And then there were two
ALTOONA – Neil Bodley’s track career took an unexpected turn when a hamstring injury took him out of the sprints for the rest of the season.
But it didn’t take him out of the game.
It was at a Juniata home meet, maybe the last of the season, when Bodley won the discus, and one of the fans made the observation that Kim Hart was just like her dad, Juniata football coach Gary Klingensmith.
When you want to score some points, give Bodley the ball.
The sprinter turned thrower threw for a touchdown Tuesday in the District 6 Class AA track and field championships with a second-place finish in the discus. The silver medal wasn’t too bad for Bodley, either – it qualified him for states, the only boys individual from the area to do so.
It was a moment of redemption not only for Bodley but for the team on an otherwise disappointing day, one that started with high hopes not only for the Indians but for Mount Union as well – and ended with each sending just one individual to Shippensburg.
“I’m just trying to get out there and get points for the team during the year and just picked this up,” he explained.
A year ago, Bodley came out of this meet second in the 200 but had a short visit to states. Then the injury took him off the track. Although his only other experience throwing was the javelin, he decided to try something new.
“It’s kind of fallen into place. If I can’t run, I want to be the best at whatever else I can do,” Bodley observed. “I’m just going to make the best of what I can next week, then I’ll carry on over to football season. It’s been (a chance to) try again, do your best and see what you can get out of it.”
He admitted he wanted to run, wanted a second chance to prove himself on the track. He can have that chance again, he knows, but there’s still a little sting that he couldn’t have it Tuesday.
“I would have loved with all my heart to come out and run today. I was looking forward to a great track season,” he said. “I was hoping to do better at the state meet than last year. But there’s always next year – I just have to be smart about how I train.”
Mount Union’s Tynita White was throwing shy of the range to qualify in shot put as a freshman, but her sophomore performance seeded her exactly into the state group. She outdid that by one – White threw 33 feet, 3/4 inch to give Mount Union a presence in Shippensburg.
Not surprisingly, in wet conditions, her throw was less than her best coming in. Interestingly, it was the 10th-seeded thrower who beat her – by a mere 3/4 of an inch.
White admitted the rain was not her favorite part of the day.
“I’m always mad when the rain comes,” she said. “I made a mistake and slipped one time. You’ve got a little puddle and everything, and have to sit there and wipe off the shot.”
But she had mixed reviews on the impact it had on her throws.
“I didn’t think it was that tough. Actually, last year I threw further than I did here,” she said. “I could have thrown further here. I think I can throw further than what I’ve been throwing.”
White, who had an ankle injury midseason and just returned toward the end of the campaign, said “I’m going to just try to keep working on it until states come and do my best.”
Hart was tickled when she realized that District 6 had regained a third automatic state qualifier for the Class AA track and field championships. It was the Indians’ former district that lost one this spring after taking one from District 6 the year Juniata moved.
But instead of the magic three, the number that will haunt Hart is four – the place that junior hurdler Nick Gilbert earned in both the 110-meter and 300-meter races. That put him one shy of a trip to states in both.
And Lexi Zimmerman, the third seed in the pole vault, also ended the day in fourth – although she matched the second-highest vault at nine feet even. Janelle Swartz also came in fourth, in the 800-meter run, again just missing the qualifier.
The high hurdle race was a disappointment, especially after Gilbert – the second seed coming into the meet – kept that number going into the finals. But on the wet track, and against a field loaded with height, he was unable to keep the pace he needed to move on to the state meet.
The agony of defeat – or at least, a lack of the thrill of victory – struck Mount Union as well. Alana Saulen – appearing in what would be her final meet – was unable to live up to her top seed, which was below the state qualifying mark.
Instead, she was the fourth seed coming into the finals, and crossed the line fifth in the finals.
Along with the fourth-place winners, two other Juniata athletes and one from Mount Union placed in their respective events. Dakota McNemar was eighth in the 300 hurdles; Rachel Brown, who qualified and competed in all three jumps, tied with Mount Union’s Katrina Hammon for seventh in the high jump.
Juniata’s girls 4×400-meter relay quartet of Megan Yeager, Lauren Lock, Makenzie Bishop and Janelle Swartz was sixth.
Forest Hills won the girls team title. Juniata was 15th and Mount Union 18th. Bellwood-Antis was the top boys team. Juniata was 17th; Mount Union did not place.