MIFFLINTOWN – With half the scoring events in the books Tuesday, it was pretty clear that the Juniata boys were not going to reverse the outcome of their first meeting with rival East Juniata in track and field – a four-point difference that favored the Tigers.
With their top runner taken off the track, that shouldn’t been too much of a surprise for the Indians.
The girls, though, had reason to smile at that point – the home team was clinging to a slim two-point lead, but was guaranteed nine for free at the end of the meet – more than the spread that gave East Juniata a win in the first meeting – from the pole vault, in which only Juniata competed.
When Christen Baublitz crossed the line first in the 3,200-meter run – a race Juniata all but ceded to the Tigers in the previous meeting – the Indians clinched the victory. The girls final was 87.5-62.5 in favor of the home team, with, appropriately enough, the track being the difference for the Indians.
The boys meet went to East Juniata by a much wider margin this time, as the Tigers’ depth drove them to sweeps in two events and the relays, giving them a win by an almost mirror-image 88-62 score in their Tri-Valley League dual meet.
The Juniata girls win gave the Indians something to cheer for in a season that has not started well, with two league losses – including one at East Juniata to open the campaign.
“I’m elated for our girls team,” Juniata coach Kim Hart said. “It is a valuable lesson learned more to them than anyone else, to see what can happen when you believe in yourself.”
The track contingent was dominant, with a quartet of youngsters making most of the noise. Tops among them was Baublitz, who won both distance events and was part of the winning 4×800-meter relay. Rylee Duck won the 300-meter hurdles and was second in the shorter race. Elisabeth Ritzman took the 800. And Anna Hershey was part of the 4×800 and brought in points in the 1,600.
“Very often, young girls are dominant forces in track – but they have to know it,” Hart said. “In the first track meet, not one of those four girls knew it. Now they do.”
In the field, Juniata got the usual big contribution from Rachel Brown, who was tops in all three of the jumping events.
“She’s been a solid leading scorer for us for her fourth year. We’ve almost come to expect (it from her),” Hart said.
“Juniata had a couple girls this time that I don’t remember seeing the first time we ran against them,” East Juniata coach Mark Ritzman said. “They really had some people step up this time that weren’t there last time. Tonight they were better than we were.”
But, he was quick to point out, there were reasons to smile as a Tiger fan, too. Amber Knouse won the two sprints, and anchored the winning 4×100. Molly Scholl started that race – an unexpected pairing with sister Hannah – and won two throws. Brooke Maneval also scored key points for East Juniata.
“Those two are solid – there’s a reason they’re team captains,” Ritzman said of Scholl and Maneval. “Our girls showed up tonight. I’m proud of our girls.”
East Juniata controlled the boys meet on the track, taking all three scoring spots in the distance races, with Zane Lauver winning both. David Brantley won both hurdles; Spencer Reinford both dashes – although he was not going head-to-head with top Juniata sprinter Neil Bodley, sidelined by an injury.
“Five days ago we thought we were going to win, and then Neil got hurt on the weekend. We had to make a lot of adjustments in the boys track team,” Hart said. “It is devastating that we have not won as a boys team. But morally, there have been so many great performances that have taken place that in a track meet are so lost.”
One of those might be the fact that Bodley did compete, in the field – winning the discus and scoring in the javelin. But the Tigers just had too much to overcome.
“I think we would have won (even) if they had Bodley,” Ritzman said. “It’s unfortunate about Bodley – I hope he’s fine. I’d love to have him come back for the league meet.
“But I think we would have won whether he was here or not. We were deep tonight – that’s the strength of our boys team.”
Juniata (Boys: 0-3, 0-3; Girls: 1-2, 1-2) travels to Upper Dauphin Thursday. East Juniata (Boys: 7-1, 3-0; Girls 6-2, 1-2) visits Mount Union the same day.