B-A’s Gerwert claims silver

SHIPPENSBURG — Some people like to take a teddy bear to bed with them, or maybe their favorite blanket.

Bellwood-Antis’ Lexi Gerwert prefers silver — as in the silver medal she won in the Class 2A pole vault during Saturday’s competition at the PIAA Track and Field Championships at a damp Seth Grove Stadium.

“I’m going to sleep with this on,” Gerwert joked.

Gerwert and a couple of other area girls had dream days on the second day of activity at Shippensburg University. In addition to Gerwert and the gold and seventh-place medals won by Central Cambria relays (see related story), Bishop Carroll’s Maddie Murphy and Penn Cambria’s Lauren Michina were five and six in the Class 2A triple jump, and Hollidaysburg’s Ali Wyland ran all the way from her prom — not literally, of course — to a sixth-place medal in the Class 3A 100-meter dash.

It was the first-ever state medal for Wyland, who had made it to Shippensburg all four of her varsity seasons.

“I’m going to cry. Oh my gosh. I am just so happy,” Wyland said, her tears blending with raindrops on her face.

While Wyland was shedding tears of joy, Gerwert was proclaiming shouts, or at least strong words, of vindication.

“Finally!'” Gerwert said. “I’ve been here the last two years and I haven’t placed, so it feels great.”

By vaulting 11 feet, Gerwert, a junior, finished knotted with Moniteau’s Kendall Grossman and Loyalsock’s Hailey Zurich.

South Williamsport senior Katie Jones won with a meet record vault of 13-4.

It was a long, winding path for the Lady Devil, who had back surgery before last season and never was quite right. Now, Gerwert’s back is back and so is she, sooner than she thought.

“No, I didn’t think I would (medal at states so soon after surgery), but, since I did, I’m ecstatic,” Gerwert said. “It’s great.”

Gerwert said her success before her back procedure had a lot to do with her quick rise back to the top, going even beyond what she had accomplished before.

“I think I had more motivation after (the surgery),” Gerwert said. “My back problems were fixed for the time being. I started coming in second, and I just wanted to be in seventh.”

Gerwert said the weather conditions didn’t affect her competition, and she was able to come in with little pressure tied for the fifth seed.

“I knew that I was going to get beat a little bit,” Gerwert said. “I didn’t let it get to me. I just let it go. I did really well, so I guess it worked.”

Two previous trips to Shippensburg also helped her keep her poise.

“I knew what to expect. I knew how they ran things. I was talking to some of the girls that were here for the first time, and they were super-nervous. It’s understandable, but I knew how everything worked, so I wasn’t as nervous,” Gerwert said.

Saturday’s success has convinced Gerwert to continue focusing on the event — she had been sharing her vaulting time with volleyball and gymnastics.

“I’m going to start doing summer meets, focus on that. I’m not doing any other sports this year. I’m just going to focus on track,” Gerwert said.

Wyland got her medal by running a time of 12.29 seconds in the finals of the Class 3A 100 meters. Hunter Robinson of Avonworth won, posting an 11.93.

“Determination (carried me). This was my last race,” Wyland said.

With a 12.50 in the semifinals of the Class 3A 100 dash, Wyland placed fourth in her heat and didn’t even anticipate making the finals, but she did grab the eighth and final spot.

“I got chills in my body. I was so happy. So happy,” Wyland said of seeing she advanced.

It was a challenging weekend for the Lady Tiger senior, who also participated in the 200 meters and the four-by-100 relay at states this year. And, on top of that, she came back home to Blair County on Friday night for Hollidaysburg’s prom and returned to Shippensburg Saturday morning.

“I guess trying not to get tired is the biggest challenge,” Wyland said. “Honestly, you can’t (avoid getting tired).”

The medal was a beautiful bow on what Wyland said was an overall positive experience at this year’s meet.

“I’m very happy,” Wyland said. “We broke our record (Friday) in the four-by-one, and my time (Friday) was good in the one and, in the two, I missed semifinals by a hundredth of a second.”

Five area girls were in the afternoon’s Class 2A triple jump, and two of them took home medals.

Maddie Murphy of Bishop Carroll placed fifth, coming up a few inches shy of a person record with a 36-6.25. Penn Cambria’s Lauren Michina was sixth, checking in at 36-2.75.

Bishop Guilfoyle’s Preslee Litzinger also got into the finals, but her best jump of 35-10.75 placed her just outside the medals in ninth.

“It’s really nice. I like it, because I think we all get along, and everyone cheers for each other, and everyone’s really positive,” said Murphy, who actually attended Penn Cambria with Michina and fellow triple jump state qualifier Lyric Janosik in the fall before transferring back to Carroll. “It’s really nice to compete with your friends.”

Athens’ Breana Gambrell won the event with a leap of 38-8.75. No other competitor got to 38 feet.

A sophomore, Murphy actually made the state meet via achieving the state qualifying standard at the District 6 meet, not by finishing in the district’s top three. She was seeded eighth coming in but was optimistic about her chances to win her first PIAA medal.

“I think, because at districts I do more events, so I feel they had a factor in it,” Murphy said. “I just did this event (on Saturday), so I had more time to focus. It feels good to come in and show I can get these numbers and place.”

For Murphy, that meant more opportunity to zone in on the key areas to produce her best jumps.

“If I get the first phase, I think I’ll get a good cycle, and everything will come through,” Murphy said. “If I rip through on the second, everything will come together.”

Murphy now has two more years to try to move up the medal stand.

“In college, I’d like to do track and maybe get a scholarship if I could, but I know that I need to keep pushing for that,” Murphy said.

As a junior, Michina also has a shot to get some better hardware in the future.

“This will definitely motivate me for next year. I didn’t place last year. Placing this year will just motivate me to do better,” Michina said.

Michina jumped 38-0.25 at the D6 meet to earn the third seed at states. Although she didn’t match that on Saturday, it didn’t tarnish the luster on her medal one iota.

“It’s great. My goal this year was to place at states, and I did just that. It might not have been my best day, but I’m still happy,” Michina said. “I just knew if I hit my phases right and I ran as hard as I could that I could medal.”

Michina also enjoyed the camaraderie of having a number of familiar faces at her event.

“I love having them around. We push each other all the time. It’s great having them on the medal stand with me,” Michina said.

In addition to the three finalists, Janosik jumped 34-6 to finish 14th, and Everett’s Stefanie Ketterman was 15th with a 34-1.75.

If anyone could sympathize with the workload Wyland was carrying this weekend it was Bishop Carroll’s Alyssa Martinazzi. The Lady Husky junior actually was entered in four events at states — the 100, 200, 400 relay and long jump.

After a busy first day, all that was left to wrap up Martinazzi’s meet was the 100, where she was eliminated in the semifinals, finishing eighth in her heat in a time of 13.06.

Along with Wyland, two other area girls competed in Class 3A finals on Saturday. Hollidaysburg’s Paige Jodon was part of a 12-way tie for 14th in the high jump at 5-0. Altoona’s Lindsey Hallinan was 20th in the discus with a distance of 109-5.

Carroll’s Britt Krug, who performed in all three throws this weekend, finished 25th in the Class 2A shot put, her best throw measuring 33-11.5.

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