LOYSBURG - When Ester Wind joined the track team, she set what some would consider some pretty high - perhaps unrealistic - goals.
It turns out she was aiming too low.
"My goal was the school record,'' Wind said. "Then I got that, so I had to set another one.''
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Northern?Bedford’s Ester Wind competes in the 3200 relay Friday afternoon.
The novice middle-distance runner from near Hamburg, Germany who is at Northern Bedford High School as an exchange student this school year has turned out to be a natural in the 800-meter run. She's been winning it consistently all spring and, even with a tough race, managed to be the first one to the tape in the event in Friday's Northern Bedford Community Athletic Association Invitational at Panther Community Stadium.
Wind, a power runner who set the school record with just a handful of meets under her belt, finished in a time of 2 minutes, 26.2 seconds. Despite besting her seeded time by 3 seconds, Southern Fulton's Amy Bard still could only place second, 1.2 clicks off Wind's pace.
"Her biggest asset is her competitiveness and her desire to get better,'' Northern Bedford distance coach Mark Muthler said. "To this point, she's had the lead herself. Tonight was kind of awkward because she got boxed in at the start. That's why her [time] was a little off.''
Wind also anchored the winning 3,200-meter relay, joining Maria Snyder, Alyssa Smith and Leah Hershberger. Her best half-mile time this year is 2:24.14; that's less than seven-tenths of a second slower than the District 5 record time.
"I was really surprised with myself, but I always try to do my very best,'' the 16-year-old Wind said. "I try to do this mostly for fun, but I want to get the district record, just to keep pushing.''
Back in her homeland, Wind - the 'w' is pronounced like a 'v' in German - dabbled in distance running a few years ago but gave it up to pursue handball, a popular sport in Europe that hasn't garnered the same love with the masses in the United States.
Wind caught Northern Bedford track coach Jeff Batzel's eye when she joined the Lady Panther basketball team.
"We knew she was athletic,'' Batzel said. "But we didn't know where she'd fit in [on the track team]. She's a strong, powerful girl. We knew she could contribute somewhere. We never expected this.''
Wind didn't, either. In fact, she still can't really explain her success, saying she simply does what she has to do to win, whether it be starting fast, finishing with a big kick or just maintaining a steady pace to wear down her foes.
"I saw she was finishing strong in her 400 workouts. When other girls were showing fatigue, she was able to power through that,'' Muthler said of the decision to put her in the half-mile.
Wind found her way to Northern Bedford by way of her older brother. Like her, he stayed with the Doverspike family a couple of years ago through the student exchange program; teammate Josh Doverspike is her host brother.
"I really like it here,'' Wind said in her very thick, distinct German accent. "I think [being on the team] is the best part. I've made a lot of friends.''
No girls records were set at the meet, but three were established on the boys side - including two by Central competitors.
The Scarlet Dragons' Derek Nothstein broke his own mark in the javelin with a throw of 178 feet, 1 inch, nearly 10 feet farther than last year. His closest competition at Friday's meet was almost 25 feet behind.
The frightening thing about Nothstein's performance is that it paled in comparison to some of the things he's been doing this spring. While the weather has limited meets and held down times and distances, Nothstein has already thrown 192-4.
"It's been going pretty good. A lot better than last year. I've been throwing better,'' Nothstein said.
A state medal at last year's PIAA Class AA meet has motivated the Central senior to achieve even greater distances this time around.
"I lifted for three months over the winter pretty hard. I think that helped me a lot,'' Nothstein, who is hoping to challenge for the meet record at the Bellwood-Antis Invitational on Monday, said. "Just seeing some of the guys that beat me last year put something in my mind that it was something I needed to work for. So I did.''
In an exciting 300 hurdles race, Dan Hoover caught Chestnut Ridge's Matt Dull at the last hurdle and outleaned him when the Lion ran out of gas at the tape to finish in a record 40.9. Dull established the previous standard of 41.0 last year.
Northern Bedford sophomore Zach Pressel also set a new boys meet mark, clearing 6-4 in the high jump. That was 2 inches better than second-place Alex Will of Berlin Brothersvalley and an inch higher than the height Johnstown's Aaron Lucas achieved in 2007.
MEET NOTES: No team score was kept. ... Everett's Alex Zanella would have been among the favorites in the distance races but was in Florida for her senior class trip. However, Lady Warrior junior Keira Bair set a school record in winning the pole vault with a height of 9-0. ... Other area boys champions were Bedford's Christian Davis (discus), Chestnut Ridge's Jimmy Farnan (3,200), Northern Bedford's Quinton Hixson (shot put), Chestnut Ridge's Michael Young (triple jump) and the Northern Bedford 3,200 relay. ... Tussey Mountain's Carlee Bussard, Hershberger (long jump), Chestnut Ridge's Jarica Seese (200) and Chestnut Ridge's Leanna Showalter (high jump) rounded out the area girls winners. ... Bedford also was without its seniors because of a class trip to Florida. ... Will broke the six-year-old record of Chestnut Ridge's Bobby Rhodes in the 110 hurdles by a tenth of a second, running 14.9. .. Berlin's Ian Sayler was a triple winner, and Isaac Will won two events. Forest Hills' Leah Anne Wirfel won the girls mile and two-mile runs.