ALTOONA - It didn't take long for Mifflin County to start winning medals at the 64th annual West Central Coaches Invitational track and field meet Friday.
The Huskies had a pair to show off - both in boys javelin - before the track preliminaries were half over.
The success was just getting started. And so was Nathan Baumgardner.
Sentinel photos by JEFF?FISHBEIN
ABOVE:?Mifflin County's Nathan Baumgardner, right, clears a hurdle in the boys 110-meter event at the West Central Coaches Invitational track and field meet in Altoona Friday. Baumgardner went on to win the finals in that event and took first in the 300 hurdles as well. ABOVE?LEFT:?Mifflin County's Kelsey Spicher clears a hurdle in the Class AAA girls 300-meter event. She didn't place in that event, but picked up team points later in the meet in the 1,600-meter run. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
The Huskies' junior hurdler shaved a second and a half off his seed time in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, putting him across the line first, snatching the gold from top seed Jonathan Smith of State College by a third of a second.
"Coach (Scott) Gantz told me to go out hard in the first 100 meters. I haven't been doing that," Baumgardner said.
As it turned out, he was also the second member of the team to pick up gold - he won the 110 hurdles, in which he was the top seed. The dual finish in front gave him a lift when talking about coming back to Mansion Park in two weeks for the District 6 meet.
IF YOU GO
Mifflin County travels to Central Mountain Tuesday
He topped off the night as the lead of the runner-up 4x400-meter relay team - and was named the MVP of the Class AAA boys meet for his efforts.
"Oh, definitely - I think I'm going to states," he said. "I'll stick to going hard, every track meet, every practice."
Also looking good for a ticket to Shippensburg is sophomore Makala Rearick, whose 35 foot, 3 inch effort in the shot put was good enough to win the event. More important, she had more than four feet on the best finisher from District 6.
The youngster admitted she didn't see herself being in this position back in February, the height of the indoor season.
"No probably not. As good as I did? No," she said. "It depends on where I'm at and what I throw. It's like different feelings for each place."
Rearick said she's adjusting to the pressure of throwing at this level, not an easy task when the competition comes from schools that have long-established programs with a tradition of winning.
"Those girls just hype themselves up to be so good. It puts pressure on me to be good - to be better," she said. "I've just got to get my technique down a little more and not worry so much about the other competitors, as much as I do now."
But it was the boys who quickly established themselves as contenders for a strong team finish. In fact, until missed marks defining an exchange zone in the 4x100 relay, the boys team was in a good position to finish second overall behind Altoona.
"That was our first time ever missing anything," said Tim Beck, a sprinter who individually placed sixth in the 200-meter dash. "We've been together for all these meets and we never screwed up."
The Huskies also missed likely points in the distance races when Jon Colwell sat out the meet. He's expected to be ready to go for districts in two weeks.
Ian McGinnis had a good day, finishing second in both sprint events, and running a leg of the 4x400.
"It was better competition than we've seen a lot before," he said, but then noted it was not a lot different than what the Huskies have been seeing this year, since moving into the Mid-Penn Conference. He said that challenge helped the team move up against traditional powers Altoona and State College.
"I think that the Mid-Penn was the best thing for Mifflin County," he said. "I think it has done wonders for every sport."
Another positive contribution for the boys came from George Donahey, a steady presence for the Huskies at the pole vault. He went over the bar Friday at a personal-best 12-9, good for third place. He knows he'll need a couple more inches to get into the state meet.
"It was pretty good - a lot of hard work," he said - and fun. It's lonely, too, he admitted - he's isolated from the rest of the events while working to score in his.
"I don't really know what's going on," he said. "I'm in my own area."
In the javelin, Zach Long, seeded second, lived up to his place in the lineup with a silver-medal throw of 170 feet, 10 inches. Admitting to a bit of soreness in his throwing arm, Long said he was satisfied with the toss, which was below his season best, but still barely seven feet shy of the state qualifying mark.
He was also happy to see teammate Justin Gantz, seeded 10th, make the finals - and surprise the rest of the field by finishing sixth.
"I like having people with me," Long said. "It's just more homey, kind of comforting."
"I thought I'd be on the edge," Gantz said. "I did pretty good for the first time coming here."
The girls didn't see the same level of success, but got a boost in the final event of the night. Megan Becker ran close to 58 seconds as the anchor of the 4x400 to win it for the Huskies.
"(It was) for my team, definitely. I don't like letting people down," she said. "I don't know what it is. I love this track."
She was trailing State College by about 10 meters when she started her run, and caught up to the leader on the back stretch, then held position until the final turn, where she made her move.
"I knew it was doable. I definitely had to push," she said.
Mifflin County's boys ended the day in third place with 73 points, behind Altoona and State College. State College won the girls meet; the Huskies were sixth.
Other placewinners for the boys were Michael Kline, sixth in the 100; Patrick Parker, seventh in the 1,600; and Addison Monroe, fifth in the 3,200. For the girls, Erika Shawver was fourth in te 100 hurdles; Kelsey Spicher was seventh in the 1,600; Megan Becker third in the 400; Alexis Kibe sixth in the 800; and Makayla Pearce, seventh in the javelin. The top eight place in each event.