Ephrata girls clinch fifth section title in six years

By on May 10, 2017
Ephrata’s Kandice Liebl set her PR en route to winning the javelin Monday vs. E-town. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Ephrata’s Kandice Liebl set her PR en route to winning the javelin Monday vs. E-town. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

After watching their string of four-straight Section Two championships snapped a year ago, the Ephrata’s girls track team had one big, obvious goal entering this year.

Get it back.

But without many standouts, the Lady Mounts had to rely on contributions from a number of athletes this year to return to the top.

Mission accomplished.

Monday afternoon at home in the season finale meet vs. Elizabethtown, Ephrata completed a perfect 7-0 league season (8-0 overall) with a resounding 105-44 victory over the Bears.

Nine different athletes won individual events, including two each by sprinter Jennie Young and thrower Jenna Raezer. That effort was more than enough to defeat the Bears, and clinch their now fifth section title in six years.

“In some ways, this section championship is more satisfying than any of the four prior to this,” Ephrata Coach john Keller said. “These girls were just resilient, each time they were asked to respond to a challenge, they answered with a resounding win. Our expectations as a team are probably higher than most — We have come to expect to be at the top of our section. This was not a star-studded group, yet together they were able to build on a solid foundation, and produce a very good dual meet team. It was pretty neat to stand back and watch this season unfold.”

A year ago, Ephrata was denied the title after tying in two different meets which allowed Cocalico and Garden Spot to edge them out. The way that unfolded added some fuel to the fire heading into this year.

“This feels real good,” senior distance runner Haley Schaller said. “Last year we were really close so it feels good to come back from that and kind of show everyone that we still have the depth and potential to do as well as well did the past four years. (Winning the section title) was definitely one of our main goals but we didn’t really dwell on it. We just kind of took it meet by meet and took care of business.”

As they did when they handed Manheim Central it’s lone loss (95-55) back on April 24, the Lady Mounts rose to the occasion again Monday with E-town looking to force a three-way tie for the title.

Young captured both the 100 (12.3) and 200 (26.3) while Raezer PRed in two events as she claimed the shot put (32-9) and discus (102-2). Others also stepped up to the plate with wins, including: Chelsea Brubaker in the 400 (63.0), Mary Campbell in the 1600 (5:26.2); Nadine Eichenlaub in the 3200 (11:55.6); Kyra Horst in the high hurdles (16.0); Kandice Liebl, a PR in the javelin (118-11); Faith Hershberger in the long jump (16-3); and Sierra Zimmerman in the high jump (4-8).

In addition to adding wins in the 400 and 3200 relays, Ephrata got key second and third place points in a number of events, highlighted by Sydney Morgan’s second place finish to E-town star Katie locker in the 800. And Sarah McGivern’s runner-up performance in the pole vault where she broke her own school record by clearing 10-0 to finish behind only Ryleigh Edmonds of E-town, who cleared 10-6.

“This year we did not have that one ‘standout’ athlete,” Keller said. “What we had was a whole bunch of above average kids who made a commitment back on November 29 (first day of winter track) to make this sport a priority, and then day-in and day-out worked hard to improve our individual skill sets. We also counted on a lot of different girls, many sophomores and first-year athletes who have all responded at different times of the season to help build this team as it is. Collectively, we probably just had our best meet of the season. The girls produced 28 PRs, and all through the lineup we were pretty much at the top of our game. I am totally convinced that our depth played a major role in this team going 8-0 and re-claiming the section title.”

Sarah Holtz, who herself earned a key second-place finish in the 300 hurdles, added, “I definitely think we rise to the challenge in big meets. We just piggy-back off each other and encourage each other as a team…I think we do well with that.

“I was very happy that we won because we’ve come so far as a team this season. We’ve grown closer together and we’ve learned how to work together through tough situations and worked through them as a team, so that was kind of cool to see it all end up in a section title.”

The Ephrata boys’ team also closed out the regular season on an up note Monday, completing the team sweep with a 96-54 win over the Bears.

The Mounts improved their record to 2-5 in Section Two play (2-6 overall) behind a strong day in the field.

Ephrata out-scored the Bears 25-2 in the field as Elie Basenga won three events, and tied Cocalico’s Demetri Whitsett for the top leap in the L-L League in the high jump as he reached a height of 6-4. Wyatt Schwanger also stood out with a PR throw of 137-5 to win the javelin.

On the track, Zach Lefever captured both the 1600 (4:33.9) and 3200 (9:40.4) while Tyler Shue (400, 53.5) and AJ Morales (800, 1:59.5) also stood out.

“It was real nice to see this group of boys close out the season with a team win,” Keller said. “We were really only a guy or two short from being a very respectable boys’ team, and I think the leadership of Zach Lefever has played a key role in keeping the boys focused. They have turned into a close knit group…I have seen the bond on this team start during the winter track season. AJ Morales, a junior team captain has been instrumental as well.”

Other individual winners for the Ephrata boys Monday included: Humberto Cisneros in the 200 (24.3); and Jordan Zahm in the discus (123-5).

The Mounts also took both the 1600 and 3200 relays to round out the victory.

In addition to Monday’s meet, Ephrata also competed in the Blue Streak Relays held Saturday at Manheim Township.

The Ephrata boys, who finished in 10th place overall, captured the lone first-place medal on the day as the boys 4 X 1600 relay team of Morales, Tanyon Loose, Andrew Foster and Lefever captured gold in a time of 50.68.

On the girls’ side, Ephrata turned in a strong team performance despite any first place finishes.

The Lady Mounts finished fourth overall with a team total of 53½ points.

The girls 4 X 100 relay team of Hershberger, Horst, Young and Tamyra Martin set a personal record time of 50.68 to capture second place.

Other second-place winners for Ephrata included: the team of Raezer and Liebl in the javelin (182-8); the team of Morgan, Sierra Zimmerman, Eichenlaub and Campbell in the 4 X 1600 (22:43.95); and the team of Madison Martin, Horst, Young and Brubaker in the sprint medley relay (1:55.01).

Ephrata added three third place finishes. Those placing third included: the team of Megivern and Hershberger in the pole vault (18-6); Raezer and Liebl in the shot put (59-8); and Raezer and Liebl in the discus (168-7).

Other place winners for the Ephrata girls included: Hershberger and Natalie Zimmerman, sixth place in the long jump (28-8¼); Zimmerman and Ciara Barreto, sixth place in the high jump (9-0); the team of Elizabeth Martin, Campbell, Megan Ward and Sierra Zimmerman, sixth place in the distance medley relay (14:32.42); and the team of Madison Martin, Kayley Eshleman, Lena Zakharov and Barreto, sixth place in the 4 X 400 relay (4:23.74).

With the regular season completed, Ephrata will turn its attention to the L-L League Meet, which will be held Friday and Saturday at Hempfield High School. Action gets underway Friday at 4 p.m. and will resume Saturday at 10 a.m.




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