HS TRACK AND FIELD: Saltsburg captures conference title
ARMAGH — The Ligonier Valley boys’ track and field team didn’t have to sweat out the day’s last event, the 1,600 relay.
Truth be told, the Rams knew they had their fifth Heritage Conference Meet title in six years sewed up before the event unfolded.
The Saltsburg girls’ team, on the other hand, remained aware that its standing in the top three would hinge on the outcome of the 1,600 relay.
With the stage set and the pressure on, Saltsburg placed fourth in the 1,600 relay to narrowly pass second-place United for the girls’ team title at United High School on Tuesday.
The win marked the first in school history for a Saltsburg girls’ team at the Heritage Conference Meet.
Saltsburg amassed 97 points to nip United (96) and Penns Manor (93). Ligonier Valley (84) and Marion Center (62) rounded out the top five.
Saltsburg’s Chelsey Koren passed a Homer-Center runner on the last stretch of the final leg of the 1,600 relay to propel the Trojans to a one-point victory.
Koren, who ran a 1:06 in the event’s last leg, admitted afterward that she didn’t know what was at stake during her leg of the race.
“There really wasn’t any pressure because I didn’t know that everything was riding on me,” Koren said. “I just ran as hard as I could and set out to have fun. It felt amazing to know that we won it all, especially knowing that we did it by one point.”
“It was between Homer-Center, ourselves and United, and she made it close,” first-year Saltsburg coach Marty Kessler said. “Her effort was tremendous and it gave us the victory. Had she been once place back we would have placed second.”
Corrine Moore added a win in the 100 for Saltsburg. Moore also ran on the winning 400 relay team with Michaela Simpson, Nichole Boyer and Bayli Zimmerman.
“A lot of the younger girls chipped in and contributed,” Kessler said. “Corrine Moore won the 100 and took third in the shot put, which she just started two weeks ago, and Kia Clayton placed in the high jump, long jump and triple jump. Plus she ran the 200 and finished fifth.”
Kennedy Fletcher paced United with wins in the javelin, the discus and the shot put. Laken Pudliner won the 100 hurdles, and Maggie Slawson took the 200.
Marion Center’s Camber Heinle won the 400 and the 800. Heinle also ran on the winning 3,200 relay team with Hannah Fulton, Danielle Fulmer and Taylor Woodrow.
Heather Paytner placed first in the 1,600 and the 3,200 for Homer-Center.
Ligonier Valley’s Jasmine Connor won the 300 hurdles and ran on the winning 1,600 relay team with Madi McLaughlin, Miranda Campbell and Steph Heming.
Jenn Knezovich took the long jump and the triple jump for Penns Manor. Devon Bratton finished first in the pole vault.
The Ligonier Valley boys’ team racked up 137 points and outdistanced Homer-Center (85) by more than 50 points. Northern Cambria (73ﾽ), Saltsburg (71) and Purchase Line (70ﾽ) placed third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Ligonier Valley finished 8-0 in dual-meet competition to win its sixth consecutive conference regular-season title.
“It’s not the status quo,” Ligonier Valley coach Don Smith said while chuckling. “But every year I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. This year I had six other kids who didn’t come out, and they were some of my better kids. But I told the kids at the beginning of the season, ‘You’ve got to set out to prove that you really don’t need them.’ And that’s exactly what happened here.”
Anthony Thomas paced Ligonier Valley by upsetting event favorite and 100 champ Deion Robinson of Saltsburg in the 200.
Thomas also anchored the Rams’ first-place 400 relay team, which was made up of Levi Gaynor, Dylan Jackman and Mike Kelller.
“We came in strong. We knew we were going to win,” Thomas said. “Our confidence is really high right now, and that definitely helps a lot. It kept the edge off today. Everyone was just relaxed and running normal and feeling good.”
Gaynor, who helped the Rams tie the meet record in the 400 relay last year, echoed Thomas’ sentiments by saying: “We always have that chip on our shoulder. Ligonier Valley teams always seem to have that kind of stuff, but we always work hard in practice and then come out strong.”
The Rams’ Nathan Crusan won the triple jump, and Justin Piper took the 300 hurdles. Crusan and Piper each also ran on the winning, 1,600 relay team with Jackman and Jon Finger.
Northern Cambria’s Gus Yahner broke his meet record in the pole vault with a height of 14 feet, 6 inches, shattering his mark of 13-9 set last year.
Other winners were Homer-Center’s Levi McCracken (110 hurdles) and John Capitosti (long jump); Marion Center’s Kyle Anderson (1,600); Northern Cambria’s Evan Ludwig (javelin); Purchase Line’s Joe Price (shot put and discus); Saltsburg’s Ryan Horchar (3,200); and United’s Shawn Lichvar (400 and 800).
Also, Purchase Line’s 3,200 relay team, which was made up of Cameron Troupe, Taylor Antisdel, Adam Farmery and Dustin Karadus, placed first.