HIGH SCHOOL TRACK AND FIELD: Rain puts district meet on hold, but two set records before delay
ALTOONA — After battling the blazing sun all afternoon, Gus Yahner just barely beat the rain.
The torrential downpour and thunderstorm that postponed the District 6 Class AA Track and Field Championships to today might have come at the perfect time for Ligonier Valley’s budding star Jasmine Connor, though.
Yahner won his first district title before the rain came Tuesday and set the meet record in the pole vault, clearing the bar at 15-3 for the first time in his career.
The meet will continue today at 4 p.m. In all, 19 of the 36 events were completed Tuesday, 10 on the girls’ side and nine boys’ events.
Prior to last week’s Heritage Conference championships, Yahner had never cleared the 15-foot barrier in competition. Now, he’s done it in two straight meets.
“My best jumps are coming at the end of the season,” Yahner said. “Hopefully they just get a little bit better by states. That’d be perfect.”
Connor won district titles in the 400-meter dash and 300 hurdles, setting the meet record with a time of 45.27 seconds in the hurdles.
“She didn’t surprise me in winning, she surprised me with her times,” Ligonier Valley coach Al Fiorina said. “Her 300 hurdles time was not only our school record, which she set earlier this year, but it was also a new meet (record) time. That was impressive.”
United’s Kennedy Fletcher won the discus for her first career district title and secure her second straight trip to states. Fletcher won with a throw of 109-9 on a down day when no throwers eclipsed the 110-foot mark.
Saltsburg’s jumps specialist Kia Clayton, the top seed in the triple jump, won it with a leap of 36-3 for her first district title.
In all 12 athletes — eight girls and four boys — qualified for next week’s PIAA Championships at Shippensburg University. Two of those individuals — Connor and Clayton — qualified in two events, and both still have events to compete in today.
Two relay teams also qualified on the first day.
The top three finishers in each event qualify for the state championships, and all other athletes who finish outside the top three but reach the state-qualifying standard.
Taking second places were a pair of Penns Manor seniors, and both will be making their second trips to the PIAA meet, Sarah DaBella in the discus, and Devon Bratton in the pole vault.
The Homer-Center girls’ 3,200 relay team of Mandy McElheny, Heather Paynter, Alexis Leysock and Kristina Albright took second with a season-best time of 10 minutes, 9.09 seconds.
Marion Center senior Hannah Fulton set a school record in the 1,600 for the third time this season with a third-place finish. And she qualified for her third straight state meet.
Fulton was in the lead with 200 meters to go before Bellwood-Antis’ Ellen Crook finished with a punishing kick that nobody in the field could keep up with. Fulton crossed the finish line in 5:16.61 to break the previous record by more than four seconds (5:20.90).
Other state qualifiers were United senior Laken Pudliner, who took third in the 100 hurdles; Ligonier Valley’s Amanda Ross, who took third in the discus behind Fletcher and DaBella to give the Heritage Conference a sweep of the top three spots; and Clayton finished in a tie for third in the high jump to qualify in her second event. She enters today’s competition in the long jump as the top seed.
On the boys’ side, Homer-Center’s Mike Newhouse took third in the shot put (45-11?) and John Capitosti took third in the long jump (21-2?) to give the Wildcats a pair of representatives at states.
United’s Jacob Beacker took third in the pole vault to qualify.
Purchase Line’s 3,200 relay team of Dan Learn, Adam Farmery, Ryan Butz and Taylor Antisdel took third with a season-best time of 8:39.81 to qualify.
Yahner took his last jump only minutes before the storm, missing at 15-9 three times after clearing 15-3.
He had the title wrapped up early. The second-place finisher topped out at 13-0, meaning no other competitor even cleared Yahner’s beginning height of 13-6. United’s Beacker cleared 12-6 to take third.
“Obviously, (I’m) happy with a new personal best,” Yahner said, “but I was definitely feeling real tired as I was jumping, and I wasn’t finishing my jumps at the top. I need to work on that a little bit I guess.”
The heat might have had something to do with that.
“You sit in the sun so long just waiting and it takes the energy out of you,” Yahner said. “I guess that’s part of it. I did take quite a few jumps, though.”
Ligonier Valley’s Connor was on schedule to run five races in the sweltering heat, and the weather delay might have been the best thing for her.
Connor opened her day with a win in the 300 hurdles, then competed in the next event to follow, the 200-meter preliminaries and qualified for the finals. She won the 400 minutes before the rain delay.
She will run in the 200 finals today and a leg on Ligonier Valley’s 1,600 relay team, which is seeded fourth and appears to have a good chance to advance.
“The delay could help her because she’ll be rested,” Fiorina said. “I think she still had a lot in her, but now you get to go home, take a nice rest. It’s going be a break for her because she was going to run five races.”
• Gus Yahner, Northern Cambria, pole vault
• Jacob Beacker, United, pole vault
• John Capitosti, Homer-Center, long jump
• Mike Newhouse, Homer-Center, shot put
• Purchase Line 3,200 relay (Learn, Farmery, Butz, Antisdel)
• Jasmine Connor, Ligonier Valley, 400 and 300 hurdles
• Kia Clayton, Saltsburg, triple jump and high jump
• Laken Pudliner, United, 100 hurdles
• Hannah Fulton, Marion Center, 1,600
• Devon Bratton, Penns Manor, pole vault
• Kennedy Fletcher, United, discus
• Sarah DaBella, Penns Manor, discus
• Amanda Ross, Ligonier Valley, discus
• Homer-Center 3,200 relay (McElheny, Paynter, Leysock, Albright)