SHIPPENSBURG - Having won a second straight bronze medal in the triple jump one day earlier, Northern Bedford's Blake Over wasn't expecting for anything especially noteworthy on his last day as a high school athlete.
"Honestly, I thought it was the triple jump, because, being the fourth seed, I knew I was up there with the top guys already," Over said when asked what event presented what he felt was his best opportunity to do well. "In the long jump, I was seeded 17th. That was a little scary, knowing I was in the bottom half of the seedings.
"I'm really happy with how it turned out."
Over decided to go out with a bang - or, more appropriately, a gold - when he surprised almost everyone, including himself, by winning the Class AA long jump on the second day of the PIAA Track and Field Championships on Saturday morning at Seth Grove Stadium.
"I knew I had a little bit left in me. I wanted to see if I could get my best jump ever," Over said. "I knew it was my last meet in high school. I just put everything I had into it and hoped for the best."
Over won with a leap of 22 feet, 4 inches on his second attempt in the finals. Schuylkill Valley's Gregory Johnson was second at 22-0 1/4.
It was Over's fourth PIAA medal, all coming in the jumps. Last year, he brought home an eighth place medal in the long jump. That, combined with his higher seeding and record in the triple and long jumps this year seemed to indicate the triple jump was his best event.
Northern Bedford track coach Jeff Batzel, though, would disagree.
"We were thinking triple jump based on the seedings, but I've said all along that I think his best raw event is the long jump," Batzel said. "He's a very explosive kid, and this is just a one-jump blast. Technically, he has some issues in the triple jump.
"He picked the right day to have the best jump of his life."
Before Saturday, Over's best long jump was 21-11. Over believed he might have a jump like Saturday's in him.
"The first couple meets of the season, I was jumping high 21s, and then I would scratch at 22, so I knew it was always there, but it never came out in a meet that was a legal jump," Over said. "What better place to get it than at states."
According to Over, a lot of things went into his favor in getting his personal record and the gold medal.
"I liked the weather. I like getting it as hot as it will go. I'm tall, so that always helps. I was definitely the tallest one on the medal stand," Over said.
Ironically, Over almost didn't make it to states in the event. He was seeded second to Tussey Mountain's Darrin Sipes in the District 5 meet and was trailing Sipes in the event at one point. Had he not pulled out a couple of jumps to overtake his rival, he might very well have been sitting at home on Saturday instead of standing in the middle of the medal stand.
"I was nervous at our district meet, because our district only takes one person in each event unless you meet the qualifying standard. Darrin Sipes was ahead of me, and he's beaten me a couple of times this year," Over said. "This meet I was seeded in 17th, so I was even more nervous for that. It all worked out."
Over was a baseball player until he went out for track for the first time in seventh grade, and he's been doing the jumps ever since, and he probably will continue doing that along with playing football in college. One thing is for sure: Over went out of high school on a high note.
"After getting an eighth-place medal and two third-place medals - I'm always happy with those, but they're not what I always wanted. Then you get this gold, and you feel so much better," Over said. "Especially my last jump in my last high school meet made it more special."
Huntingdon's Kobren Frederick also represented the Mirror coverage area in the event. He finished in 11th place, jumping 20-4.