Large Juniata group focused on goal

MIFFLINTOWN — As the week winds down and the nerves ramp up, members of the Juniata track and field team who are heading to states have shared the same thoughts.

Sleepless nights and anxious feelings have been common for the Indians but the focus has been simple — keep working on what has gotten the athletes this far and work for a personal best.

Juniata will send six individual athletes to compete in eight events, as well as two relays, in the PIAA Class 2A Championships Friday and Saturday.

Garrett Baublitz enters as the top seed in the1,600-meter run as well as the second seed in the 800. The junior is making his third trip to states, after earning a silver medal in the 1,600 a year ago.

“I’m very excited and very nervous at the same time,” Baublitz said. “It’s the state meet and it doesn’t get any better than that — or more prestigious. The pressure is there, even more so with good seedings.”

Jeremiah Parson enters the state meet as a senior after injuries cost him a spot last year. Parson enters as the seventh seed in the 400-meter dash and hopes to break the 50-second mark after hitting a personal record of 50.50 seconds at districts.

“I feel really good,” Parson said. “I’m really hoping to get a medal … I’ve been chasing this for a while and my freshman year I was top five in the district but the event was stacked back then. I’m glad to be here.”

Will Tyson qualified in two events, grabbing silver medals at districts in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. Tyson’s focus is mainly on reaching personal bests.

“I am confident to a limit,” Tyson said. “You have to respect your opponents, but I am confident that I can compete at my peak right now. I’m feeling good. Nerves are starting to get to me and they will kick in more and more tomorrow. I’m new to this, but I’m sure everything will work out.”

In the pole vault, Chase Lehman is seeded 15th with a vault of 13 feet to take gold at districts. Lehman is capable of hitting higher. Lehman said his goal is to crack 14 feet in his first trip to states.

“I’m feeling pretty good and I went hard in practice this week to try to perform my best at states,” Lehman said. “I’d like to get 14 feet. That was my goal to end high school with that. I’ve cleared 13-6 a couple times and if I could make 14 feet work that would be really good.”

Clay Yeager qualified in the 800 along with Baublitz and will compete in the 4×400 relay along with Baublitz, Parson and Tad Shallenberger. The relay allows Shellenberger to advance to compete in an event in Shippensburg.

“I’m really excited,” Sheallenberger said. “My times are coming along and I’ve just been getting back to it and trying to do better than what I am. Making it to states and winning [the 4×400] is a big improvement. Just coming to states is new to me. Hopefully the nerves don’t get to me and I run my best.”

Megan Brubaker is the lone girls individual representative for Juniata. Brubaker advanced to states after finishing fourth at districts in the triple jump with a jump of 36 feet, qualifying on the state standard. She is seeded 10th in the event and hopes to reach a mark of 37 to 38 feet.

“I’ve been working for a big PR this whole season and I think that there is really no reason why I can’t PR,” Brubaker said. “It’s just exciting to see how I can do and I have a good chance of getting on the podium so that’s exciting too.”

Along with Brubaker, the girls team brings a 4×100 relay unit of Anna Stroup, Nylah Pannebaker, Ashlyn Pannebaker and Zoe Burns — a senior who is making her first trip to states. Burns said that the group hopes to just improve on their personal record from districts.

“Practice this week hasn’t been as hard as they have been this season,” Burns said. “All we really have to worry about is the handoff, so we’ve been trying to crackdown on our handoffs and focus on batton placement in our hands to try and break the record a little more. That’s what our goal is going into this last race. We’re not ranked the best but are focusing on running our best race.”

Different members of the track and field team have experienced their nerves in different ways.

“My freshman year when I went in, I couldn’t even talk,” Baublitz said. “I was just gagging because I was so nervous and my stomach was upset. Sometimes those nerves can help a little bit but they can also destroy you. You just have to go out and be confident in what you’re doing and have fun while you’re doing it.”

Brubaker has tried to block out the excitement and treat it like a normal week of practice.

“It’s kind of stressful and I’ve tried to not think about it in practice,” Brubaker said. “It is nerve racking. I’ve been working on shifting some things around and you worry that it may not work out.”

Two other area schools will be represented in the Class 2A meet.

Greenwood’s Mallory Kauffman leads the class with top seeds in two events and a realistic shot at breaking a 21-year-old record in the discus. She’s also in the shot put, as is Midd-West’s Kailey Swineford.

Abigail Taylor, from Greenwood, will join Brubaker in the triple jump. The Wildcats’ Paityn Wirth is in the 300 hurdles, Amiyah Priebe in the 3,200 and the team’s 4×400 quartet qualified.