SHIPPENSBURG - Ohio State distance running recruit Nicole Hilton didn't know who Maria Snyder was before this weekend.
"This weekend, I asked my coach, 'Do you know this girl that's behind me?' He was like, 'There's nothing on her.' And I was like, 'Good,''' Hilton said.
Now Hilton knows. And so does everyone else.
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Northern Bedford’s Maria Snyder receives a silver medal from coach Jeff Batzel at states on Saturday.
Snyder, who couldn't even make the top five in her district last year, came away from Saturday's girls action at the PIAA Track and Field Championships with a silver medal in the 3,200-meter run.
In addition to Snyder's silver medal at Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium, Penn Cambria's Jess Delic got a long-awaited medal in the Class AA javelin, taking the bronze. Meanwhile, Central Cambria's Kendall Seymour picked up her first individual PIAA track medal, finishing eighth in the Class AA 3,200.
"I was just going in to see what I could do, do my best and get more experience,'' Snyder said.
Snyder ran a personal-record 10 minutes, 55.43 seconds, 1.43 seconds off Hilton's pace. She set the pace from the very start and was leading at the end of all but two laps in slicing more than 20 seconds off his District 5 meet time.
"Just go out, and if they went, I was to go, and if they didn't, I was to go,'' Snyder said of her approach to the two-mile run. "I've found out I have to run my pace, my speed or else I can't perform as well. I have to have a certain rhythm and stride to get me the whole way through. When she came up on me, that really kept me going.''
Before going up on the medal stand, Hilton, a senior, turned to Snyder and told her she was going to win the event next year.
"I had no idea how great of a runner she is. It's amazing. In her sophomore year?,'' Hilton said. "My plan was kind of to sit on her and see if I could get her at the end.''
Snyder actually had to set her pace twice. The race was restarted when she had already jumped out to a 10-meter lead after the first turn.
"That kind of shook me, because I wasn't ready for it. I really got out and I thought, 'Now I'm going to get behind,''' Snyder said. "I did get behind a little bit, but I worked my way out.''
Snyder didn't quite accomplish the double medal. The fourth seed in the mile, she led early but ran out of gas and faded after being caught and passed by Homer-Center's Angel Piccirillo. Her time was 5:17.28. Piccirillo won the event with a time of 4:53.42, nearly a record.
"I chalk it up to a learning experience. I just kind of ran out of energy and got a little bit tight,'' Snyder said. "It was a really different race, the way it started. I went out too fast, but I'll learn from that.''
Seymour cut 10 seconds off her District 6 meet time to complete the race in a personal-record 11:12.78. It was the first individual state medal for the the Duquesne recruit, the latest standout distance runner to come out of her famous family.
"It's an honor. I've worked all season for this. My goal since my freshman year has been to be up on this podium, and I'm very proud all my hard work has paid off,'' Seymour said. "In indoor season, I really pushed myself. We did more speed work.In track season, I've found that I've gotten more speed and am able to have a better kick at the end.''
Seymour was consistent throughout the race, running sixth or seventh much of the way.
"I knew a lot of the girls were around my time, and I was going to have fun with it and go out there and see what I could do. I knew that they would push me to a better personal time,'' Seymour, a Duquesne recruit, said. "I really had it in my head that I am a strong runner, that I'm not going to let other people affect my race, so I went out and did what I could.''
Seymour was denied a second medal when her 3,200 relay with Alyssa Brandis, Emily Wright and Ashley Stump missed eighth place by about 3 seconds in recording a 10th-place effort of 9:52.33
Delic's affair with the javelin and the state meet has been a decidedly mixed bag - she's always done well in the event, but had not medaled at states before this year - and that continued Saturday. She was the first seed entering the Class AA event but the Akron recruit just couldn't find her consistency and seemed to not completely satisfied despite her third-place showing.
"It was a rough day,'' Delic said.
Her best throw was 138 feet, 3 inches, just an inch shorter than she had at the District 6 meet. However, she had thrown 143-8 earlier this year. Tamaqua's Christine Streisel (143-11) and Fort Cherry's Jessie Merkle (141-0) placed ahead of her.
"The biggest thing is to medal and to be able to come back and overcome that adversity, I guess,'' Delic said. "I'm a little upset. I was the No. 1 seed. But, to be top three in the state, you can't ask for much more.''
Delic was in third place for a time with a throw in the preliminaries in the 129s. However, she got passed by three competitors before her final throw came up. Then she decided to follow the advice of her sister Andrea that she writes in marker on her left hand before each meet: "Grip it and rip it.''
"I'd been focusing a lot on too much the entire meet, so I just kind of stepped back, took a deep breath and just said, 'grip it and rip it,''' Delic said.
It being her last chance for a PIAA medal, the pressure was on Delic, although she managed to not feel it until she was actually in the event. Delic, a four-time Laurel Highlands Conference champion, had been seeded in the top eight as a junior but just missed medaling and had narrowly missed qualifying for states as a sophomore.
"I was actually kind of relaxed. I didn't feel a whole lot of stress or pressure going into it. But, when I got here and I started throwing in the middle, I got really tense. My dad and my coaches were telling me, 'Calm down. It will happen. It will happen,''' Delic said. "It finally did on the last throw.
"I was surprised how tense I got in the middle. That's something I've got to work on going to Akron next year. I've got four more years of this, and I'm excited for that.''
Several other area performers didn't fare as well as Snyder, Seymour and Delic on Saturday.
Altoona senior Kelly Davis ran her semifinal heat of the Class AAA 100 dash in 12.71 seconds, but that, although it put her sixth in her heat, was 14-hundredths of a second slow to get her into the finals. Earlier, Huntingdon's Natalie Isett was knocked out in the Class AA version of the event, when her 13.26 got her eighth in her heat.
Northern Bedford 800 runner Esther Wind missed a Class AA medal by four spots, running a 2:22.96 in the finals to place 12th.
Makenzie Wilt of Altoona finished 19th in the Class AAA discus with a 103-6. She tossed it a personal-best 118-3 in the District 6 meet.
Bedford's Carrie Baker was 21st in the Class AA triple jump. Her best distance was 32-8.