Early ending favors Tigers

MOUNT UNION – East Juniata track and field coach Mark Ritzman is always happy, but he definitely had something to smile about Tuesday.

Mount Union’s Bob Wydock probably would have had a better day if it had finished.

In the annual non-league meet between the two schools, a Trojan boys squad short by a couple of top performers due to illness stayed close to the visitors, but the Tigers still came up winners in the weather-shortened meet, 59-40. East Juniata’s girls saw a school record fall and clinched a victory before the meet was called, winning 78-31.

The meet was stopped after eight of 11 track events were completed due to lightning. When the foul weather continued past 5:30 p.m., the decision to end the meet was made. The remaining events – which include one more field event for the boys than the girls – will not be made up; the scores will stand as official.

“The boys and the girls put forth their best effort today,” Wydock said. “It’s tough that the weather didn’t cooperate with us to get all the events in.”

Especially for the Trojan boys, who were waging a strong battle. Of course, they had to overcome East Juniata’s rainmaker, David Brantley, who seems to bring 20 points in his pocket to each meet. Brantley was held short Tuesday only because the triple jump had not been completed; he likely would have won it – along with the long jump and both hurdles – with a 40-foot effort that already was recorded when the weather hit.

“He’s pretty regular, pretty solid,” Ritzman noted. “You can pretty much plan on him doing well – and he’s getting better.”

Matching Brantley, on the track at least, was distance runner Shykai Banks, who won the 800- and 1,600-meter runs for Mount Union. Cody Miller also added first-place points in the shot put.

“It was a close meet on the boys side. My distance runners did a real nice job. Our top shot putter did a nice job. I was pleased there,” Wydock said. “Two of my top guys were out today and we were able at least to compete and put a good effort in.”

The opposite was true for the girls, who struggled just to put in an effort. Aside from the uncontested 4×800-meter relay, Mount Union failed to get a single first-place finish in a track event. In fact, the Trojans were held to three thirds in that part of the meet, with two of those being recorded by Brooke Staley in the 400 and 800.

In fact, the closest the Trojans came to dominating an event was the shot put, won by Tynita White (34 feet, 8 inches) with teammate Aaliyah Gilbert-Walker second.

“We’ve had a tough time, especially on the track. Our throwers have come through pretty well for us, naturally led by Tynita White,” Wydock said. “We’ve got a number of young ninth-grade athletes, and they’re giving their best.”

But the highlight of the day belonged to East Juniata’s 4×100 quartet of Mackenzie McDonald, Megan Hart, Hannah Scholl and Amber Knouse. The foursome made school history with a 52.03-second run, effectively, Ritzman noted, without the benefit of competition – Mount Union didn’t enter the event.

“I knew they weren’t going to run a 4×100 team. I was a little surprised we got it tonight simply because there wasn’t anybody to run against,” the coach explained. “They went after the guys.”

The feat was accomplished after the same group missed by just a quarter second at Shippensburg’s Jack Roddick Invitational over the weekend.

But then, that’s no surprise either, Ritzman said, in the friendly confines of Mount Union.

“This track has just been great for us, all the time,” he said. “I think it was a very successful meet regardless (of the early ending) because we had some very good things happen today.”