SHIPPENSBURG - Will she or won't she?
That seems to be the big question heading into today's competition for Central Cambria High School junior Alyssa Brandis at the PIAA Track and Field Championships.
On a Friday that produced no medals for area girls field competitors at Shippensburg University's dry and hot Seth Grove Stadium, Brandis was one of a handful that qualified for the finals on the track as part of the Lady Red Devils' four-by-800-meter relay team.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Central Cambria’s Samantha Elkin (left) takes the baton from Katie Bracken in the 3200 relay.
Finals were held in half the field events, while only preliminary heats were run on the track - all the remaining finals are set for today.
Brandis is seeded fifth in the girls Class AA individual 3200 meters, which will be run at 9 a.m. The 3200 relay is run less than two hours later, leaving Brandis and Central Cambria with a tough decision; there's been consideration of using Taylor King-Brothers in the event as an alternate.
Brandis has made it clear what she'd like to do.
"I want to be in [the relay],'' Brandis said. "So, I'm going to do a hard two-mile, and I'm going to try my hardest in the four-by-eight.''
Central Cambria's 3200 relay of Brandis, Jordan Hayward, Katie Bracken and Sam Elkin kept their hopes for a medal alive with a fourth-place finish in its Class AA heat. Its time of 8 minutes, 50.75 seconds is 10th among the 12 finalists.
"That's what we were going for,'' Brandis said. "We just wanted to get top four to get into the [final] race.''
The Lady Red Devils ran consistently near the front of their heat and just got edged out for third by Camp Hill at the end. Elkin said the Lady Devils' approach was to "run your heart out.''
Northern Bedford ran in the same heat but missed out on the finals by finishing 10th with a time of 10:08.82. The Lady Panthers' order was Leah Hershberger, Alyssa Smith, Jillian Bottenfield and Maria Snyder.
Snyder still has a chance to medal in today's two-mile run - she was the silver medalist in the event last season.
Penn Cambria's Carly Petney was sixth in a seven-person heat, but her time of 12.88 still was good enough to get her into this morning's Class AA 100 dash semifinals.
Beyond that, it was a very tough day for area girls.
The struggles of Altoona's Nikki Kerns at the state meet continued. The Johns Hopkins-bound Lady Lion standout was unable to reach the finals in any of the three events for which she qualified at states.
"I'm a little embarrassed, disappointed. But I can't do anything about it,'' Kerns said. "I didn't feel nervous. Maybe that's a bad thing. It just didn't happen.''
Kerns just missed out on the semifinals in the Class AAA hurdles. She was fifth in her prelim heat with a time of 15.71. She came back in the afternoon but ended up placing seventh in the 300 hurdles at 46.19, which was good enough to meet the state qualifying standard but not enough to make the top eight for today's final.
"I thought I had a better chance in the 100s than the 300s, but I ran a terrible time at districts and was in Lane 1,'' Kerns said. "It's weird not having anything on your left side.''
Kerns also finished in a five-way tie for 21st in the high jump, going out after making 5 feet even.
Neither of the area girls in the Class AA 400 - King-Brothers and Huntingdon's Rachel Fleming - was able to get out of the preliminaries, both finishing sixth in their respective heats. Fleming checked in at 1:00.16. King-Brothers ran 1:01.30.
In the Class AA 300 hurdles, Bishop Carroll's Carrie D'Andrea was sixth in her heat with a 48.04, and Northern Cambria's Liz Cunningham was sixth in her prelim at 49.02, leaving both out of the finals.
Of the area girls in field finals on Friday, Bedford's Carrie Baker came closest to medaling. Baker achieved 10 feet, 6 inches in the Class AA pole vault, which put her in a group of eight knotted for 11th place.
Baker had cleared 10-9 this year but didn't have that opportunity on Friday. She was left with mixed emotions.
"I'm happy with what I did, being that it's my first year actually vaulting, but, at the same time, I'm disappointed, because I wanted to clear 11 [feet],'' said Baker, a junior who also finished 11th in her heat of the 800 run at 2:27.30 later in the day. "I have to get more confidence on my 13-foot pole. Today I used it for the first time, one time at 11. That's the next step.''
Everett's Keira Bair almost cleared 10-6 as well but just clipped the bar and brought it down. She finished in seven-way tied for 19th place.
Chestnut Ridge freshman Emily Finnegan finished just off her District 5 meet result of 105-8, throwing 105-4 to come in 15th out of 29 Class AA throwers in the discus.
Altoona's Katelyn Goodman was 24th in the Class AAA shot put, recording a top throw of 33-1.75.
Everett's Baylee Beegle finished 24th in the Class AA long jump. Her best result was 15-9.5.