Brantley leads Juniata County contingent to Day 2 in Class AA; Fisher 4th in discus

SHIPPENSBURG – Nick Gilbert and David Brantley extended their track seasons into the final day.

Neil Bodley will be back, too, although that was a foregone conclusion. Also competing another day is Emily Fisher, who was the lone medalist from the region Friday, the opening day of the PIAA Class AA track and field championships.

Fisher, from Greenwood, added to her hardware collection with her second state medal in the discus, throwing 131 feet, 5 inches for fourth place, matching her seed. Fisher was one of two who could have climbed the medal stand Friday; Brantley, who competed in the triple jump, did not place in that event.

Brantley, East Juniata’s sole entrant in the meet, made it to today’s semifinal in the 110-meter hurdles. Gilbert, Juniata’s top hurdler and, to some extent, Brantley’s nemesis, will appear in both the 110 semis and the 300-meter hurdle finals.

Bodley qualified for the semifinals in the 100-meter dash.

Bodley and Gilbert, like Brantley, were in another event – the duo, along with Will Manbeck and Dakota McNemar, ran the 4×100-meter relay, but failed to advance.

Greenwood’s Gabe Schroff also saw his season end without advancement; he, too, was in both hurdles races.

Brantley, who made it here in one event a year ago and failed to advance in that one, had to run the 110 hurdles not long after his jumping session came to an end, something he said didn’t have a major effect on his performance.

“It didn’t really take away from the other event except in one aspect – the triple jump hurts my knees and my ankles,” he said. “I was going into the 110s a little achy. It wasn’t a bad race – I got to the semis. That’s all that really counts now.”

Brantley also competes in the long jump, and seemingly wished he had been doing that one here – perhaps more so than any of the others.

“In all honesty, my best event I wasn’t competing in today. It was just a bad draw at districts with the scheduling,” he said. “You’ve got to prepare for everything. You’ve got to play it however it comes to you.”

His focus now is on his final shot at state recognition.

“If I have my best race here, there’s a good chance I can go to the finals. But I have to have my best race,” he said.

Gilbert almost joined Brantley as a non-qualifier in the 300 hurdles. He hit the second hurdle hard, not too different from his tap on the first obstacle at districts. But this was a harder hit, and he was running against a tougher crowd.

“I turned it on after that. I knew there was nothing to lose. Everything I had – full-out sprint,” he said. “I’m always behind and then I have to try and catch up. I’m pretty much used to it, but that was a stretch there.”

Gilbert missed the state meet by one place at districts a year ago, and is taking advantage of the opportunity he was presented. He’s especially focused on the shorter race; the 300 is his better run.

“Over the past week I was training hard, trying to get my steps down,” he said. “I think the main problem with the 110s was those first two hurdles. Today I perfected the first two and the rest of the race just flowed.”

And his plan for today?

“Don’t hit those hurdles.”

Bodley is another case of redemption, although he’s the veteran on this track. He made it here as a sophomore in the 200-meter dash, running once and finishing there. He threw the discus last year when an injury stopped him from running.

He’s in the 100 – and made the semis – the discus, which is contested today, and ran the 4×100 here Friday.

“I feel very blessed that I have rebounded this track season,” he said. “I’m on and off with the fast times still. I would have liked to have run a little faster earlier today but hopefully I’ll pull that out.”

His seed in the discus spells trouble, and the relay is done. That leaves the sprint as his best hope for a medal.

“I’ve been looking at the times. I’ve been close to some of the times that will get into the finals,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty excited about that.”

He’ll miss Manbeck and McNemar, but it would be no surprise to see them in the stands cheering for their teammate.

“I went to elementary school with these guys,” Bodley explained. “We’ve known each other all the way through. We played all kinds of different sports together. It’s kind of heartbreaking.

“They put in some serious work to get this far and it’s a very big achievement. I give them all the credit.”

Fisher, who like last year will compete in the shot put today, struggled early in the discus, her better event.

“The first couple, they just didn’t feel right. I kept thinking and thinking, ‘What can I do to make this better?,'” she said. “It just wasn’t happening.”

She admitted she was worried, not comfortable before her big throw.

“That last one I cleared my mind. I didn’t think about it at all,” she said.

The only girls qualifier from the area to compete Friday in either class, Fisher looked ahead to the second day on Friday afternoon.

“Tomorrow’s a fun day. I don’t have as good of a seed but I know there’s more to give,” she said. “This is sort of an extra boost in confidence.”