Local girls excel in field events

Altoona senior Hannah Mulhern lost her cell phone during the deluge that suspended the District 6 Class AA track meet on Tuesday.

She eventually found it in the lower level of the Mansion Park pressbox … after she got soaking wet.

“After I ran around in the torrential downpour for about 15 minutes, I finally had somebody call, and somebody answered,” Mulhern said.

On Friday, Mulhern also found the extra inch she needed to break her school record and set a meet record for the pole vault at the District 6 Class AAA Track and Field Championships at Mansion Park.

Mulhern led a slew of area girls who qualified for next weekend’s state meet in Shippensburg. The contingent is particularly well-represented in the field events, where Altoona’s Mulhern, Abby Wagner (triple jump), Alexis Mirenda (javelin) and Rachel Dibert (shot put) will be joined by Hollidaysburg’s Makayla Williams (high jump) and Madelyn Betar (discus).

Freshman Ali Wyland of Hollidaysburg is going in two events. She anchored the Lady Tigers’ 400 relay team of Tori Surma, Maddie Aungst and Alexis Palfey to victory and then met the state qualifying standard when she finished second in the 100-meter dash.

Mulhern cleared 12 feet, 5 inches to set the next 6-AAA girls standard in the pole vault.

“I got on my 13-foot pole for just about the first time this season,” Mulhern said of what gave her the extra length to break her meet record of 12-3, set last year, and her school record of 12-4, set at this year’s Igloo meet. “I really haven’t even jumped [12-4 much] yet, because I’ve been dealing with a hip injury in the middle of the season.

“I was really happy and relieved to get over it. It was a good feeling.”

Two other girls – State College’s Megan Fry and Kate Nese – also met the PIAA qualifying height in the event, but the highest they cleared was 11-0.

“I wasn’t really expecting a lot of competition until I saw the seed sheets [on Thursday] and saw that Megan Fry was right below me,” Mulhern said. “So I wa really nervous the whole time, until I was jumping alone.”

With another week to regain more of her health and form, Mulhern is feeling pretty good about her opportunity at states.

“I’ll probably be seeded fourth,” Mulhern said. “I kind of like going into meets as a low seed. I tend to do well when I go in lower.”

Mulhern said form will be the focus in the coming week.

“If I had better form at the top, I would have gotten 12-7 1/2,” Mulhern said.

Wagner outperformed her seeded distance and eclipsed the 38-foot mark twice in the triple jump, winning by leaping 38 feet, 3 1/2 inches. She outdistanced second-place Veronika Karpenko of State College by 5 1/2 inches.

“It was nice, because the only other time I’ve gotten 38 was at indoor nationals,” Wagner said. “I hope to do even better at states.”

The winning jump was Wagner’s personal record by a quarter-inch. The Lady Lion senior said the second phase was the key in her performing her best.

“If you don’t hit it right or it isn’t far enough, your third phase isn’t going to be as long as you want it to be,” Wagner said.

The district meet has been a roller-coaster experience for Wagner, and she wanted to go out on a high note.

“I actually was scared coming in, but, being the top seed, I knew there were other people behind me, but I knew I had the advantage,” Wagner said. “My first jump was almost 38 and state qualifying, so I just tried to progress from there.”

Wagner already was focusing on states after her win.

“I want to go out there and jump a PR. I want to go out there and win a state medale, because I haven’t been able to do that yet. That’s definitely my biggest goal. It’s definitely good to win this and get a District 6 title again, because I won one in ninth grade, and that was it,” Wagner said.

Williams beat her top-seeded height of 5-2 with a 5-3 to take home the gold in the high jump for the second consecutive season. Grayce McCloy of Central Mountain was second at 5-1. She made all her heights on the first attempt – “When I kept getting it on the first attempt, I started getting excited,” Williams said.

“I just kind of put my mind to it. I got it a couple of times at practice,” Williams, a senior, said of getting the personal record and meeting the state qualifying standard all at once. “I felt I had it in me, but I was definitely nervous. I didn’t know how I’d do.”

Williams said being nervous works to her advantage.

“At practices, I never do anything, and it’s always crappy,” Williams said. “I was scared of Grayce the most. I was scared of her all week. She could have had 5-3.”

Another senior, Mirenda justified her top seeding with a winning toss of 119-8 in the javelin. No one else surpassed 107.

“I wanted it. I wanted to be on that bus going to states,” said Mirenda, whose second-best throw of 114 was better than anyone else in the field, too. “I not only wanted that and the state qualifying distance of 122, but I wanted the senior record. I didn’t get it yet, but that’s my goal for states.”

It wasn’t bad for one of the smaller throwers or one that’s dealt with several serious injuries. Mirenda missed last year’s track season after a devastating knee injury in soccer, and she can’t throw the shot because her rib cage can’t handle the stress.

“I just came out for track and just kind of found a love [for the throws],” Mirenda said of how she ended up in the javelin.

Javelin was Mirenda’s only event on Friday, and she thought that played a big role in her win.

“It definitely got my mind in the right place,” Mirenda said. “When you’re in throwing, it’s all mental. You kind of have to train yourself and get ready. It only takes one [throw to win].”

While Mulhern, Wagner, Williams, Mirenda and Betar all were favored coming in to the meet, the same couldn’t be said for Dibert. Dibert was nearly 2 feet behind Mifflin County’s Makala Rearick in the shot, her best throw before Friday being 34-2 1/2.

Dibert, a junior, didn’t get discourged, though. She threw a 35-6 1/2 to win, and, if she hadn’t done that, the 34-9 she also achieved would have been good enough for gold.

Dibert, however, didn’t really get to savor it.

“I didn’t even think it went that far until I heard it [announced],” Dibert said. “Then I had to wait three more throws for finals, and that was nerve-wracking.”

When it was over with, though, Dibert relished the achievement.

“I was so excited. Oh my gosh. I can’t even describe it. I was so happy,” Dibert said. “I’ve been getting 34s for awhile. I kept getting 34, 34. I was like, ‘I need 35.’ I was getting it in practice but I needed to convert it to the track meet. I was determined to get it. There was a lot of energy.”

Betar, a sophomore, was the only girl to throw the disc more than 100 feet. Her best result was 101-3 1/2.

Rearick was second at 95-3.

The Lady Tigers also got a first-place medal for the 400 relay, when they completed the circuit in 50.86 seconds. Central Mountain was a little less than 2 seconds back.

Wyland, a freshman, entered the 100 dash as the No. 1 seed. Jena Toner of Central Mountain beat her by 17-hundredths of a second, by Wyland’s 12.60 was enough to qualify for states – the standard was 12.67.