Pair of Indians qualify for state meet
Shepps sets Juniata record in 300 hurdles
ALTOONA — If you looked at the seedings coming into Tuesday’s District 6 Class 2A track and field championships, you’d have to figure Juniata was in position to be well represented at this year’s state meet.
Lady luck’s smile cracked at the Indians well before the trip to Mansion Park, and her mood seemed to improve little on the trip over Seven Mountains.
An injury took one top athlete out, and that scratched the Indians out of the boys 4×800-meter relay, where they were top seed. A returning state qualifier didn’t make it. Aside from the pretty much expected performance of Garrett Baublitz, no one from Juniata was having a good day.
Except Ellie Shepps. Juniata’s senior hurdler streamed tears of joy across the football infield after her third-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles.
Third? Sure — it was more than a bronze medal for a team that needed something new to cheer about.
Her 47.59-second run qualified her for the state championships May 25-26 in Shippensburg, and at the same time etched her more permanently into the school’s memory — she broke the school record by nearly a quarter of a second. She also finished fifth in the 100 hurdles.
Even though she was fourth seed in a meet where three finishers automatically advance, Shepps admitted she wasn’t sure even she saw this coming.
“I’m not really sure honestly. I don’t know,” she said.
Shepps has moved around into different events over her four years, mostly short distance, looking for this level of success.
“My coach put me in sprints for most of my years. This is kind of a sprint, but longer,” she explained. That, and the hurdles.
“Freshman year I was better at the 100s and then I kind of weaned off them to the 300s,” she said. “But I didn’t do the best until this year.”
With a seed time north of 49 seconds but only a small fraction to the next above her, Shepps decided she was going to make the most of her last opportunity.
“That was part of the mentality, that I’m a senior so this was my last race,” she said. “I just put all my faith in God and said if I want to do this today, then it will be his will. I want to do it.”
Now it’s not her last race. Next on the agenda?
“First of all, to take a rest and get something to eat because I’m pretty hungry,” she said. Long term? “I just have to train hard and do my best. It’s my last year doing this so I want to do the best I can.”
The only other qualifier was, not surprisingly, Baublitz. The sophomore distance demon led the 1,600-meter run from the start and will make his second appearance in the event at Shippensburg, which will actually be his fourth state appearance as a runner including cross country.
“I’m getting a lot of experience — it helps a lot,” he said. “I’ve gotten better at it.”
The race from the get-go was between Baublitz and Southern Huntingdon’s Andrew Stanley, but the Juniata runner was the rocket — Baublitz said he took too fast a start and it later made the race more difficult.
“I got a little carried away, excited and nervous. Then I thought, hang on, take it easy and cruise,” he said. “It worked until I got to the third lap when it caught up a little bit.”
Baublitz had a few seconds on Stanley for all four laps, and until the very end one of the other runners were really in contention. He finished five seconds ahead of Stanley at 4:21.44; third and fourth were another five seconds and then the gap widened.
Baublitz said even the next runner was not his concern.
“I was trying to ignore him, pretend he wasn’t there and race against the clock,” he said. “I did OK.”
Baublitz added a fourth place in the 3,200.
A pair of state contestants a year ago finished their track careers without a return. Juniata’s Sydney Sheaffer struggled in the high jump, and Mount Union’s Tavin McMickens — that school’s only serious contender — was off by a spot in the 400.
“This year I definitely ran into a roadblock. I got injured about halfway through the season and getting back into it was pretty tough,” McMickens explained.
He had beaten Tanner Worthing, the Bellwood Antis who got the last state spot, in a meet earlier but Worthing had the edge in this one.
“He got a good push. He had that last little kick in him and he passed me,” said McMickens, whose finish made him the lone individual to place from his school.
Sheaffer said she’s had her share of problems this year too, including illness and shin problems.
“I haven’t been doing well this year. I’ve hit 5-2 off and on,” she said. “I was just not myself.”
Sheaffer, who was tied for sixth in the high jump, will continue her career at Bloomsburg University. McMickens, while done with track, is headed to West Point.
Other individual place winners for the Indians were Zoe Burns in the 200, Madison Beward in the girls discus and Wade Moore in the boys discus. Mount Union’s boys 4×100 relay and Juniata’s boys 4×400 and all three of the Indians’ girls relays were top eight finishers.
Bishop Carroll was first among girls teams and Juniata 12th. Mount Union had no female athletes in the meet. Richland was the top boys team. Juniata was 10th and Mount Union tied for 17th.
District 6 Class 2A meet
Juniata and Mount Union results
Top 8 place; top 3 and SQS advance to state championships
110 hurdles: 19, Theron Barton, J. 100 dash: 17, Carl Fowler, J. 1,600 run: 1, Garrett Baublitz, J, 4:21.44; 7, Clay Yeager, J, 4:43.89; 14, Zeb Ames, J. 400 dash: 4, Tavin McMickens, MU, 52.04. 4×100 relay: 6, Mount Union, 45.51. 300 hurdles: 11, Will Tyson, J. 200 dash: 19, Tad Shellenberger, J. 3,200 run: 4, Garrett Baublitz, J, 10:03.04. 4×400 relay: 6, Juniata, 3:39.89. Triple jump: 12, Jonathan Elliott, J. Discus: 5, Wade Moore, J. Javelin: 24, Barrett Walters, J. Pole vault: 10T, Chase Lehman, J.
4×800 relay: 5, Juniata, 10:35.63. 100 hurdles: 5, Ellie Shepps, J, 17:03; 10, Samantha Bainey, J; 11, Anna Stroup, J; 21, Carly Orrix, J. 100 dash: 13, Zoe Burns, J; 15, Nylah Pannebaker, J. 1,600 run: 15, Sydney Houtz, J. 4×100 relay: 6, Juniata, 52.68. 300 hurdles: 3, Ellie Shepps, J, 47.59. 800 run: 9, Josie Swartz, J. 200 dash: 8, Zoe Burns, J, 27.82; 12, Nylah Pannebaker, J; 13, Janessa Swartz, J. 3,200 run: 14, Carli Walters, J. 4×400 relay: 8, Juniata, 4:24.05. Long jump: 14T, Megan Brubaker, J; 16, Sydney Sheaffer, J. Triple jump: 10, Megan Brubaker, J. High jump: 6T, Sydney Sheaffer, J, 4-10; 18T, Olivia Clark. Shot put: 10, Malin Kint, J; 18, Julie Hart, J. Discus: 7, Madison Beward, J, 99-5. Javelin: 20, Madison Beward, J. Pole vault: 11T, Makenzi Beward, J.