Track athletes ready to move on

Sentinel photo by JEFF FISHBEIN
Mifflin County track and field athletes who plan to continue in college include, from left, front, Emily Bielski and Malik Sechler; back, Benjamin Falkner, Andrew Bennett, Andrew Montgomery and Hunter Sheaffer.

LEWISTOWN — The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference spans the Commonwealth with its 18 member schools.

It will certainly have a Mifflin County flavor in track and field next fall when four seniors join their respective colleges. They are among six members of the Husky track and field squads who plan to continue the sport in college.

The Huskies’ Malik Sechler and Hunter Sheaffer are headed to the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, while Jordan Fisher is bound for Lock Haven University.

Mifflin County’s Andrew Bennett also plans to walk on at Shippensburg University. All three schools compete at the Division II level.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had this many athletes compete in college,” said Mifflin County boys coach Scot Sechler, who suited up for both Susquehanna University and Penn State in college. “From my viewpoint, they’ve all picked schools that fit them very well. I think they are all going to be great at the next level.”

Malik Sechler and Sheaffer both had planned to play football in college. They changed their minds when Pitt-Johnstown came calling with scholarship offers for track and field.

“Between my sophomore and junior year, I made it a goal of mine to play football in college,” said the younger Sechler, a standout receiver for the Huskies. He had 14 receptions for 304 yards and three touchdowns.

“When I went up there and visited (UPJ), I really liked it,” he adds. “It was definitely a big change. I’m excited to see where I end up with track and field.”

He plans to compete in the jumps and possibly sprints at UPJ.

“I’m so excited for him,” Scot Sechler said. “It’s such a fun experience competing at the college level and he’s going to get that chance.

“He’s been doing it for a long time, and I think he’s maturing as a jumper and sprinter. He’s got the body type for it and the attitude.”

Sheaffer, the Huskies’ backup quarterback and an outside linebacker, found UPJ was a perfect fit, offering the pharmacy major he wanted as well as an athletic alternative.

Sheaffer wants to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, former Lewistown product Justin Henry, who passed away tragically in 2004. Henry graduated from the University of Rhode Island and worked as a pharmacist.

“I always enjoyed watching him at work,” Sheaffer recalls. “I saw Pitt was the No. 9 pharmacy school in the nation.”

Add a scholarship to the mix, and the decision was a no-brainer. Sheaffer could compete in the javelin at UPJ and run the middle distances.

Fisher was immediately welcomed into the track and field family during his Lock Haven visit.

“What drew me to it was the campus,” he said. “I really, really liked it.”

Fisher could compete in the jumps for Lock Haven, which could set up a potential matchup against Sechler.

“It could be interesting jumping against Malik,” he says.

Bennett, who recently broke a 52-year-old county record in the discus, also fell in love with Shippensburg when attending a throwing camp on campus.

Coaches at the school have talked to him about competing in the discus, shot and hammer.

“If I don’t make it this year, I’ll try again my sophomore year,” he said.

Scot Sechler believes Bennett is a dark horse.

“With his size and work ethic, he is everything that they’re looking for. I think he’ll be a shocker for them.”

Cross country runner Ben Falkner had a specific checklist when looking at perspective colleges: They had to have state-of-the-art video editing studios and a decent track program.

Division III Messiah College met both requirements. It also helped that his parents, Scott and Stacey, were track and field standouts there. Older brother Chris is currently running cross country and track and field for the Falcons.

“It’s really nice, but it’s also terrifying,” Falkner said of continuing the family’s legacy at Messiah. “I have big shoes to fill.”

Falkner wants to major in public history, which he hopes will lead to a career in making documentaries.

“Ben has been a steady runner for us,” Sechler said. “He trains and competes hard, which I think translates well to the college level.”

Andrew Montgomery has battled nagging injuries the last few seasons, but seems to have hit his stride for the Huskies this year.

When the senior started looking at colleges, he considered running. Division III Marywood University, located in Scranton, offered the speech language pathology major he sought as well as a competitive track and field program.

“I really liked the campus, it was a nice atmosphere,” Montgomery said.

While he runs distance races for the Huskies, he isn’t certain where he will be running for Marywood.

Sechler is just happy Montgomery will have the opportunity to compete.

“This year, he’s healthy and continues to grow. He’s tall and lean, and really had the body type to be a great 800 runner,” the coach said.