Ephrata athletes capture three L-L League golds

By on May 14, 2014

Though it didn’t rival the excitement of the Ephrata girls championship Saturday of a year ago, Ephrata still fared pretty well this past weekend at the L-L League Meet at Hempfield.

The defending champion Lady Mounts finished a respectable fourth overall (47 points) &tstr; Hempfield (100 points) won the girls’ title &tstr; while Ephrata athletes captured three gold medals, set eight PRs (boys and girls) and a pair of school records on the weekend.

As expected, Crystal Hartman threw her way to the gold in the javelin. With wind in the throwers’ faces, Hartman, who also claimed sixth place in the discus (108-4), uncorked a throw of 123-1 to easily best runner-up Alyssa Patches of Annville-Cleona, who threw 117-7. Jenna Lawville of Cocalico was third at 116-10.

In a tight race to the finish last Saturday, in the L-L League girls 4x100, Ephrata's Kelly  Liebl (right) edges out Cocalico anchor Emly Fassnacht (left) at the tape for the gold medal. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

In a tight race to the finish last Saturday, in the L-L League girls 4×100, Ephrata’s Kelly Liebl (right) edges out Cocalico anchor Emly Fassnacht (left) at the tape for the gold medal. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

While Hartman said her throw was about what she averages, getting the gold was all that mattered.

“It’s a really good feeling,” she said. “I’ve been at the top of the league all year but to actually perform and do it here today, it’s really good.”

Ephrata Coach John Keller said he was happy to see Hartman accomplish one of her big goals.

“It was great to see Crystal get the gold in the javelin, this being her senior year,” he said. “I know she has put in a lot of time and effort in that event and wanted to go out on top, and anytime you see an athlete achieve what you know their goals have been it is nice to see.”

Ephrata’s other two golds came in relay events as the Lady Mounts’ 4X800 and 4X100 earned titles.

In the 4X800 relay, Ephrata’s team of Haley Schaller, Taylor Mahlandt, Nicole Wilkerson and Andrea Castillo outlegged Hempfield’s foursome for a winning time of 9:52.52

Keller called it one of the highlights of the day for Ephrata.

“We have been knocking on the door for a few years in this event and to finally see them bring home the top prize was just a highlight of the meet,” he said. “Tough race too…they had to work but they persevered and brought home gold. Those girls had a great season so I was extremely proud of them in that race.”

The 4X100 was, as expected, another tight race to the finish between Ephrata and Cocalico, which have been battling it out for top honors in that event all year.

Cocalico, which was 1-2 in previous head-to-head battles with Ephrata on the year, opened up about a four-foot lead on Ephrata when Lady Mounts’ anchor Kelly Liebl got the baton. But, Liebl kicked it into high gear and ran down the Lady Eagles’ Emily Fassnacht, edging her out at the tape. Kay Liebl, Cassie Vaitl, Yasi Davis and Kelly Liebl’s winning time of 49.44 was not only a PR, but set a school record in the process.

Liebl said she felt confident when she received the baton.

“I have a lot of faith in my team getting the baton around the track, and I felt good when it got in my hands,” she said. “I was just ready to go and catch her. It felt great (when I got to the finish line).”

Keller added, “(It was) just a great race. The girls’ handoffs were near perfect and I could not have scripted anything better. They just excelled to perfection in a race that can afford very little to no mistakes.”

It was especially satisfying for Kelly Liebl, who about an hour earlier false started as one of the favorites in the 100 and was disqualified.

Ephrata senior Crystal Hartman prepares to release her gold-medal winning throw of 123 feet, 1 inch in the girls javelin at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Championships last weekend at Hempfield. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata senior Crystal Hartman prepares to release her gold-medal winning throw of 123 feet, 1 inch in the girls javelin at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Championships last weekend at Hempfield. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

“The false start was very unfortunate,” Keller said. “However the cruelty of sports teaches these kids good life lessons. Things do not always happen and go according to plan and we need to adjust. I told Kelly, ‘what happened…happened, nothing we can do about it, but do not let it ruin the rest of your meet.’ Kelly is a great athlete and she has a lot of pride and I did not doubt for one minute that she would not come back. Her biggest disappointment was…and I quote from her ‘I just left the team down…’ That alone tells you something about this girl. I knew when she got the stick in the 4X1 it was her race. I could not be any more proud of the way she bounced back.”

Not only did Liebl help win the 4X100, she set a school record in the 200 with a time of 24.98 to earn silver, breaking the long-held mark of 25.26 set by Sheila Mellinger back in 1978. She also won silver in the long jump with a leap of 16-11#-R.

In addition to the medal winners on the girls’ side, four other Ephrata athletes set personal records in their respective events at leagues. They included: Castillo, 2:24.81 in the 800; Natalie Flaim, 16.85 in the 100 hurdles; Erica Voigt, 49.05 in the 300 hurdles; and Brianne Balmer, 27-3 in the shot put.

As far as the Ephrata boys were concerned, the 4X800 team of Chris Hershberger, Peneal Wolde, Nate Becker and Alex Smith ran a PR time of 8:21.72 to capture third place in that event and qualify for Districts.

“Top three in the league, wow!,” Keller said. “I could not have asked for any more of this foursome. They have come a long way this spring, and to have both 4X800 meter relay teams at the District Three meet says something about our distance team. I am just very happy for them to get another chance to race next week, and to fall short to Cedar Crest and McCaskey as the only two teams that beat us…pretty good stuff.”

Smith added a sixth place medal in the 1600 with a time of 4:37.85, and although he didn’t win a medal, Keller lauded thrower Brenden Ruth for his eighth-place finish in the javelin. The senior, who threw just 91 feet in his first meet of the season, uncorked a PR of 157-8 to make the finals and just finish out of a medal.

“What a last three weeks and end of a season run Brenden had,” Keller said. “He pulls off the win at home vs. Lebanon a few weeks back, he picks up a team javelin win at the Township relays with teammate Will Young, then pretty much comes out of nowhere to qualify for finals at the league meet…that really had to be one of our best performances of the weekend, from a young man who a few weeks back probably did not even think he would represent our team at the league meet. That is why you never give up on these kids and is the great thing about our sport. I know throwers Coach (Jim) Vieland was beaming with pride, and as I watched him in the finals, so was I. It was just a great accomplishment on his part.”

The athletes will now prepare for the District Three Meet which is set for Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg University.

Bruce Morgan is a staff writer for the Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4451.

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