It will be interesting to see if Matt Barton has enough energy for dancing to keep his date for the Hollidaysburg Area High School prom, Alyssa Kustenbauder, happy next weekend, but the Golden Tiger standout athlete showed he had some pretty good moves at the District 6 Class AAA Track and Field Championships.
On a Thursday when Altoona won its 18th straight team crown while qualifying just three individuals and two relay teams for the state meet, Barton won two throwing events - one expected, one not so much so - on a beautiful Thursday at Mansion Park.
The only other area champions were Mountain Lions. Kolby Koeck and DeShae Lee reached new heights in the pole vault and high jump, respectively, and Uthman Hill made an incredible improvement on his regular season performances to prevail in the 110-meter hurdles. Altoona capped the night by winning a close race in the 1600 relay.
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Hollidaysburg’s Matt Barton will compete at states in two throwing events for the Golden Tigers next weekend.
The Lions' 3200 relay earned a trip to Hershey, too, by meeting a state qualifying time - only winners and those meeting that standard in each event got to move on.
"I was talking to Coach Ulery and Coach McConnell," said Barton, the Hollidaysburg multi-sport standout. "They said we're going to leave really early [next] Friday morning for the discus, then I have to come home for prom on Friday night and then come back Saturday morning for shot put. It'll be a busy couple of days."
After winning the event in which he was favored - the shot put - Barton decided to make a weekend out of the PIAA track meet and trade in his dress shoes for his track shoes for a trip right back to Shippensburg the next day via a surprise victory in the discus.
Admitting he surprised himself, Barton threw the disc 145 feet, 8 inches, winning by more than 12 feet. He entered the event seeded fourth, and his best result of the year was 135-0.
"It's the icing on the cake. Going into discus, obviously, I wanted to do well. I was seeded fourth. I wanted to get top three. Then I ended up PRing by about 10 feet. Everything just came together really nice," Barton said. "I think it was because I already accomplished my goal coming into the day, I wasn't as nervous about it, so that calmed my nerves and helped me."
Barton achieved what he set out to do during the afternoon throws, when he backed up his No. 1 seeding in the shot put.
Barton already had the event won by his final attempt, but he made it a bit more convincing with a toss of 49-7 3/4. Altoona's Josh Kutz was the runner-up, his best throw being 47-2 3/4.
"I just wanted to finish strong. I just went for it, and everything came together well," Barton said.
Barton's best throw of the season - and his career - came in a meet with Indiana in which he threw 50 feet, 7 inches. While he didn't reach that on Thursday, he was in the ballpark of the 50-foot mark, as he has been much of the year.
"This year, I really focused on getting my footwork better. With the spin, a lot is technical. There are a lot of minor details that can make a difference. Just getting my foot placement and my speed right is pretty important for me this year," Barton said. "It worked pretty well."
A scholarship-bound football player and champion wrestler, as well, Barton said the turning point on the track for him came at this meet a year ago.
"Last year, most of the season I was only around 42, 43. Then, at districts last year, I threw a 47," Barton said. "I've had a lot of success in athletics up until this point this year. Last year, when I got the 47, which was several feet further than my PR had been prior to that, it showed me that I had the ability to throw well, and that provided me motivation to keep at it and see just how far I could go."
Koeck won the pole vault with relative ease, too. He was the only vaulter left at 14-0, and, at that point, was competing against himself.
And, in that respect, he won, also. He broke the 15-foot mark for the first time in his career, making 15-1 before finally bowing out.
"The highlight was jumping 15-1," Koeck said. "Winning was good, too, but I've been working so hard to get 15. I finally got it."
Koeck, who just signed with Villanova as the latest product of Altoona's great pole vaulting program, didn't even know his final height.
"I didn't realize it until I looked down, and I didn't even realize what height it was," Koeck said. "I told Coach Graz, 'Put it to whatever you think I can get, and don't tell me what it is.'"
"Coach Graz" is former Lion pole vaulting standout Shane Graziosi. Koeck credited him with much of his success this season.
"Sometimes I just get worked up or try a little too hard to do something. He says don't be outcome-oriented. You've got to be process-oriented," Koeck said. "It's given me a better mental focus. He's a big part of how well I did this year. He really calms me down and tells me exactly what I need to hear."
"The skills seemed to all be there [to get 15 feet], but probably the mental state, focus [was lacking]. Sometimes I'd get riled up over little things that made me mess up. Today, I just calmed down, relaxed and did better."
While Koeck was thrilled with his performance, the same could not be said of Lee. A prohibitive top seed in the high jump, Lee topped his best effort of the season and came within an inch of his career best by clearing 6-7. No one else even made 6-0.
However, the win was a struggle, and it might have been costly for the defending state bronze medalist.
"I'm just still battling this hamstring," Lee said. "I ended up repulling it again.
"I was just focused on more for coming back for triple and trying to do the best I could to get these points to hold off State [College for the team championship]. I knew the high was just going to be a matter of how high I was going to go. So, I wasn't really worried about that."
"I didn't feel my best, but it is what it is."
Lee also was the top seed in the long jump. However, fourth-seeded Bryce Williams won that event with a jump of 21-5. Lee finished third, his best mark being 20-11; his best jump of the season was 21-6 1/2.
Lee knows the next week will be crucial for his chances to repeat in his premier event.
"[I just need] a lot of rest. A lot of rest. Then tough it out, I guess," Lee said. "I'm a competitor at the end of the day. I hate losing, so I'm going to do what I have to do."
Hill's best time in the 110 hurdles heading into districts was 15.98, earning him the third seed behind Mifflin County's Nathan Baumgardner and his own younger brother, Jabril. But the elder Hill flashed to the best time in the trials - 15.06 seconds, which would have met the state qualifying standard - and then followed with a 15.29 in the finals to clip the top-seeded Baumgardner by .01.
"The kid from Mifflin County beat me at West Central, and I just didn't want to lose. So I ran. It was a good race," Hill said. "I knew I could do it, but I haven't shown it. I showed it today.
"I believe in myself. Coaches told me I was capable, and I knew I was. I gave it all I had," Hill added. "It feels awesome. I've been waiting for this for so long. I've been close but never had a chance to feel that. I'm happy."
Hill said being in what figured to be a down-to-the-wire team race with State served as added motivation.
"This is a big meet. This is important to us. Big meets are where I show my real talent, and this is what happened," Hill said.
Altoona's Joe Reffner held off 400 dash champion Mason Post of State over the last 300 meters to send he, Mitch Endress, Jon Stolz and Christian Toohey to states as the District 6 1600 relay champs with a time of 3 minutes, 28.39 seconds. That capped off the Lions' team win with 224 points compared to State's 178.
It will be a much smaller Altoona contingent in Shippensburg this year, though. The only other members are Dom Stroh, Brad Foust and Terry Futrell, who combined with Endress to meet the qualifying time in the 3200 relay by running 7:54.92 in finishing second to State College by about 2 seconds.
"Hopefully that speaks to the quality of our district right now," Altoona coach Mike Adams said. "Mifflin County's a strong team. State College is a very strong team. Going into this, it didn't look like we were going to continue the streak, but our kids were just competitors. They're tough, blue-collar kids that never say die. Their toughness showed today on the track."
Altoona's Jon Stolz just missed joining his teammates in Shippensburg. He had the lead on Mifflin County's Ian McGinnis in the 100 but couldn't quite hold on. McGinnis outleaned him at the tape to win by three-hundredths of a second with a time of 11.27.
The Lions also received second-place points from Reffner in the 400, Brennan Luciano in the javelin and the 400 relay team.
Meet notes: Barton and Koeck were the Class AAA boys recipients of the Blair County Chapter of PIAA Track and Field Officials Outstanding Performer Awards. ... McGinnis, Williams and Mifflin County distance runner Jon Colwell were the only other competitors to win two individual events. Colwell scratched out of the two-mile run for states, so Bellefonte's Mitchell Smith will go in his place.
KEY, TEAM SCORING:
100 dash: 1, McGinnis, MC, 11.27; 2, Stolz, A, 11.30; 3, Kline, MC, 11.36; 4, Brunner, H, 11.44; 5, U. Hill, A, 11.57; 6, Daman, SC, 11.60; 7, Toohey, A, 11.74; 8, Renninger, CM, 11.90.
200 dash: 1, McGinnis, MC, 22.76; 2, Beck, MC, 22.76; 3, Kline, MC, 22.96; 4, Stolz, A, 23.00; 5, Post, SC, 23.40; 6, U. Hill, A, 23.63; 7, Close, SO, 23.71; 8, Hsu, SC, 23.77.
400 dash: 1, Post, SC, 60.58; 2, Reffner, A, 51.52; 3, Hsu, SC, 52.06; 4, Terchanick, H, 52.28; 5, Stolz, A, 52.74; 6, Wagner, SC, 53.93; 7, Edwards, A, 53.94; 8, Aungst, H, 54.14.
800 run: 1, Gipson, B, 1:55.85; 2, Cather, SC, 1:57.66; 3, Endress, A, 1:58.00; 4, Foust, A, 1:59.08; 5, Golenbeski, SC, 2:00.24; 6, Baronner, H, 2:00.74; 7, Lingafelt, A, 2:05.24; 8, Ciccolini, MC, 2:05.81.
1600 run: 1, Colwell, MC, 4:19.57; 2, Cather, SC, 4:26.44; 3, Foust, A, 4:27.32; 4, Stroh, A, 4:31.97; 5, Bollinger, SC, 4:33.22; 6, Parker, MC, 4:45.57; 7, Futrell, A, 4:46.12; 8, Snyder, H, 4:46.27.
3200 run: 1, Colwell, MC, 9:39.85; 2, Smith, B, 9:44.31; 3, Knudsen, MC, 9:44.64; 4, Stroh, A, 9:57.28; 5, Monroe, MC, 9:57.90; 6, Beyerle, SC, 10:04.58; 7, Milligan, SC, 10:07.68; 8, Foust, A, 10:15.79.
110 hurdles: 1, U. Hill, A, 15.29; 2, Baumgardner, MC, 15.30; 3, J. Hill, A, 15.72; 4, Banerjee, SC, 16.14; 5, Baker, H, 16.19; 6, Mencer, A, 16.42; 7, Shultz, H, 16.63; 8, J. Smith, SC, 19.15.
300 hurdles: 1, Baumgardner, MC, 39.77; n 2, J. Smith, SC, 39.79; 3, U. Hill, A, 41.28; 4, Romanowicz, A, 41.74; 5, Carper, A, 42.91; 6, Baker, H, 43.06; 7, T. Smith, SC, 43.66; 8, Banerjee, SC, 43.69.
400 relay: 1, Mifflin County (Beck, Kline, Baumgardner, McGinnis), 43.37; 2, Altoona, 44.46; 3, State College, 44.88; 4, Somerset, 45.66; 5, Johnstown, 45.79; 6, Hollidaysburg, 46.14; 7, Central Mountain, 46.47; 8, Bellefonte, 48.33.
1600 relay: 1, Altoona (Endress, Stolz, Toohey, Reffner), 3:28.39; 2, State College, 3:28.66; 3, Hollidaysburg, 3:33.26; 4, Mifflin County, 3:37.17; 5, Bellefonte, 3:39.37; 6, Central Mountain, 3:40.05; 7, Johnstown, 3:45.12; 8, Somerset, 3:51.70.
3200 relay: 1, State College (Bollinger, Stashko, Adams, Cather), 7:52.51; n 2, Altoona (Endress, Stroh, Foust, Terry Futrell), 7:54.92; 3, Bellefonte, 8:25.26; 4, Hollidaysburg, 8:41.68; 5, Central Mountain, 8:45.98; 6, Mifflin County, 9:08.51; 7, Johnstown, 9:36.08.
High jump: 1, Lee, A, 6-7; 2, Williams, SC, 5-11; 3, Mayo, J, 5-11; 4, Hsu, SC, 5-11; 5, Barnes, H, 5-11; 6, Larison, J, 5-9; 7, Forziat, SC, 5-9; 8 (tie) Corl, A, and Foreman, A, 5-9.
Long jump: 1, Williams, SC, 21-5; 2, Valentine, SC, 20-11; 3, Lee, A, 20-10; 4, Lytle, A, 20-6 1/2; 5, Luciano, A, 20-1; 6, King, SC, 19-10; 7, Donahey, MC, 18-9 1/4; 8, Larison, J, 18-4 3/4.
Triple jump: 1, Williams, SC, 46-2; 2, Valentine, SC, 45-5; 3, King, SC, 44-3 1/2; 4, Luciano, A, 43-10; 5, Lee, A, 43-8; 6, Lytle, A, 43-7 1/2; 7, Michaels, MC, 40-4 1/2; 8, Dick SO, 40-2 1/2.
Shot put: 1, Barton, H, 49-7 3/4; 2, Kutz, A, 47-2 3/4; 3, Mullin, SC, 46-1 1/4; 4, Span, A, 45-5 1/2; 5, Grasser, B, 43-6 1/4; 6, Murphy, SC, 41-2; 7, Sikoskas, CM, 40-8 1/4; 8, Smith, MC, 40-8 1/4.
Discus: 1, Barton, H, 145-8; 2, Cryder, CM, 133-4; 3, Span, A, 130-3; 4, Long, CM, 124-11; 5, Kutz, A, 124-6; 6, Hallinan, A, 123-6; 7, Jeffers, J, 123-5; 8, Mullin, SC, 121-9.
Javelin: 1, Klein, CM, 179-7; 2, Luciano, A, 175-8; 3, Long, MC, 167-0; 4, Sube, SO, 159-4; 5, Buckwalter, CM, 158-8; 6, Weigand, A, 156-5; 7, Aspray, SC, 155-11; 8, Bender, MC, 147-11.
Pole vault: 1, Koeck, A, 15-1; 2, Thompson, SC, 13-9; 3, Smith, A, 13-3; 4, Russo, A, 12-9; 5, Donahey, MC, 12-9; 6, Pierce, H, 12-3; 7, Menser, SO, 11-9; 8, Gray, SC, 11-9.
n - met PIAA qualifying standard.