Ephrata girls down Cocalico, clinch tie for section CHS boys earn team split
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Ephrata Track Coach John Keller has a luxury few have in the L-L League.
While most teams have at least one athlete who can get them points in key places, Keller has two such stars in senior Mary Witmer and sophomore Kelly Liebl, in addition to a stable full of other solid point producers throughout the lineup.
That formula was the key to Ephrata winning its first-ever Section Two title a year ago. And it’s the same one that now has the Lady Mounts on the doorstep of their second-straight outright championship.
Monday afternoon in Denver, Witmer captured four event wins while Liebl added three victories to lead the Lady Mounts to a 94-56 victory over host Cocalico.
The win helped the Lady Mounts clinch at least a share of the Section Two title as they improved to a perfect 6-0 in section play and remain one win ahead of second-place Garden Spot (5-1), which upended Manheim Central Monday. Ephrata needs just one more win in its regular season finale at winless Lebanon (0-6) next Monday afternoon to wrap up the title out-right.
"Well it really is special," Keller said after clinching a tie for the crown Monday, "considering the girls have done something that no other girls track and field team from Ephrata has done before in winning the title in back to back seasons. I just have this real sense of pride and appreciation toward all the girls and the coaches for all the hard work I have seen them all put in. It takes a lot of effort and energy to build a winning tradition, and to see this come full circle, two times, is just a great feeling of accomplishment."
Witmer and Liebl certainly had a big hand in it Monday. Witmer captured the high hurdles (15.7) 400 (1:01.2), 300 hurdles (45.3) and triple jump (32-11 3/4) while Liebl captured wins in the 100 (13.0), 200 (26.5) and long jump (16-0 1/2).
"Having Mary and Kelly on your team certainly gives you confidence as a coach," Keller said. "You can pretty much count on 35 points from those two girls in any given meet and they are not only very talented, they step up against big-time competition. Kelly just does not bat an eye…she is a complete gamer and for only being a sophomore, performs at levels above that. As for Mary, she is much the same, very confident on the track and for her, losing is just not an option. It means that much to her. So when you game plan a meet, both of those girls can take out the best athlete on the other team and just pretty much make them neutral. I’ve seen it happen in these dual meets time and again and the last two seasons have become very comfortable penciling them into the line up."
In addition to Witmer and Liebl, freshman Jordan Carvell captured the 1600 in a time of 5:37.9, while sophomore Madison Fox ran to victory in the 3200 with a time of 12:45.5. Ephrata added one more win on the track as the team of Nicole Wilkerson, Carvell, Vanessa Hurst and Andrea Castillo captured the 4 X 800 relay in a time of 10:24.4.
Thrower Crystal Hartman rounded out the Ephrata victories on the day with a winning throw of 116-8 in the javelin.
As for the Lady Eagles (4-2), they did pick up seven wins on the day, including a pair of key relay victories as well as a near-record throw from freshman Emily Stauffer in the discus. However, the Lady Eagles were behind the eight ball from the start as leading point getter Ashley Strenko missed the meet due to a prior commitment.
Despite her absence, Cocalico Coach Ron Derr felt his team performed as well as it can.
"The Ephrata girls this year are an extremely talented and very well coached team," Cocalico Coach Ron Derr said. "We could not put together a line-up in which we felt we could really go toe-to-toe with them and try to win the overall meet. Just before the meet began I explained to the girls that we would have to judge this meet as a success based on performances, not on a team win or loss. In carefully looking through the results we got about every possible point I thought we could. I felt with the line-up we put together if we had a very good meet we would probably score 50 to 55 points. I was thrilled with the performances we were able to reach with such great competition. That was one of those days that even thought we lost the meet, so many of our kids competed so well and posted some great performances that I left being a very happy and proud coach."
In perhaps the most competitive race of the day, Ephrata ran a season best 51.2 in the 4 X 100 relay. However, the Cocalico team of Carrie Sensenig, Emily Johnson, Stephanie Wahl and Gina Glass slightly bettered that with their season-best 51.1 to capture the win.
The Cocalico 4 X 400 team of Sensenig, Marissa Gingrich, Megan Gingrich and Janelle High also place first with a winning time of 4:14.2.
And in the field, the Lady Eagles earned four victories. Highlighting those wins was freshman Emily Stauffer’s throw of 42-1 1/4 in the shot, which was just below her season best throw of 43-1. Rebecca Grube claimed the discus (99-7), Halle High-Benson won the pole vault (8-0) and Miranda Weitzel captured the high jump (4-8).
While there was less drama on the boys’ side, the competition was equally exciting as the Eagles got big performances from a number of athletes to key a 95-55 victory to earn the team split with Ephrata.
Cordell Stauffer earn a pair of individual victories in the high hurdles (16.4) and 300 hurdles (44.0), and also ran lead on the winning 4 X 400 relay team which also included Hans Shollenberger, Wyatt Dungan and Tyler Buckwalter. That squad posted a winning time of 3:39.1.
Jhett Janis did his usual part, throwing 197-3 to take the javelin while also claiming the 100 in a time of 11.4.
Five other individuals also earned wins for the Eagles. They included: Wyatt Dungan, who posted a PR of 53.4 to win a tight race with the Mounts’ Carl Rowits (53.5) in the 400; Alec Whitsett in the 200 (23.8); Shea Evans in the high jump (5-9); Abdul Saad in the shot put (41-8 3/4); and John Fry in the discus (115-10).
Cocalico also won the remaining two relays on the day. The Eagle 4 X 800 relay squad of Jake Grasser, Dungan, Dylan Hrubochak and Shollenberger placed first in a time of 8:54.8. And the 4 X 100 relay of Spencer Moser, Whitsett, Buckwalter and Brad Whittaker was also victorious in a time of 46.0.
"(Today) would have to be, by far, the best total team performance for our boys team this year," Derr said. "We got great contributions from all event areas. Being able to capture all three relays in a meet places a team in excellent position for the overall meet. We did very well in the throwing events, hurdles, and sprints while our distance runners had their best day of the season."
As for Ephrata, the Mounts posted six wins on the day, including a pair of victories by Sam Wolde. Wolde staked claim to both the 1600 (4:47.7) and 3200 (10:32) to lead the way.
Other winners for the Mounts included: Rowits in the 800 (2:07.6); Alex Nguyen in the long jump (18-11 3/4); Mark Njenga in the triple jump (38-4 1/2); and Nate Ramos in the pole vault (9-6). More TRACK, page B-4