipsed the state-qualifying standard of 44-6. Brian Waryck added a second-place finish in the pole vault, with a state-qualifying jump of 14-3.
Adding top-five finishes for Indiana were Denlinger, who took fourth in the long jump (20-8¾), and high jumper Chris McConnell, who was fourth in the high jump (5-10).
Rosenberger, who broke the 2-minute barrier on his leg of the 3,200 relay for the first time in his career, added a fifth-place finish in the 800 (2:00.62) and Lenze was sixth (2:01.47). Louther (1,600) and Campos (100 dash) added sixth-place finishes for Indiana.
Also scoring top-five finishes on the boys’ Class AA side were: Homer-Center’s John Capitosti and Cody Miller and United’s Jacob Beacker. Capitosti tied for fourth in the high jump (5-10), and Miller was fourth in the discus (126-2). Beacker took fourth in the pole vault (12-6).
On the girls’ side, Saltsburg’s Clayton earned three medals, including a pair of golds, to pace the local girls. Clayton won the triple jump with a leap of 36-3½, which easily eclipsed the state-qualifying standard of 35-6, and the long jump (16-2½). She also placed fourth in the high jump by clearing 4-10.
“I enjoyed myself,” Clayton said. “I wish I would have done a little better in the high jump, but it was still a good day.”
Only a freshman, Indiana high jumper Stever cleared the first five heights on her first attempt before missing three times at 5-6. Still, she won easily when nobody else cleared 5-4. She also took fifth in the long jump (16-6½).
United’s Fletcher cracked the 120-foot mark in the discus for just the second time in her career with her winning throw of 120-1. A senior, Fletcher relishes the big-pressure moments, unlike many of her peers.
“I usually throw better at these big meets because I have more competition. Sometimes, I throw my best,” she said. “The discus throw today, that’s my second-best. I threw 122 the other day, so it’s up there.”
But as is to be expected, Fletcher didn’t show much joy after winning.
“My coach says I don’t have any emotions,” Fletcher said with a laugh, “because a lot of girls out there, they’ll scream when they get their best, and I’m just like, ‘OK, it’s not really a big deal to me.’”
Also scoring top-five finishes on the Class AA girls’ side were: United’s Laken Pudliner, who took third in the 100 hurdles (17.29); Penns Manor’s Sarah DaBella, who was third in the discus (109-4); Marion Center’s Hannah Fulton, who broke the school record with a time of 5:20.90 to finish fourth in the 1,600, and Taya Whitfield, who took fourth in the 800 (2:27.70); Saltsburg’s Nicole Boyer, who was fourth in the long jump (15-6); Homer-Center’s Jill Overman, who was tied for fourth in the 200; and Penns Manor’s Devon Bratton, who was fourth in the pole vault (8-6).
Homer-Center’s 3,200 relay team and Saltsburg’s 400 relay team each grabbed a fourth-place finish.
On the Class AAA side, Indiana’s 3,200 and 400 relay teams each took fifth place.