Section champs! Lady Mounts down L-S, win first title in 25 years

By on May 9, 2012

By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor, Staff Writer

Riding on the shoulders of his team, Ephrata track Coach John Keller (back, in purple) celebrates with his squad after the EHS girls clinched the Section Two title Monday night. (Photo by Stan Hall)

The Ephrata girls track team hadn’t won a section title since 1987. So with host Lampeter-Strasburg being the only thing standing in their way, Coach John Keller leaned on his heavy hitters Monday to bring it home.

All season long, junior Mary Witmer, sophomore Crystal Hartman, and freshman Kelly Liebl had been the top point-getters meet in and meet out. And Monday at L-S, with the Section Two title on the line, that trio delivered again.

Witmer won four events on the day while Liebl chipped in with three individual victories and ran anchor on the first-place 400 relay team. Hartman added a pair of wins as the Lady Mounts closed out the regular season at 7-0 in league play to capture the section crown with a 101-49 victory.

"It is just an incredible feeling of accomplishment," an emotional Keller said afterward. "Realizing what it takes to have a team that is even capable of winning, then having it happen right here in front of you, there was real emotion going on. Just watching these girls meet after meet laying it on the line, competing at a very high level, I am just so proud and happy for them. They were the ones that went out and competed and made it happen. They stuck together and believed in one another and what was a vision and goal, turned into reality."

A big reason, yet not the only reason, were the performances of the big three. Witmer ran to victory in the 400 (59.5), high hurdles (15.1) and 300 hurdles (46.2) Monday, and added a fourth win in the triple jump (36-11 1/2).

Liebl grabbed her firsts in the 100 (12.7), 200 (26.8) and long jump (16-2), and anchored the the 400 relay team of Abby Binkley, Yasi Davis and Natalie Flaim, which broke the tape first in a time of 51.9.

Hartman continued her dominance in the pits, winning both the shot put (32-6 3/4) and discus (105-9) while adding a second place in the javelin (100-10).

"Mary, Crystal and Kelly have been there all season scoring a large majority of points and all three ended the season with over 100 points scored," Keller said. "All three also have one thing in common… They bring it on meet day. Nothing seems to phase them and they each have their own sense of focus. They love the competition that this sport brings, and they also have a great supporting cast. All these girls have kind of rallied around one another and have taken on the same persona. They have all just been so mentally tough and that is something you need in track and field."

Ephrata added big wins Monday from Vanessa Hurst in the 1600 (5:43.9), Melynda Beam in the 3200 (12:29), and Virginia Njenga in the high jump (4-8). Keller also pointed to the team of Andrea Castillo, Hurst, Sondra MacNeal and Nicole Wilkerson for being the catalysts Monday with a big win in the 4X800 relay, the first event of the day. They finished in a time of 9:49, to nip the L-S team, which was a step behind in 9:49.9.

"That is the first race in a standard track & field meet, and those girls have been tested several times this season only to rise to the occasion each time," Keller said. "L-S threw their best shot at them, and they responded with a season best 9:49 flat. Those girls set the tone for each meet and have done an outstanding job of doing that this year."

As for the section title, Keller pointed to several key elements which played a part in winning a championship.

"First and foremost, we had no real weakness in any event and some key events we could count on first and second or first and third," he said. "We had the total package in sprints, throws, hurdles, jumps/vaults and distance… When you have that and add a bit of depth and the mental toughness we had, it is just hard to beat a team that has all that. Secondly, our three captains (Binkley, Beam and Lindsay Zwally) did an outstanding job of leading these girls. They each had their own areas of strength and I thought the three combined to do a wonderful job."

"We also had some key acquisitions before the season started," he continued. "Getting Wilkerson and Beam on the team gave us the needed flexibility in the distance events. With what we had returning and the addition of those two, that gave us some depth in the 800, 1600, 3200 and relays. Our four freshman girls competed at a high level and each contributed in many events. I also want to mention the coaching staff. They did an outstanding job of preparing the athletes. From the technique to the full workouts, I am blessed to have a very good group of coaches. The kids believe in them and the coaches have been able to get the most out of each athlete.

"We also set this (section championship) as a team goal. I spoke to them in February at the end of the indoor season and planted the seed. We did not talk much about it as the season moved on and just focused on the next opponent."

The Ephrata boys also closed out the regular season with a win Monday, winning its second straight to close the regular season with a 79-70 victory.

The Mounts (2-5) got a pair of wins from Quint Felak and swept all three relays to key the team victory.

Felak captured both the 200 (24.1) and 300 hurdles (41.0) while other individuals to claim victory included: Jon Husson in the 400 (53.4); Dogmawi Baydeka in the 800 (2:11.7); Billy Hauser in the 1600 (4:44.9); and Danny Matos in the shot put (46-7).

In the relays, Ephrata claimed the 400 (47.2), 1600 (3:39.7) and 3200 (8:42.2).

While Ephrata was sweeping in Lampeter, Cocalico hosted Manheim Central in the regular season finale.

In girls’ action, the Lady Eagles (3-4) got three wins from Ashley Strenko to key them to an 83-67 win over the Barons.

Strenko was a winner in the high hurdles (16.4), long jump (16-4 1/4) and high jump (4-8). Also winning individual events were: Gina Glass in the 100 (13.2); Marissa Gingrich in the 800 (2:40.7); Halle High-Benson in the pole vault (8-9); and Amber Pinkerton in the 300 hurdles (52.2).

The Lady Eagles also swept all three relays to close out the win.

In boys’ action, star thrower Kyle Felpel had three wins on the day, including setting a school record in the javelin. Unfortunately it was not enough as the Barons earned an 83-67 win.

Felpel’s record throw of 198-7 in the javelin highlighted his afternoon. He added wins in both the shot put (60-11) and discus (165-1) to pace the Eagles.

Other Cocalico winners on the day included: Ryan Conner in the 3200 (10:27.4); Mark Belousov in the triple jump (39-0 1/2); Shea Evans in the high jump (5-10); and Ben Graybill in the pole vault (12-0).

The Eagles’ 400 relay team of Jhett Janis, Tyler Buckwalter, Brad Whittaker and Alex Whitsett rounded out the Cocalico winners with a time of 46.7.

With the regular season now complete, the athletes will get set for the L-L League Meet to be held this Friday and Saturday at Hempfield High School. Action gets underway Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., and will resume Saturday at 10 a.m. More TRACK, page B-3

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