Gilbert, Brantley end on medal stand

SHIPPENSBURG – A pair of Juniata County hurdlers saw their state-medal dreams come true Saturday, the second day of the PIAA Class AA track and field championships.

Along with Juniata’s Nick Gilbert (fifth in the 300-meter hurdles) and David Brantley (seventh in the 110-meter hurdles), Greenwood’s Emily Fisher added a second medal to her collection from the meet with an eighth-place throw in the shot put.

In the 300 hurdles, Gilbert was in his least favorite spot – the outside line, where there’s effectively no one to push you until the late stages of the race – which forced him to change his strategy.

“I hate that outside lane, but I have to work with what I get. That’s no excuse to do a crappy race,” he said. “I think the difference was (how) I came out. I usually try and save a little bit for the end but this was my last race of my high school career. I had to go all out.”

That, and he managed to avoid a lot of contact with the hurdles, which had been a huge problem the day before.

“Today I was pretty clear over the hurdles and it was a totally different outcome,” he said after finishing the race in 39.21 seconds, well below the times he had coming in.

Gilbert already was guaranteed medal status coming into the second day, but tried to make it a pair. If he had run the same time as Friday’s preliminary heat, it would have happened – but instead, he was off by a fraction of a second, missing advancement to the finals of the 110-meter hurdles.

“I gave it everything I had this morning, I just fell short,” he said. “It was disappointing, but coming out here and having a race like that (in the 300s) makes up for it.”

Brantley had only one chance, and he made the most of it. He won his semifinal in the 110 hurdles, and did so in a time more than a half second below his preliminary run – and entered his name in the school record book and clinched a medal spot.

He finished seventh in the finals.

“I think it’s about time, especially since last year I wasn’t even here in the 110s. I’m pretty excited about that,” he said.

Brantley said he was motivated after missing hardware in his jumping event and failing to advance in the 300 hurdles Friday.

“I think I had all that anger from the triple jump and the 300s,” he said. “I was expecting a little better out of myself. I took all that and focused.”

He had a desirable center lane for the big race, but a lesser start out of the blocks than his nearly perfect release in the semis made it hard to reproduce the effort of the morning run.

“My start wasn’t the best in the last race,” he said. “In the semis earlier today, that was probably the best start I had all year. That was crucial to that time I had.”

Brantley, believed to be the first three-event qualifier from East Juniata with both track and field events, in the semis finally had the best time among District 4 entrants – his 14.87 in that race was low – and a school record. He ran 15.2 in the finals.

District 4 had three of the eight spots in the last race; he was joined by hurdlers from both Southern Columbia and Troy.

“District 4 is representing today in the 110s. Three guys came in here and placed from one district? I’m pretty sure no other district (can match that),” he said.

Fisher, who medaled Friday in the discus, had to wait for the judges to do a little math on the way to her eighth-place hardware Saturday. She was tied with another thrower, and could have ended outside the top eight on her last throw.

“I had to beat her second best,” Fisher explained, the tiebreaker if she did not go ahead of the 38 feet, 1/4 inch the two both had thrown. “I was right on the borderline of medaling and not medaling at ninth so I had to at least do my best.”

Also on Saturday, Juniata’s Neil Bodley saw his high school career end with a middle-of-the-pack throw in the discus and a non-qualifying dash in the 100-meter semifinal. Mount Union’s Tynita White made her second appearance in the shot put, also finishing outside medal range.