Liebl wins gold in 100, Eagles’ Janis first in javelin
Flashback to a week earlier at the L-L League Track Meet. Ephrata’s star sprinter/jumper Kelly Liebl had just false-started in the 100, and her chance at gold as well as crucial team points were lost.
It was a big downer for the Ephrata junior who has had a season full of highs. But, as disappointing as that moment was, it was a learning experience that would pay huge dividends one week later.
This past Saturday at the District Three Meet held at Shippensburg University, Liebl redeemed herself in the ultimate way, sprinting to a time of 12.49 to win the 100 and capture her first District gold medal. In a race that was tight to the finish, Liebl leaned at the finish line to edge South Western’s Lynne Mooradian (12.49) and third-place finisher Christina Johnson of Susquehanna Township (12.50).
It was the highlight of a great weekend for Liebl, who also claimed a silver medal in the long jump with a PR of 17-11.75, and a fourth-place medal in the 200 (25.68).
The 12.49 wasn’t her PR, and wasn’t even her fastest time on the weekend (she ran 12.27 in the preliminaries) but it was good enough to make her Ephrata’s first District sprint champion since Sheila Mellinger took gold in the 100 back in 1979.
“It got the job done and that’s what I came here to do, so I’m really happy with myself,” Liebl said following her win. “My goal here this whole weekend was to just kinda show what I could do in the 100 because I false-started last weekend. I was ready to just come out and here and do the best I could and see where I’d end up. I ended in first, so I’m pretty happy with myself.”
Cocalico senior thrower Jhet Janis was also pretty happy as he captured his first District gold medal in the javelin with a throw of 194-5 to defeat runner-up Donald Craybill of Central York (181-11).
“Coming into today, I wanted to win, that was my goal,” Janis said after claiming his gold. “I wasn’t really chasing a number. But I would’ve liked to hit 200, and if I could have had one more throw, I think I would have had it. It is what it is.”
Both Liebl and Janis were the lone two local gold medal performers but others made their way to the medal stand.
Ephrata thrower Crystal Hartman punched her ticket to States in the javelin, finishing fourth overall with a throw of 128-9. And the Lady Mounts’ 4X800 relay team of Haley Schaller, Taylor Mahlandt, Nicole Wilkerson and Andrea Castillo took home a seventh-place medal with a time of 9:49.28.
Cocalico also had a pair of seventh-place medalists. The Lady Eagles’ 4X100 relay team of Carrie Sensenig, Stephanie Wahl, Emily Johnson and Emily Fassnacht took seventh with a time of 50.06, just missing out on qualifying for States. And sophomore Abdul Saad staked his claim to a seventh-place medal in the shot put with a toss of 48-0.
Liebl said she knew it would be a close race in the 100, but she didn’t realize how close it would actually be.
“I just wanted to get out of the blocks fast and then finish (strong),” she said. “If there are people there, you’ve just got to lean into it. I had to lean a lot there, but I got it.”
Ephrata Coach John Keller said he was proud of Liebl’s entire weekend.
“Kelly is a warrior and she had a great day, and I’m so proud of what she accomplished in the 100-meter dash,” he said. “She came back in the long jump, did a personal record in the long jump finishing second. I think she was seeded 8th or 9th and what can you say? She PR’d in the 200 last week and came back and really ran great races in that (Friday) to put her in position there. She’s just a great athlete and works hard and a really good kid. And when stuff like that happens, especially coming off what happened last week in the 100-meter dash …you false start, that devastated her. But she bounced back and rebounded this week to be a District champion in that. Wow, I mean, wow. I just couldn’t be any more proud of her and just her performances out here this weekend.”
Janis, the favorite going into the competition, lived upped to his billing with three throws at 190 or better to win the gold.
“I was really confident,” Janis said of the competition. “A lot of my throws were going in the 90’s, so that’s a good series for me. It was fun. I like it here (at Shippensburg).
Cocalico Coach Ron Derr saw one of what is becoming a long list of quality throwers at his school reach his dream.
“District Three is a large, very competitive district when you look at the performances that occur every year at this event,” he said. “It is very special to have the talent, drive, and desire to compete and even more special to be a district champion. Jhet has accomplished some amazing things during his career at Cocalico, and this should rank near the top of the list. He also has had to face the new role to him of being ‘the guy’ this year. He went into that meet as the top seed, which he has held all season. One of the key items in competing is being able to channel the energy and adrenaline you get on a performance day and yet still be calm and relaxed to keep doing what you have been trained to do. It is in many ways an oxymoron, but very important to compete well. (Throwing Coach Scott) Krall really stresses the mental aspects of performing in these big meets and we are seeing the results. Jhet is district champion.”
Hartman threw well during her competition Friday and finished behind only Steph Sievers of Daniel Boone (131-10), Amanda Myers of Red Lion (129-7) and Jocelyn Ruth of Kutztown (129-0).
“She actually threw very well,” Keller said. “Actually she was very consistent. She had three or four throws right in the 127, 128 range. Her six throws were 117-7, 128-0, 127-7, 126-9, 128-9, and 121-5. She was very consistent. And that was a tough field in the girls javelin. She does what she has to do. She’s a gamer too. I think the higher competition stimulates her and she knows what she has to do. She wanted to come back here next year, this is her third trip to States, as it is for Kelly. So here again, she’s a competitor and she wanted it.”
The Ephrata 4X800 relay finished with a PR on its way tot he seventh-place medal. As was the case with Cocalico’s Saad, who has been coming on since mid-season.
“Abdul was so excited and up for this weekend and competition,” Derr said. “He really start to put things together with how to throw shot about halfway through this season and he has that great combination of explosive quickness and strength so it just took a lot of repetitions of the drills for him to gain more consistency and confidence in how he can perform in the event. He also really shows his excitement when he improves so it is really fun as a coach to watch him progress and as he accomplishes one goal he quickly sets a new more challenging one. To come into his first ever District Meet with how different it is compared to a typical dual meet and have a PR is a sensational performance.”
It was also a sensational performance from the Cocalico girls’ 4X100 team, which lost out to Ephrata for the gold at the League Meet last weekend. This time, Ephrata placed a disappointing 11th in the race, four slots behind the Cocalico foursome.
“If someone would have told me that we would have had a 4X100 relay on the medal platform of Districts at the beginning of this season I probably would have had my doubts and questions,” Derr said. “Those girls made believers of me through the season and were a true case of the final product and team being seemingly stronger than any of the individual parts. They really learned to run and compete for each other and couldn’t have made us prouder as coaches. The girls were having such an amazing year they were not quite ready for it to end so even though they finished on the medal podium, they were hoping to be able to run at least one more time together.”
Others who competed at Districts, along with their places and times, included: Jenna Lawville, Cocalico, 10th in girls javelin, 113-9; Emily Stauffer, Cocalico, 13th in girls shot put, 33-4.25; Megan Gingrich, Cocalico, 19th in girls 300 hurdles, 48.44; Marissa Gingrich, Cocalico, 16th in girls 800, 2:23.25; Mark Ulysse, Cocalico, 11th in boys long jump, 20-8.25; Alex Smith, Ephrata, 15th in boys 1600, 4:37.09; and the Ephrata boys 4X800 team of Chris Hershberger, Peneal Wolde, Nate Becker and Smith, 12th, 8:23.60.
As for next week, Liebl qualified for States in the 200 but decided to scratch in lue of running the 100 and long jumping. Both Hartman and Janis will join her in javelin.
Liebl is seeded 10th in the 100 and is 11th in long jump. Hartman is the 15th seed in the girls javelin while Janis, who was runner-up to Manheim Central’s Cole Proffitt a year ago, is the second seed behind only Josh Brown of Milton.
Derr was asked how he feels Janis will perform in his final State Meet.
“One of my biggest hopes for Jhet and for any of our athletes who ever compete at a platform like States is to enjoy the moment,” he said. “So few have the opportunity to compete against the best of the best from across the entire state. It is an amazing competition and opportunity. Next is just to compete to the best of his ability. If he does that I believe we will all be very excited about what happens at Shippensburg on Saturday.”
Action begins Friday at 9 a.m. at Shippensburg and runs through 5 p.m. Saturday’s schedule starts at 9 a.m. and will conclude around 3 p.m.
Todd Ruth is the sports editor for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at email@example.com or at 721-4422.