Juniata boys a dominant force in district meet
Six individuals, two relays advance to PIAA championships; two D6 records for Baublitz
ALTOONA — It came down to one final relay Wednesday with Juniata knowing it needed a spot in the top three for a state berth — and a big finish to stay in line for its first District 6 Class 2A track and field championship.
The Indians were led by two incredibly strong performances — Garrett Baublitz and an amazing anchoring effort by Jeremiah Parson — to claim the gold, but fell just one point behind Richland in the team standings after the Rams grabbed third in the meet-ending 4×400-meter relay under the lights at Mansion Park.
Juniata finished with 80 team points to Richland’s 81.
Still, there was no room for disappointment in Juniata’s triumph. The Indians are sending six individuals to the PIAA championships in Shippensburg on Memorial Day weekend, along with two relay teams — the biggest qualifying class for the Indians under coach Kim Hart.
“We knew we could put the pressure on and tell them that they needed to win (the relay),” Hart said. “We knew they would go as hard as they could, and they didn’t cave under the pressure. They gave it all and then some.”
Juniata’s first-place team of Tad Shellenberger, Clay Yeager, Baublitz and Parson finished with a time of 3:29.68.
“I got around the first curve and I felt someone trying to pass me on the outside and I thought, please don’t be fast,” Parson said, speaking about anchoring the last leg. “He got way too excited and went way faster than he should’ve. After I got around that last curve, I just tried to keep my form as well as I could, and I was able to get it.”
For Shellenberger, the gold in the relay means his first visit to states.
“Coming into it I was really nervous,” Shellenberger said. “I knew we had a great team coming in and I knew as long as we did what we had to do we could get top three.”
Juniata’s mighty boys’ contingent was led by Garrett Baublitz, who shattered a 15-year old record in the 1,600-meter run before snatching a record that stood for 11 years in the 800. Baublitz achieved a blistering personal best of 4:15.31 in the 1,600, breaking the record by more than two seconds, while running 1:56.68 in the 800.
“I knew I could run it, but I wasn’t sure if I would get it today,” Baublitz said of the 1,600 record. “I’m really happy I did. I really wanted that meet record and when I hit the straightaway, I was like, ‘Yes, I got it!’ Our district is by far the best in the 1,600 and I felt a lot of pressure from it, but I knew I was going to run a good race because I had good people behind me.”
Will Tyson dominated in the hurdles, grabbing silver in the 110 with a time of 15.99 seconds. Tyson did a tremendous job closing, using a strong second 50 meters to grab second. He grabbed silver in the 300 hurdles as well with a time of 41.49 seconds.
“Coming away with two second-place finishes at this meet is an accomplishment I never thought I would have,” Tyson said. “I didn’t think I would be able to do this my junior year. I was shocked to place in the 110 hurdles, but I knew I had a shot in the 300 hurdles.”
Jeremiah Parson celebrated his birthday in style in the 400-meter run, entering as the top seed. Parson registered a time of 50.50 seconds to claim gold and advance to states for the first time. The states berth is even sweeter for Parson, who had to sit out last year’s district meet with a torn hamstring.
“There is nowhere else I’d rather be. I finally got it,” Parson said. “I felt like I would’ve made it before I got hurt last year and staying healthy this year makes it much better.”
Clay Yeager’s performance in the 800 was brilliant after a crushing disappointment in the 1,600 left him just short of a state qualifying standard berth. The first four finishers in the 1,600 qualified for states (the first three are automatic), with Yeager finishing fifth, just behind state time.
Yeager used his disappointment to fuel him in the 800-meter run before contributing to the dominant 4×400.
“I like the relay and there’s pressure shared there too,” Yeager said. “In the 800 I was just glad I made it after missing states in the 1,600. The 4×400 was fun.”
In the field events, the Indians’ Chase Lehman came in as the top seed in the pole vault and left with a gold medal. Lehman fell short of his personal best and his goal of 14 feet but is excited about the opportunity.
“It feels really good to compete with the better people and learn from them,” Lehman said. “I’d like to get to 14 feet and that’s been a goal I’ve had to increase my school record, but I just think it’s a good accomplishment to win districts and get to states.”
On the girls side, perhaps the most exciting event was the 4×100 relay, as the Indians found themselves sitting in the middle of a crowded pack before Zoey Burns took the baton with a full head of steam and dominated to bring Juniata’s relay of Anna Stroup, Nylah Pannebaker, Ashlyn Pannebaker and herself to states. Burns, a senior, is making her first trip to states in her final season.
“We went into this race as the top seed and we had pressure on us,” Burns said. “We wanted to see what we could do. I didn’t watch the handoff and just got ready and took off. I saw halfway through we were running fourth and I said, ‘No way we’re getting third’ and I was able to take over from there.”
Burn’s perseverance helped lead her relay and her effort isn’t lost on her teammates or her coaches.
“Zoey placed in her two sprints and the 4×100 today and she is a fierce competitor,” Hart said. “She is competitive with herself and she never settles for anything less than she can give and I am so happy for her.”
Burns said that she considered dropping out of her individual sprints to focus on getting to states with the 4×100 relay and the core of juniors Anna Stroup and Nylah Pannebaker, along with freshman Ashlyn Pannebaker, who pushed to get their senior teammate into states. Every member of the 4×100 will make their first trips to states. The 4×100 relay team broke the school record three times this season.
“I knew I needed to be extremely fast at the beginning because the seeding times were just so close together,” Stroup said. “I could barely watch at the end and thought we had finished top four, but I couldn’t really tell. We have a lot of fast underclassmen, but we wanted to do it for Zoey, and we pushed for ourselves and especially for her with it being her last year.”
In the field events, Megan Brubaker had a sensational effort in the triple jump, finishing fourth with a jump of 36 feet even to advance to states with a qualifying mark. The pressure was on Brubaker after scratching on her first two jumps.
“This is amazing,” Brubaker said. “My goal all season was to make it into states, and I’d been working so hard for this and I got it. It didn’t go well at first, but to advance was great. It was crazy high stressed after scratching my first two jumps, but it worked out.”
Hart said her coaching staff now turns its attention to the track at Seth Grove Stadium.
“In my head coaching time, this is the most I’ve ever been able to take,” Hart said. “I would like to see state champions and a pile of place winners. We’re not just going to go. We’re going to go and show what we have.”
District 6 Class 2A meet
Juniata and Mount Union results
Top 8 place; top 3 and SQS advance to state championships
4×800 relay: 18, J. 100 dash: 18, Carl Fowler, J. 110 hurdles: 2 Wil Tyson, 15.99, J, 27 Charlie Barton, J, 28 Theron Barton, Juniata. 200 dash: 17, Tad Shellenberger, Juniata, 25, Carl Fowler, J. 300 hurdles: 2. Wil Tyson 41.49, J, 22. Theron Barton, J. 400 dash: 1. Jeremiah Parson 50.50, J, 16. River Terry, M. 800 run: 1. Garrett Baublitz 1:56.58, J, 3. Clay Yeager 2:02.85, J. 1600 run: 1. Garrett Baublitz 4:15.31, J, 5. Clay Yeager 4:31.62, J. 3200 run: 9. James Hazard, J. 4×100: 9, J. 4×400 relay: 1. Juniata 3:29.68, J. Javelin: 4, Zach Coder 158-09, M, 11, Barrett Walters, J. Discus: 14. Garrett Meifert, J. Long jump: 12, Brayden Pannebaker, J. Shot put: 22, Garrett Meifert, J. High jump: 5. Jonathan Elliot 5-09, J, 11. Colt Parsons, M, 11 River Terry, M. Triple Jump: 10. Scott Brousius 38-10.75, J, 15. GG Ortiz, J. Pole Vault: 1. Chase Lehman 13-00.00, J. 14. Tansen Miller, J, 20. Stuart Dale, J.
4×800 relay: 8, Juniata 10:55.11. 100 hurdles: 16. Anna Stroup, J. 25. Mackenzie Bennett, J. 100 dash: 7 Zoe Burns 13.37, J, 11 Ashlyn Pannebaker, J, 18 Nylah Pannebaker, J 1600 run: 9. Emily Houtz, J, 10. Sydney Houtz, J. 4×100 relay: 3. Juniata 51.87, J. 300 hurdles: 15. Anna Stroup, J. 800 run: 8. Sydney Houtz 2:32.46, J, 25. Chloe Zendt, J. 200 dash: 6 Zoe Burns 27.62, J, 10. Ashlyn Pannebaker, J, 12. Nylah Pannebaker, J. 3200 run: 28. Emily Houtz, J. 4×400 relay: 16, J. Triple Jump: 4. Megan Brubaker 36-00.00 SQS, J. Long jump: 4. Megan Brubaker 15-11.50, J. Discus: 9. Madison Beward, J, 12, Emily Boozel, M, 13. Julie Hart, J. High Jump: 11 Olivia Clark, J. Shot put: 7. Malin Kint, 32-04.75, J, 11. Julie Hart, J.
Editor’s note: This story was modified from its original form to correct a factual error along with other minor edits.