Sweeping up

COCOLAMUS – Counting down the final events, East Juniata’s girls team had a chance to win Thursday’s Tri-Valley League track and field meet against Greenwood.

Unfortunately, that chance was theoretical at best – the Wildcats, leading the meet by just a handful of points as the 3,200-meter run was in progress, were guaranteed at least four of the nine in that event because East Juniata had only one runner. And the 4×400-meter relay produces a maximum of five, which would not be enough to overcome the deficit.

The end was an 84-57 loss for the Tigers. The boys from the home school also came up on the down side, 92.5-48.5.

East Juniata coach Mark Ritzman noted accurately that the real difference in the girls meet was in the field events.

“We hung pretty close on the track. In this particular case, our field events just didn’t have enough there yet,” he said. “We have a lot of young kids in the field and they’re going to just keep getting better.”

And then with the optimism that follows him at every track meet, he said, “We’ll be good. It’ll come. It’ll happen.

“Little bits here and there. I look at the girls team and I realize we should be pretty solid next year too. You notice our seniors.”

On the track, the Tigers picked up six firsts, including wins in two of the three relays. But only two of the field events went their way, as Greenwood took most of the places in every event – in fact, the Wildcats swept both the shot put and the high jump.

Most notable for the visitors was the effort that returning state qualifier Emily Fisher put into her throws, winning both the discus and the shot put, with a heave that broke 38 feet in the latter.

“Emily Fisher threw an outstanding shot put throw. That was a huge PR for her,” Greenwood coach Megan Albert said. “We have some good throws, but they did have better javelin throwers. That’s kind of where we hurt on the girls side is in the throws.”

Like most close track and field wins, the difference for Greenwood came not in the wins, but in the places, where the ‘Cats covered the score sheet.

“Going into the meet I told the girls, ‘You may not be winning it all but you’re going to be coming in. You’ve got to get that two and three spot,'” Albert said. “They just need to focus on their best performances and they just need to keep showing up like they are. It is a learning curve on the girls side – they’re not used to losing.”

Greenwood’s depth was the factor in the boys meet. Although the Wildcats swept just one event – the 800 – and won all three relays, they were held out of a second sweep by a third-place tie in the 100-meter dash and surrendered two of three scoring places to the Tigers in just two events. And in those – the 1,600 and the discus – it was second and third that went to East Juniata.

“You try to focus on the good things that do happen, and you try to focus on them. We knew last year that half the team graduated on the guys side,” Ritzman said. “We have some really good kids – I don’t think anybody will argue that. But we don’t have a lot of depth this year.”

The depth the team has goes by the name of David Brantley – the senior hurdler, also a state qualifier last year, accumulated the maximum four individual firsts in the meet. But that wasn’t enough to overcome the never-ending supply of solid athletes from Greenwood.

“What I’m seeing is a lot of PRs early in the season, which is really good to see. We have a couple tweaks here and there with injuries and stuff, but they’re still pulling it through,” Albert said. “They’re just really stepping up whenever we need them. These last two meets, they’ve just been working really hard.”

East Juniata (2-3, 0-2 boys and girls) travels to Upper Dauphin on Tuesday before Greenwood (2-1, 2-1 boys and girls) makes the trip to Upper Dauphin April 10.