Chilly reception for Huskies at states

SHIPPENSBURG – There seemed to be no question among the Mifflin County contingent that the Huskies were taking on the best athletes in the state during the opening day of the PIAA Class AAA track and field championships.

Unfortunately, the winner Friday at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium was Jack Frost.

On a day better suited for late fall football than Fosbury Flops, one Mifflin County athlete tried for a medal, and nine others contended in six track events for a placement opportunity that would have come today.

They all came up dry.

Cold – very cold – and windy weather swept the field, preventing anyone from having their best time. And when you’re not seeded into a good spot in the line, that can be devastating.

The best chance for a qualifying time in a preliminary belonged to Jon Colwell by virtue of his seed time. But his start in the 1,600-meter run was a little rocky and his finish was near the back of the pack.

It appeared he might have been hurt toward the end – he wouldn’t have been the first; the cold also kept the medical staff working – but he said that wasn’t the case.

“I definitely wasn’t limping. I was having a little bit of trouble with my foot earlier in the season,” Colwell said. “I felt great today physically. I didn’t have any problems, I got great sleep, I ate right. It wasn’t there today.”

Everything was right, he said, until the race began. The line closed in on him quickly.

“You’ve got to put a lot more effort in then to get back up with the front of the pack,” he said. “It’s really tough to make your way back up.”

And he was affected by the meet falling behind, which almost never happens here.

“I actually warmed up twice. I was ready to run around 12:30,” he said – but the start of his race was off by more than half an hour, and that was before the halfway point.

“That definitely was weird,” he said.

Colwell can’t be totally unhappy though, having finished his senior year with three trips to a state championship event, and a place in one of them.

“If you put it that way, that’s definitely a good way to end my career,” he said. “I definitely have three great memories this year just being at the state meet and running with the top runners.”

While Colwell had the best chance to advance on quality, Ian McGinnis had it in quantity – the senior sprinter was entered in three events. And while they were spread far enough to allow him to prepare for each, the delays that plagued the meet hit him hard. By the time he ran the 200-meter dash, the meet was nearly an hour and a half behind schedule.

“Our 4×100, we worked out like we had planned, the time and everything. Before you knew it we had warmed up and had to wait another hour until we got called,” he said. “It’s a little different than your standard dual meet because of a lot more preparation and you’re running harder because there’s a lot better competition I can say I’ve ever seen before.”

McGinnis dismissed the weather as something everyone had to deal with – true; but he twice ran with the wind at his back. Ultimately, he seemed content at the end of the day just with having taken part – like Colwell, realizing a career has to end somewhere, and this is not a bad place for that.

“I’m really blessed to have the opportunity to be here,” he said. “I can’t think of a better way to end my career than with best friends and the best athletes around.”

If Colwell and McGinnis represent the old guard, then the new was at the shot put. Sophomore Makala Rearick was a bit wide-eyed after seeing what it means to compete in the state’s biggest track and field event.

“It was nerve-wracking and exciting,” she said. “There were just a whole bunch of people and a bunch of pressure. It’s different than any other thing I’ve done.”

She said the overcast and chilly day was less of a factor in her coming up short than what was going on inside herself.

“There’s a lot of it in my head, too. The weather has a lot to do with it but it’s also how I take it all in,” she said. The lesson? “Don’t let the pressure get to you. Just go out and do your best.”

Megan Becker and Nathan Baumgardner each got to appear twice on the track; each is in a relay that qualified. Becker, running her last as a senior, admitted she was psyched out by the weather, but also said she could have been mentally stronger.

“I’m very proud of being able to come here. It’s always been my goal,” she said.

She ran the 400, and was in the 4×400 relay with Erika Shawver, Kezia Loht and Elisabeth Eddy.

Baumgardner’s first event was the 4×100. He’s the only member of the quartet who will return in a year – teammates Tim Beck, Michael Kline and McGinnis are graduating.

“I was kind of hoping for a faster time. But you can’t really do that in this kind if weather,” he said. “We tried.”

He also ran the 300 hurdles, which he won in District 6. The fact that he struggled in that race will be his motivation to come back and try again.

“It was a good day from just experiencing being here for the first time. Now I know what the competition’s going to be like next year,” Baumgardner said. “I’m just kind of hoping the weather’s not like this next year because I want to do well.”

NOTES: Fleetwood’s Cyre Virgo of Fleetwood Area set the meet record in the Class AAA girls high jump with a 5-11 1/4, breaking an 11-year-old record of 5-11. … Pennridge, a Class AAA school in District 1, was at the center of a controversy over a baton exchange in the 4×100. The event judge ruled that Pennridge – one of the top teams in the state in the event – exchanged outside the legal zone., a website devoted to running, reported late Friday that photographic and video evidence appears to prove the decision wrong, but PIAA rules prohibit the use of such evidence to overturn the call.