Big meet performers: Sparked by three golds, Mounts place third overall

By on May 23, 2018


Ephrata’s winning 4 X 800 team of AJ Morales (left to right), Andrew Foster, Tyler Shue and Tanyon Loose await the medal ceremony after claiming gold with a time of 7:54.43 Saturday at Districts. Photo by Todd Ruth

The Ephrata boys track squad has proven to be a “big meet” team, and that was never more evident than this past week on the biggest stage yet at the District Three Championships in Shippensburg.

What the Mounts lack in numbers, they make up for it with high-end talent. And it almost carried them to a District Three Team title.

Sparked by three, gold-medal performances and seven total trips to the podium, the Mounts scored a total of 40½ points over the two-day meet to finish third overall in Class AAA behind only champion Mechanicsburg (51) and runner-up Penn Manor (43).

“To finish third is a great accomplishment as a team for the boys,” Ephrata Coach John Keller said. “I was aware going in that we had the opportunity to compete with the best in the District for the team title. It did not work out, but even being mentioned in the top three in the District as a boys track & field team is way above what the expectations were coming in back in early March. It is a tribute to what the boys were able to accomplish and how far we have come as a program in a short period of time.”

Leading the way for the Mounts were sophomore Tyler Shue (800) and junior Andrew Foster (3200), who both captured individual golds while also joining forces with senior AJ Morales and junior Tanyon Loose to win the 4 X 800 relay championship.

Foster came from behind to win the gold in the 3200 Friday, passing Mechanicsburg’s Morgan Cupp in the final stretch of the race to win with a time of 9:33.20.

Saturday, he maintained enough energy from his grueling race to keep the 15-meter lead Morales had earned on the first leg of the 4 X 800. That set the stage for Shue, who took the hand-off from third-leg runner Loose, to close things out and win gold with a time of 7:54.43.

Shue then capped off his day with his gold in the 800, grabbing the lead late to win in a time of 1:54.13.

“Guts, really is what it takes in both the 3200 and 800,” Keller said, summing up the performances of Foster and Shue. “I mean, Andrew did not have his best race (in the 3200), yet he persevered and made it happen on that last lap. That is just sheer energy and not wanting to lose or leave your team down. As for Shue, he is just so confident and smooth…nothing but the best from him. He will be a tough out looking ahead (to States).”

Other medal winners for the Mountaineer boys were: Morales, who was third behind Shue in the 800 (1:56.27); Elie Basenga, who finished in a tie for sixth in the high jump (6-0) and finished eighth in the triple jump (43-5); and Dawsen Miller, who placed eighth in the pole vault, clearing a height of 13-3.

On the girls’ side, Ephrata sent six more athletes to the medal stand as they finished 20th in the team standings with 14 points. Jenna Raezer was the top finisher for the Lady Mounts, taking fourth place in the shot put with a heave of 37-6.75. Other medal winners for the EHS girls included: Sarah Megivern, sixth place in the pole vault (11-6); Maddie Martin, seventh in the 400 (59.52); Jennie Young, seventh in the 200 (25.78); Alexus Clayton, eighth in the discus (107-11); and Kandice Liebl, eighth in the javelin (115-5).

Boys and girls combined, Ephrata will send eight total athletes to the State Meet back at Shippensburg this coming Friday and Saturday. Those athletes include: Foster (4X800); Shue (800 and 4X800); Morales (800 and 4X800); Loose (4X800); Basenga (high jump); Young (200); Megivern (pole vault); and Raezer (shot put).

“(Having eight athletes qualify) is amazing,” Keller said. “We have a pole vaulter, thrower, sprinter, jumper and middle distance…we just about have all events covered. It truly is a tribute to the coaches we have and the job they do to get these kids prepared to compete at the highest level track & field has to offer in the state. I call them the ‘Great 8.’ Not since I have been coaching have we had this many kids qualify for the State Meet.”

Foster, who will not run the 3200 at States in order to conserve energy and better their chances for the relay, in which they are seeded third, put it all together late in his final 3200 of the season.

The Ephrata junior led early but fell back into a tight pack. Then in the waning moments of the race, he saw the opportunity and found enough energy to pass Cupp and claim the gold.

“It’s really all my coaches, and all the training I’ve been doing, and my teammates cheering me on,” he said when asked about his late energy burst. “I felt like I was out of it while but my team was there to cheer me on and that really made me get back in the race and want to fight it out.”

In the 4 X 800, Morales got the team off to a good start.

“I felt pretty good,” he said after the race. “I’ve been a little disappointed in my times the past couple weeks, especially at the Championship of America and the Penn Relays. I didn’t split the times that I wanted so I’m kind of hungry to get those good times under my belt. Today I felt smooth the whole way. It felt great to hand-off to Andrew with the lead, especially because he had that 3200 under his legs from (Friday).”

Foster took the baton and lost some ground early but fought back to keep the lead Morales had gained.

“AJ getting out in front was really nice,” Foster said. “I was a little worried at first because I couldn’t see him, but he came through and was strong so I went out and just had to try to hold it and keep it there.”

While the pack did draw closer after the third leg, Shue quickly re-gained the big lead and easily cruised in for the win.

“It feels really good,” Shue said of the victory. “We put in the effort all season to get gold in the league and to get gold in the District. It’s paying off and we are all really happy for it.”

While Loose was happy, he said the foursome has it’s sights set on next week.

“We have big dreams,” he said. “This isn’t the only gold medal that we are working for. We know we have the talent on our team and the will to go all the way next week. We know our competitors, know who they have and they know who we have, so we just got to go out there and run the race of our lives and hopefully come away with something even better than this.”

Shue, who is also seeded third in the State 800, took the lead early in that event later in the day Saturday and held off eventual runner-up Jack Baker and Morales to win his second gold.

“Before the race started I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to lead the race,” Shue said. “I just kind of went out and it just happened that I ended up leading most of it. Once I got the lead, I tried to hold everyone off and just keep it steady.”


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