HS-track-field.jpg

ARMAGH — When Lydia Miller came from behind in the final lap to win the 1,600-meter relay Friday night, she didn’t just win the race for Marion Center. She won the Appalachian Invitational for the Stingers.

Running the anchor leg, Miller received the baton with her 1,600 relay team in second place behind Conemaugh Township by about 10 meters. Whether Miller knew it, the Stingers were also in second place in the team standings entering the final event of the meet.

Miller made up the deficit in the first 200 meters and held off Conemaugh Township’s Ellie Speigle down the final stretch, helping the Stingers win the relay with a time of 4 minutes, 30.38 seconds. In doing so, Marion Center won the team title with 75 points. Conemaugh Township finished a close second with 73 points, and Portage was third with 67.

The 1,600 relay is the last event of every track and field meet. Portage entered the race with 67 points, two ahead of Marion Center and Conemaugh Township, who were tied for second with 65 points. In other words, whoever won the relay would win the meet.

“That was awesome,” Marion Center junior Reagan Ryen said of Miller’s anchor leg. “She’s our anchor for a reason.”

Marion Center’s 1,600 relay team features three newcomers this season in Miller, Mollie Shadle and Mikayla Gatskie, who ran together for the first time in an invitational this season. The only holdover from last season is Ryen.

“In the (1,600 relay), we have a bunch of new girls on the team, so it was nice to test that out in a bigger environment,” Ryen said.

Ryen also won the girls’ 800-meter run with a time of 2:26.32, and senior Lilly Ryer won the 3,200-meter run in 12:47.75, accounting for the Marion Center girls’ two individual event wins.

The Marion Center 3,200 relay team of Ryer, Ryen, Miller and Gatskie also won with a time of 10:20.30, beating the field by more than 36 seconds.

In total, seven area athletes won an individual event Friday.

Homer-Center junior Justley Sharp was the lone Indiana County athlete to win multiple individual events Friday. She won the girls’ discus with a throw of 131-7 and the shot put with a throw of 40-0½.

River Valley’s Sara McConnell won the 400 (1:02.28), and Northern Cambria’s Ella Miller won the 1,600 (5:34.51).

On the boys’ side, United’s Bridger Blankenbicker cleared 13 feet, 1 inch in the boys’ pole vault to tie his own school record and set a new meet record.

Purchase Line’s Brady Syster won the 400 dash (53.44).

River Valley’s McConnell and Northern Cambria’s Miller both qualified for the state meet a year ago as freshmen. Miller qualified in the 1,600, and McConnell qualified as part of a 1,600 relay in Saltsburg’s last season of existence.

Returning to the state meet is what’s motivating both of them this season.

“I want to continue to drop that time and try and make it back to states is my main goal,” McConnell said. “Every time I run the 400, I just think about getting back there. I want to so bad.”

“It really helps my confidence,” Miller said. “I’ve started off (the season) a little bit slower than where I’d like to be. I haven’t reached my goal yet, but I’m hoping to get there since it is still the beginning of the season. Winning today really helped my confidence.”