MARION CENTER — Call it destiny. Call it divine intervention. Whatever it was, Isaac Kelly’s good vibes were with the Homer-Center boys’ track and field team Saturday.
A senior distance runner for the Wildcats, Kelly died in a traffic accident in November. The Wildcats have dedicated their season to Kelly, and when they won the team title at the Indiana County Track and Field Championships on Saturday, he was certainly on their mind.
“He would have been here running all those distance races for us and the relay,” Homer-Center coach Matt Rodkey said, “and our shirts we have this year are in honor of him. They say ‘Good vibes only’ on the back because that’s one of his things that he always put on all his social media was ‘good vibes only.’ And I feel like we had a good vibe today.”
“I’ve known Isaac all of my life,” Ryan Sardone said. “We’ve been very close friends up until his passing. … The ‘Good vibes only’ theme describes him perfectly. He was never negative. He could always find the silver lining, the bright side, the light at the end of the tunnel. He was very focused and devoted as well. If there was something Isaac wanted to achieve, he would do it. He was highly motivated. He was tough. And the track team really misses him this year.”
A senior teammate of Kelly, Teagan Sharp said the Wildcats had Kelly on their minds as they celebrated winning the county title on the bus ride home.
“We were living it up,” he said. “We’re playing music because we just won the county meet, and I remember thinking, ‘Man, I wish he would have been here for that.’”
Sharp won the shot put and the discus — setting a meet record in the discus — to lead the Wildcats to the title. He won the discus with a throw of 167 feet, and his throw of 48-5¾ in the shot put beat the field by more than 6 feet.
Sardone won the high jump (5-6), Drew Kochman won the 200-meter dash (23.81 seconds) and first-year track athlete Ben Schmidt won the 100 (11.89) for the Wildcats. Homer-Center also won the 400 relay.
The Wildcats finished with 129 points on their way to the team title. Apollo-Ridge finished second with 102, and Saltsburg was a close third with 101.
Sharp was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Field Athlete.
“That was great,” Sharp said. “I’m really happy with how that turned out. It feels good.”
Saltsburg’s Tristan Roessler earned the Most Outstanding Track Athlete honors after winning the 800 (2:08.70) and the 1,600 (4:50.36).
“It feels great. Came out, had a good day, performed well,” Roessler said.
United won the girls’ team title, the Lions’ second straight county title. The Lions finished with 136 points, edging Saltsburg by 10 points.
The Lions’ Maizee Fry was named the Most Outstanding Field Athlete after winning the shot put (43-1) and discus (126-10).
“That was awesome,” Fry, a senior, said. “We weren’t expecting it. We just had a memory come up of two years ago when we won it, so to keep it going, it means a lot. It was really funny. A Snapchat memory of two years ago came up, we were all screaming because we won the Indiana County title, and to do it again with COVID, to do that again, it was great.”
“It’s very exciting because they’re a big school,” Saltsburg’s Mackenzie Simpson said, “and with Maizee being as amazing as she is, it feels good to be that close to them.”
Simpson won the 200 (27.51) and she was also part of Saltsburg’s first-place 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams.
Fry’s teammate Riley Payne won three events. She won the 100 hurdles (17.31) and the 300 hurdles (51.25) as well as the triple jump (32-9¾).
Also winning events for the Lions were Bailey Popovich (100, 13.25) and Katie Peters (pole vault, 8-0).
“It means a lot,” Payne said. “Without the teamwork, without the amazing coaching staff, I wouldn’t be where I am today, hands down. I really appreciate all the work that they’ve put into not only me, but our whole entire team. And especially with COVID and everything, they’ve just been putting in the extra effort to make sure we go the extra mile.”
A freshman, Purchase Line’s Rachael Ward was the only multiple-event winner on the girls’ side, winning the 400 (1:01.93) and the 800. She was named the girls’ Most Outstanding Track Athlete.
“I never thought I’d be here,” she said, “so I’m really happy. When I came into this meet, there was definitely competition, so I didn’t know I’d be right here, but I definitely believed. So it was really nice.”
Ward’s time of 2:27.31 in the 800 set a school record. And her time in the 400 is already within striking distance of her mom’s school record, which has stood at 59.8 for more than two decades.
What’s all the more impressive is that Ward ran the open 400 for just the second time in her career Saturday, and her mom’s record is already in jeopardy.
“I just got put in the 400, so I’m definitely thinking about it now,” Ward said of her mom’s school records. “I never was in the 400, but now I am. So yeah, that’s definitely on my mind. She definitely knows about it. Yeah, yesterday. She’s a little bit upset, but I think she’s definitely happy, too. Mixed emotions.”
Other individual event winners on the girls’ side were: Marion Center’s Nevada Armstrong (1,600, 5:32.02) and Maggie Hood (13:02.96); Homer-Center’s Gabrielle Page (long jump, 14-9¼); Purchase Line’s Brooke Eyler (high jump 4-8); and Apollo-Ridge’s Casey Weightman (javelin, 116-7).
On the boys’ side, Saltsburg’s C Jaye Morris and David Stuller won two events apiece. Morris won the 110 hurdles (17.95) and 300 hurdles (43.87). Stuller won the long jump (19-1) and triple jump (40-0¼).
Marion Center’s Hunter Mock won the javelin (153-9) and Dillon Green won the 3,200 (10:47.27), Purchase Line’s Brady Syster won the 400 (53.22) and Apollo-Ridge’s Nick Cecchini won the pole vault (11-6).