One for the record books Witmer shatters District mark Top 10 300 Hurdle times in 2013 Source:

By on May 22, 2013


TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor

, Staff Writer

Throughout her illustrious high school track and field career, Mary Witmer has been about making statements.

Not of the verbal kind, for she is one of the most soft-spoken, humble athletes you’ll find. No, she lets her work on the track do the talking.

And this past weekend at the District Three Championships held at Shippensburg University, it was just the latest example of it on full display.

Witmer, the defending champion in the girls AAA 300 hurdles, not only won her second straight gold in that event but did it in record-breaking fashion.

The Ephrata senior went out faster than normal, and kept that pace to finish with a sizzling District Three Meet record time of 42.11. That time, which is the eighth-best in the country this year, shattered the old mark of 43.53 set back in 2008 by Harrisburg’s Alysha Cook.

Witmer’s exploits highlighted a weekend in which Ephrata claimed six total medals, qualified three individuals (Kelly Liebl and Crystal Hartman, in addition to Witmer) and one relay (girls 4 X 400) to next week’s State Meet, and finished fifth in the team race with 31 points.

It was quite a showing that was punctuated by Witmer’s feat.

Asked if she thought she had a 42.11 in her on Saturday, Witmer said, "Yeah I did. I felt really confident going into today. My goal was to break the record and I thought I could do that today, especially in these conditions. The cloudy cooler weather kind of works for me."

Witmer, who broke the L-L Meet record last weekend in the same event, wasn’t the only one who thought she had a chance to make history.

"To be honest I kind of expected it," Ephrata Coach John Keller said. "Mary is so dialed in right now in that event and her confidence level is very high. I was just very happy for her. I know how hard she has worked to get where she is, so for that I was just elated to see her win the gold, and nailing down the record in what has now been consecutive weekends is just an amazing accomplishment for her."

Witmer, who usually likes to pace herself in the early portion of the 300, instead bolted out of the blocks Saturday. While that in the end may have been what got her the record, it did effect her timing through the first hurdle.

"Yes I do," Keller said when asked if her quick start helped pave the way to her gold. "However Coach (Todd) Ream has her race down to so many steps per hurdle (19 to the first hurdle and 15 in between). She almost got out too quick, but she did not let that phase her one bit and recovered very quickly, hardly noticeable to the eye. But I think that is a key for her in that race, just getting out very strong, and then she backs that up with a strong finish."

Witmer added, "At this level, you got to get out fast. The competition just keeps getting higher and especially here (at Shippensburg) because this is where the State Meet is. You want to get the same feel that you want to at States. I just felt like I was really pushing it. I was feeling pretty tired so I guess that meant I was going pretty fast."

Indeed she was as indicated by her time which was nearly two seconds faster than runner-up Rachael DeCecco of Cumberland Valley who came in at 43.89.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all rosey for the Ephrata star on Saturday. The second seed heading into the 100 hurdles final, Witmer clipped the first hurdle, stumbled for a brief second, and finished a disappointing eighth in a time of 16.15.

Fortunately, that didn’t seem to phase her.

"In that way it’s kind of a blessing," she said, intimating that it is one less thing she needs to worry about next week at States.

"It probably disappointed the coaches as much or more than it did her," Keller said. "I think initially she felt pretty bad, as we all did, just because we all know she deserved better. But I spoke with her a short time after the event and she did what athletes have to do in that situation, and that’s put it behind you. She knew the 4X4 was coming up yet, and she knew how well she did in the 300 hurdles, so while there was disappointment, she also counted her blessings and put it behind her and focused on the next event."

That event was the 4 X 400, and she and her three teammates- Andrea Castillo, Liebl and Jordan Crills- blazed the trail in what turned out to be a terrific race.

The Ephrata foursome went on to finish fifth overall with a school record time of 3:59.73. That time also earned the foursome a return trip to Shippensburg this upcoming weekend.

"The 4 X 4 has always been my race, and it seems like for the last two years we’ve been trying to break the four-minute barrier," Keller said. "What a race in a loaded field, I was just relieved that we finished fifth and were able to move on to States. I have jostled that line up a good bit of the year to come up with a foursome that I thought could go sub-four, and they did it in their first race together, so for that I was very happy and proud for them. Plus it is a feeling of accomplishment, and now we can move on to higher standards."

Like Witmer, Liebl was a multiple event medal winner this past weekend. On Friday, the EHS sophomore posted her best distance of the season, leaping 17-7 1/4 to claim fourth place in the long jump and qualify for States. On Saturday, Liebl also added a fourth-place finish in the 200 with a time of 26.03, which also got her into the State field.

"Kelly had just an awesome year in the long jump, and has worked extremely hard to get where she is," Keller said. "Coach (Matt) White I believe has just been doing an outstanding job videotaping the jumps and then critiquing them in slow motion and going over them with the kids. He has been trying to get more height in her jumps and to just stay relaxed. On that 17-7 1/4 incher she was able to do just that. It was just a perfect jump for her and I believe there is more in the tank, so to speak. I’ve said it a couple times this year, but Kelly is a gamer and you know you will get her best. It was very satisfying to see her get that fourth place in the long jump, then come back in the 200 to grab another fourth."

Hartman also punched her State ticket with a fourth-place medal in the javelin with a throw of 124-0. She added an eighth-place medal in the discus (109-6).

Looking ahead to States, all eyes will be focused on Witmer in the 300 hurdles. A year ago, she was the top seed heading into States but came up just short of gold, settling for silver with a time of 43.95.

She is seeded first once again, more than a second faster than Kayla Coley of Cheltenham, who is seeded second. And Keller feels she is ready and determined to this time go out and grab the gold.

"Mary has waited a year for this, and to her credit has worked very hard throughout the winter and spring to put herself in this position," he said. "She has the confidence, she knows what she has to do, she is healthy and running about as well as I think she physically can. Everything seems to be lined up for her to finish the year with a gold medal and I see no reason why she cannot get ‘er done. She has just been amazing with her 400 splits in the relay and some of the times she’s put up the last two weeks, that includes what she has been running in the 100 hurdles before she hit the first hurdle in district finals. So I really believe in her and her abilities, I know what she has done to prepare. Not that I think it is in the bag, but I know we’ll see the best from her in both events…and Mary’s best is pretty darn good."

And does she have it in her to go sub-42.11 in her final high school meet?

"I think I have it in me, especially with the right competition," Witmer said. "District One is full of really good athletes, and I’m sure up at States I’ll compete with some of them. I’ll be ready to go."

Action starts both Friday and Saturday at 9 a.m. The 300 hurdles trials are scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, with the finals set for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

1. Alayah’A JohnsonSpring, TX41.24

2. Jade MillerGreat Oak, CA41.31

3. Kymber PaynePolytechnic, CA41.32

4. Brenna PorterSky View, UT41.54

5. Ariel JonesAtascocita, TX41.56

6. Elexis GusterBerkmar, GA41.80

7. Lauren BedrichRogers, TX41.86

8. Mary WitmerEphrata, PA42.11

9. Markita RushE. St. Louis, IL42.14

10. Daeshon GordonBoyd Anderson, FL42.16

More WITMER, page B-5

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