Njenga jumps to L-L gold

By on May 18, 2016
Ephrata’s Mark Njenga captured the gold medal in the triple jump Saturday at the L-L League Meet. Photo by Preston Whitcraft.
Ephrata’s Mark Njenga captured the gold medal in the triple jump Saturday at the L-L League Meet. Photo by Preston Whitcraft.

Ephrata’s Mark Njenga captured the gold medal in the triple jump Saturday at the L-L League Meet. Photo by Preston Whitcraft.

In the eyes of Head Coach John Keller, Ephrata was solid in some areas, not as strong in others at the Lancaster-Lebanon Meet this past weekend at Hempfield High School.

Ephrata, which generally is battling it out near the top of the team standings year after year, finished eighth on the boys’ side with 43 points and was ninth in the girls competition with a team score of 42.5.

The Mounts did set a total of 10 PRs and crowned one champion as Mark Njenga leaped his way to the triple jump title with a winning distance of 44-2½, which was one of two personal records on the weekend for the senior.

“I think generally speaking we had an overall good meet,” Keller said. “In some areas we were not as consistent as we had been during the season, but you can expect that in these championship meets.”

Njenga not only won his gold with a PR, but set his personal record as well in the long jump to place fourth overall with a distance of 21-08.75.

“You have to feel really good for Mark,” Keller said. “He had as good a season as anybody and was very consistent all year, so to see him hit a big jump like this at the league meet and win the gold is very satisfying. It really has solidified his standing as one of the better jumpers in the L-L League, which I feel he deserves. He has worked his tail off to improve as an athlete and jumper, that has now come full circle. It was very well deserved and should give him some confidence and momentum going into his first District competition.”

Junior distance runner Zach Lefever was strong in his two events.

Saturday, he placed fifth in the 1600 with a time of 4:26.01. And Friday night, he set the school record in the 3200, finishing second only to McCaskey star Nathan Henderson. Henderson won with a time of 9:28.12 but Lefever was just a little more than two seconds behind him, taking the silver with a school-record time of 9:30.97. Ephrata’s Nate Becker grabbed third with a time of 9:40.97.

“Both Zach and Nate pretty much came away with two PRs (Becker missed by .06 seconds),” Keller said. “So when you are running your best races, you have to feel pretty good about how you competed. There is certainly no shame in losing to Henderson, and I know both did not want to settle for anything less than what they got, so I think the overall feeling was pretty good about how they ran. These two guys have been as solid as you could ask all season and have been the back bone of a pretty good boys distance crew.”

Like Lefever and Njenga, sprinter Charlie Warden came away with a pair of medals as well. Warden PRed in the 200 on his way to a sixth place finish in a time of 22.95. He added a sixth-place medal in the 100 with a time of 11.30.

“Charlie Warden winning two sixth-place medals I believe was a huge ‘step up’ performance for him,” Keller said. “Sprinting is a mental game, and Charlie is only now completing his second full season. He sprinted with the best in the league and proved to himself that he belongs. I think that was a tremendous accomplishment for him and shows you just how far he has come as a sprinter.”

The final medal for the Ephrata boys went to the 4 X 800 relay team of A.J. Morales, Tanyon Loose, Phil Wenger and Rhett Hart. That foursome captured fifth place with a time of 8:24.44.

On the girls’ side, the 4X100 relay squad of Kay Liebl, Kyra Horst, Jennie Young and Cassie Vaitl led the way with a silver-medal finish with a PR time of 49.88. Ephrata led the race down the stretch and if not for an outstanding kick by Hempfield’s Sarah Klag, who edged Vaitl at the finish, Ephrata would have had gold.

“’Outstanding effort’ and great technical run for the girls,” Keller said. “Our first hand-off got pretty deep in the zone, which I will take the responsibility for as I made a slight change, but other than that I was extremely happy for them. I know we are as good as any of these teams in the league, and had it not been for a great anchor run effort from Sarah Klag, we would have had the top spot. But take nothing away from the girls, they performed their best of the season in a championship meet, and to be honest, it was only the fourth time the group ran together.”

Liebl led the girls with two individual medals, claiming third place in the 100 with a time of 12.52 while PRing in the long jump (17-7¼) on her way to fourth place. And young got her PR in the 200, finishing fifth with a personal best time of 25.83.

“Jennie Young virtually PR’d every time she stepped on the track,” Keller said. “She broke 26 seconds in the 200 (twice), a feat she has never done, and finished eighth in the 100 with a time of 12.67 seconds. That tells you how deep that field was. Plus she always gives the girls 4X100 relay some separation. She runs that third turn as well as any and helped propel that team to a great finish.”

Distance runner Sydney Morgan was part of a pair of bronze medal performances. Individually, she took third place in the 800 with a time of 2:22.17, and also ran second leg on the 4X800 relay which captured third. that squad, which also included Nadine Eichenlaub, Kayley Eshleman and Haley Schaller, finished with a time of 9:43.68.

Eichenlaub added a sixth-place finish in the 1600, finishing in a time of 5:23.38.

One other note on the Ephrata girls was the performance of freshman pole vaulter Faith Hershberger. She tied the school record of 9-6 (set last year by Liebl) to place seventh.

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