Lefever claims sixth place in State 3,200

By on June 1, 2016
Ephrata’s Zach Lefever cruises along during the State 3,200 meter run Saturday at Shippensburg University. (Photo by Mike Shull)

Ephrata’s Zach Lefever cruises along during the State 3,200 meter run Saturday at Shippensburg University. (Photo by Mike Shull)

By Todd Ruth

Admittedly, Ephrata’s Zach Lefever was feeling huge nerves heading into his debut in the 3,200 at the State Track Meet Saturday in Shippensburg.

But in the end, he looked like a seasoned vet.

The junior star, who missed the State Cross Country Meet last fall due to appendicitis on the day of the race, made his first appearance at States count in a big way.

He not only went out and broke his own school record with a new PR time of 9:19.33, but earned the sixth-place medal and beat L-L League champion Nate Henderson (ninth place) for the first time since middle school.

Not bad for a newcomer with nerves.

“I just tried to just make it feel like it was a normal race, trying to keep the race more simple I guess,” Lefever said.

It paid off as he left Shippensburg with a medal around his neck. He said the whole experience was an incredible one.

“It was exhilarating,” he said. “The stadium and everything was just like nothing I’ve ever actually been to before. The experience was incredible.”

Lefever’s performance, and that of Kay Liebl in the girls AAA long jump, highlighted the performances by Ephrata athletes. Like Lefever, Liebl set a new school record in the long jump, winning the eighth-place medal with a distance of 18-2.25.

She also helped the Ephrata girls’ 4 X 100 relay, which also included Kyra Horst, Jennie Young and Cassie Vaitl, to a new PR time of 49.54, which was good for 20th place overall.

District triple jump third-place finisher Mark Njenga finished 23rd in that event with a leap of 42-6 and also was 20th in the long jump (21-1.75). And in the girls’ 800 meter run, Ephrata’s Sydney Morgan was 27th overall with a time of 2:23.70.

As for Lefever, he came in as the 16th seed in the 3,200 and said his strategy was to stay with the top runners’ pace as long as possible.

After a slow-paced mile, Lefever found himself in a pack of about 20 runners, where he was feeling stuck.

“I was dead center in that pack,” he said. “Again, it was nothing like I’ve ever done before. There were literally 20 people in a pack and then I was right in the center, so there was no room for me to move. I wanted to make a move and I had to do it real quick and kinda jump through, or trying to get into the inside wasn’t an option either. So I pretty much had to stay in that center of the pack until it kinda spread out a little bit more, which was awhile.”

Lefever said the pack stayed together until about the 800 meter mark, when he was able to make his move.

“I saw a little gap on the outside, so I kinda jumped through and I got up to the front,” he said. “And then I got boxed right back in again. So I kinda got used to it during the race, but I still wanted to break out of there too.”

He honed in on Henderson with about 120 meters left, passed him and never looked back.

“He turned and looked directly back at me and I thought that at the moment he was going to start sprinting,” he said. “So I knew that I needed to start sprinting because I wanted to beat him. So as soon as he looked back, I went and then I guess he just didn’t really have much left.”

“It felt pretty good, knowing that he’s like number 8th in the nation for the 3,000 because he ran in the Penn Relays. And just beating him in that last 200 … I don’t know, kinda like it barely happened. It’s exciting.”

Before passing Henderson, Lefever also passed Central Bucks East’s Jake Brophy, who was the two-time State Champion in cross country. Brophy ended up in eighth-place.

Matt Kravitz of North Pocono won the gold with a winning time of 9:09.34. Nick Wolk of Peters Twp. was second in 9:10.25, while North Allegheny’s Marc Migliozzi rounded out the top three in third with a time of 9:14.12.

“I was seeded 16th going into the race, so I would’ve had to improve my place by eight spots (to win a medal),” Lefever said. “I didn’t really know if I could do that or not. So really, I wanted to break 9:20. That was my ultimate goal, and if a State medal came along with that, that was great too, which it ended up that happening.”

Note: Bruce Morgan contributed to this story.

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