UNIVERSITY PARK - It was now or never time Thursday night as the Mifflin County indoor track and field team competed in its last invitational of the year in hopes of getting one last chance at qualifying for state competition.
The Huskies traveled to State College to participate in a special Mid-Penn Conference invitational hosts by State College - Altoona was the only non-league team in the field - in an effort to get more than one athlete into the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association championships, which will be back at Penn State's Ashenfelter Complex.
Mifflin County long-distance runner Jon Colwell, who previously qualified for states, will be joined in state competition by five of his teammates: hurdler Nate Baumgardner and the boys 4x200-meter relay team.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Mifflin County’s Makala Rearick takes part in the shot put at Penn State’s Ashenfelter Complex Thursday.
"We are very happy. This was one of the expectations we had here to get the 4x200 relay team here in. Nathan has been close all year but he was a surprise tonight. We're very happy for him," Mifflin coach Scott Gantz said. "We're a lot better off than we were before came over here. We can't complain. The kids have been working hard all year and it's great that we have more than Jon going. It made our trip worthwhile."
First to qualify on the evening was Baumgardner. After a quick start, Baumgardner kept the lead and crossed the finish just inches of his competition. As he crossed the finish line he looked over at his teammates to see if he made it. When he got the official word, he went over to celebrate with his fellow Huskies.
"Feels pretty great," Baumgardner said. "This is probably the most excited I've ever been in my life. My first thought was, 'Wow, did I really get first?' and my second thought was, 'I wonder what time I got and did I make states.' When I made states I just wanted to tell everyone. I was so excited.
"It was all because of one of my teammate's pep talk," he explained. "Tim Beck told me that I needed to give 110 percent and it's my junior year and I want to win states next year so that got me going."
Beck also had a chance to accompany Baumgardner and he was successful as one of the members of the 4x200-meter relay team.
Along with Ian McGinnis, Karoon Carrington and Michael Kline, the quartet delivered a state-qualifying time of 1:33.1. It was something the group had been so close to all indoor season but came up short, until Thursday.
"It feels really good right now," McGinnis said. "For the last couple weeks we have been working hard at practice and we've been excited about this meet and it was just time for us to do it."
Though some of the track and field athletes did not make to states, Gantz had numerous athletes finishing with personal bests and its something that the veteran coach is very proud of his kids for.
"It's been a constant thing, meet after meet, week after week when we travel to these meets throughout the season," Gantz said. "We have a good group of kids, hard workers and they put it on the line tonight."
The PTFCA meet is Feb. 23 on the Penn State campus.