Driver’s seat

COCOLAMUS – When Zane Lauver and Adam Barrick crossed the line 1-2 in the 3,200-meter run Thursday, East Juniata track coach Mark Ritzman looked up and quietly said that was it.

It’s a good thing he looked up. The eight points the Tigers picked up in the event clinched a rare win over Greenwood for the boys, and an exuberant David Brantley – who added 10 points for his team by winning both hurdles – all but tackled his coach in the infield.

The Wildcats took most of the points in the last two events, but there just weren’t enough left out there. East Juniata remained unbeaten in the Tri-Valley League, winning 73-68. The Tigers are seeking their first TVL track title in 32 years, and are definitely in the driver’s seat after this one.

Greenwood looked dominant in the girls meet, taking advantage of a few holes in the East Juniata lineup in a 99-42 victory.

Before the meet – one that pretty much everyone knew would come down to the wire, and set up a showdown April 30 in Millerstown that, barring an upset in the next two weeks, will decide the Tri-Valley League regular-season title – Greenwood coach Tom Magill said the throwing events would decide the outcome.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the discus competition that came at the end of the day – it was the shot put, the first of the three throws to be contested, one that was won by East Juniata’s Tyler Hepner, whose 43-foot, 4 3/4-inch heave had more than a foot on the Wildcats’ Dillon Meehan.

“I kind of knew the meet was over at 10 minutes after 4,” Magill said. “We didn’t do what we needed to do in the shot – we needed to beat Hepner in all three throws and we didn’t get it done there.”

Ritzman agreed it was a big moment.

“When they came up and told us that at the beginning, we knew that was huge,” he said. “That was way too early in the meet to be a turning point, but we knew that was an event that was going to be hotly contested.”

Hepner added a second-place toss in the javelin and was third in the discus – the only one of the three in which Greenwood got more of the points. The Wildcats managed 16 of the 27 points available, but that was not enough.

Add the Tigers’ dominance in the jumps – two out of three wins, and a 17-10 edge in points – and it’s the Tigers in the field. The only way Greenwood could have won was to take points for the uncontested pole vault – legal under the rules, but something Magill is not inclined to do, saying he would rather win with what he has.

“Ever since we sent the note out saying ‘This is why we don’t pole vault,’ Greenwood has never taken points here, ever,” Ritzman noted appreciatively.

On the track, Greenwood got just one individual first, but did sweep the relays. The Wildcats’ normal depth was visibly absent there, though, which has plenty to do with the final outcome. Magill noted that distance runner Garrett Byers was sidelined, which could have changed the outcome of three different events – but admitted he still got a great performance from unexpected sources.

“We’ve been kind of hiding it all year long. For the most part we’ve done well that way,” he said of the missing runners.

“I didn’t expect to win all three relays – I only expected to win the first one quite frankly. So that was a nice surprise,” he said. “I thought we’d be able to snag the 1,600 or the 800. Hunter Wirth had such a fabulous day – he doesn’t even run distance. He just went out there and competed like crazy.”

Wirth helped deliver extra points in the 1,600 and the 800, both won by East Juniata’s Landon Sheaffer. In the 3,200, Zane Lauver – who struggled in the mile – joined Barrick for the biggest win of the day.

“Zane’s sick. That’s part of it,” Ritzman explained. “Fortunately for us, Zane was able, even though he couldn’t pull it out in the mile, his two mile looked beautiful. When he and Adam did what they did in the two mile, that was the meet.”

In the girls meet, the Tigers won only four events as they were without several top athletes. Greenwood proved especially dominant in the throwing events.

“We ended up going 27-0 in the throws. That’s hard to overcome,” Magill said.

The league schedule includes eight meets, so neither team has clinched anything other than East Juniata beating Greenwood, a rarity for any school in the TVL. The Tiger boys improve to 5-0 in the conference, while Greenwood is 5-1. The meeting in Millerstown at the end of the month will be the last league meet for the Wildcats.

“I don’t think we don’t have room for improvement,” Ritzman said. “When we go down there, I anticipate us being better. I anticipate them being better. I think it should be a great track meet down there as well.”

Overall, East Juniata is 11-1 on the boys side; the girls are 7-4, 1-4 in the TVL. The Tigers and Greenwood (Boys: 5-1, 5-1; Girls: 5-1, 5-1) are taking part in the Shippensburg Invitational Saturday.