Lefever, Njenga come on strong

By on May 25, 2016
Ephrata’s Zach Lefever cruises along during the District 3,200 meter run on Friday. Lefever broke the school record on his way to a silver-medal performance. Photo by Preston Whitcraft.

Ephrata’s Zach Lefever cruises along during the District 3,200 meter run on Friday. Lefever broke the school record on his way to a silver-medal performance. Photo by Preston Whitcraft.

Lead EHS contingent of seven to qualify for States

Ephrata athletes saved their best for last at the District Three Track Meet at Shippensburg University on Day One Friday.

Senior jumper Mark Njenga, on his final attempt in the triple jump Friday afternoon, nailed a school record and personal best distance of 45-2 to capture the bronze. Then in early evening, junior distance runner Zach Lefever showed a phenomenal kick over the final 800 meters, passing many runners before settling in to finish just two seconds behind winner Nathan Henderson (9:20.51).

Lefever’s time of 9:22.32 not only broke the school record but gave him the District silver medal, his first of his high school career.

In all, Ephrata athletes placed in seven events on the weekend as the boys finished 11th overall in the team standings with 18 points while the girls were 19th with a score of 17. Also, a total of seven athletes qualified for the State Meet, which will be held back in Shippensburg Friday and Saturday.

“Fantastic…that’s all I can say,” Lefever said after his medal-winning run. “My goal, I had number two in my head…that’s what I wanted to get. Number one would have been fine too but I wanted to at least get to two, so I’m real happy right now.”

Ironically, Njenga broke the school record of 44-6¼ that was previously held by his brother Richard.

“Since it was my brother’s, I think it’s only fair that I broke it,” Njenga said. “Seriously, I feel really good. I heard ‘45’ and I just started running around (in celebration).”

In addition to Lefever and Njenga, who also claimed a fifth-place medal in the long jump (21-8), Kay Liebl won a fourth place medal in the long jump (17-3) and was part of the fourth-place 4X100 relay (49.67) which also included Kyra Horst, Jennie Young and Cassie Vaitl.

Sydney Morgan claimed a fifth-place medal in the 800 with a time of 2:18.96, while the foursome of Nadine Eichenlaub, Morgan, Kayley Eshleman and Haley Schaller placed sixth in the 4X800 relay with a time of 9:38.92.

All but the 4X800 team, which missed the qualifying time by three seconds, earned trips back to States.

“I think we did pretty good this weekend, especially on Saturday when you consider what the weather was like,” Ephrata Coach John Keller said of his team and Saturday’s rainy conditions. “The kids were troopers and kept it together for pretty much the duration. Mark & Kay put together one huge jump that put them in the top 5. The girls’ 4X100 team ran to near perfection in a cold downpour, and Syd’s last 350 of her 800 was all out. She pretty much came through the whole field and picked off one after the other to place fifth. Obviously this all came after the stellar Friday events with both Zach & Mark taking 2nd and 3rd respectively and each setting the school record. I think the general consensus was we had a pretty good weekend. We are taking seven back up to States, and I am pretty proud of that.”

Lefever, who was 19th a year ago in the 3,200, was in the middle of the pack for a good portion of the race. But when he saw Henderson begin his kick with a couple laps to go, he knew he had to go as well.

“I know Henderson is starting to go out a little slower so the first two laps are going to be pretty slow,” he said. “I can start feeling him picking it up and I just knew I had to stay on his back as long as I possibly could. I was like five people behind at one point so I knew I had to get right back up to (Henderson).”

What he did was run a 2:13 split over his final 800 meters to grab the silver.

“Zach ran a heck of a race,” Keller said. “Had that been another 20 meters he probably would have won. His finish was just outstanding. He was dialed in and gets himself up for these big races, so this does not surprise me that he is having the post season success he is having.”

Looking ahead to next week, Lefever said he’s going to enjoy his first experience at States.

“I have no idea what to expect,” he said. “I have no idea what the competition is going to be like. It’s going to be a whole new experience for me. I just want to PR. I want to break 9:20…that will be my goal.”

Njenga was in medal contention before his final jump Friday, but as he has done previously, nailed it on his final attempt.

“I don’t know why but I always seem do that,” he said. “I won the leagues at Hempfield with my last jump. Mentally I just say, ‘you have one more jump left. You better put all you have in this jump because this is it.’ And that’s what I did there.”

“My goal for the day was to make States,” he continued. “I’m actually lucky that I jumped 45 because that gave me the green pass to go to States next week. But my goal coming into today was to make States. I didn’t have a number in my head. I just wanted to make States.”

Mission accomplished.

“That was huge for Mark,” Keller said. “Just the fact he is putting together this post-season run that will now have him competing at the State track meet in both the triple and long jump in his senior season…he is having fun and you just know he is thoroughly enjoying this experience.”

Liebl bowed out in the 100 semifinals Friday, but came back strong as the lead runner in the 4X100.

“Her start was out of this world good,” Keller said. “And I know deep down she wanted to jump at States, it could not have ended any better for her, leading the 4X1 and jumping at the State Meet in her last season.”

Liebl hit her 17-3 late in her final series to clinch her fourth in the long jump to qualify individually for States.

“My goal was to qualify for States,” she said. “I’ve qualified with a relay team before, but never for an individual event, so I’m pretty excited about that.”

Looking ahead to next week, Keller said his goal for his athletes was to enjoy the moment and to end the season at their best.

“I always tell the kids, you want to end the season with a PR, you did not get to this point by accident, you earned it,” he said. “The competition will obviously be there, so if we can compete at our highest level possible, enjoy the moment, do not underestimate what you can achieve, and bring home PRs, the rest of the stuff will fall into place. Each athlete is in such a different event that it is hard to categorize, but bar none, nothing is out of the question…if we go for it.”

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