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Altoona relay gets sixth

Ridge’s Knisely tacks on bronze shot put medal

SHIPPENSBURG — Altoona’s sixth-place finish Saturday at the PIAA Track and Field Championships in the finals of the Class 3A boys 400-meter relay was the prize.

Advancing to those finals through the preliminary race Friday was the challenge.

“We’ve come up short in that semifinal,” Altoona anchor Mitchell Lawhead said. “We were so nervous for that race, and it felt so good to get through.”

Lawhead, Connor Adams, Isaiah Barnes and Kurt VonColln, all seniors, capped their track and field careers standing on a podium they’ve always dreamed of climbing at Seth Grove Stadium.

“It means a lot to me, to all of us,” said Adams, whose father and coach, Mike, was part of a gold medal 400 relay team at Altoona in 1990. “We’ve been working for this since ninth grade. (Coach Adams) just told us to relax and run our race.”

Despite a late hiccup in the race, all four seniors were beaming after being presented their medals.

“This means everything,” Lawhead said. “We’ve worked four years for this. Kurt missed my hand at first on the third exchange, but we still ran an OK time. It wasn’t our best, but it was good.”

Coatesville won the race in 40.99 seconds, a new PIAA record. Altoona’s time was 42.41.

In Class 2A, Duane Knisely completed his second top-three effort in as many days by claiming a bronze in the shot put with a throw of 56 feet, 11 inches.

Knisely, who won a silver in the discus Friday, spent the offseason trying to improve his shot put efforts after finishing 13th at states as a sophomore.

“It started with getting the spin down last year,” Knisely said. “That added a good bit of length to it. When I came down last year and got close to medaling, I decided to put some work in and get better at it, and I am excited about how it has paid off this season.”

Another District 5 athlete medaled in the Class 2A 1,600-meter run.

Northern Bedford’s Ian Zimmerman continued his stellar sophomore season by finishing fourth and sprinting down the final stretch to break through a pack of other runners.

“Halfway through the race, I said, ‘Lord, you have gotten me this far, what’s two more laps?” Zimmerman said. “That final stretch, I just gave it everything I’ve got.”

Zimmerman said he was looking forward to some stiffer competition after winning the District 5 title last week.

“All season, I didn’t have anyone to push me,” Zimmerman said. “To come down here and have God give me the strength to do this after all the work I put in during the offseason.”

With two years left, Zimmerman is hoping to improve on his time of 4:23.04.

“I want to break 4 (minutes) by senior year,” Zimmerman said. “If I can knock off 12 seconds each year, I can do it. So far, I’ve taken 11 off this year.”

n State College won the boys team state championship.

n Bedford’s Van May missed the Class 2A 3,200-meter run due to an injury and was replaced by Northern Bedford’s Ian Sherlock, who finished 14th in 9:45.07. Colton Sands of Penns Valley won a gold medal in the event.

n Chestnut Ridge’s Logan Pfister finished 10th in the Class 2A boys triple jump with a performance of 42-0. Central Cambria’s Corey Roberts was 13th (41-6.5), Penn Cambria’s Jake Tsikalas was 19th (40-7) and Tyrone’s Nick Vasbinder was 20th (40-6).

n Mike Folcarelli of Altoona finished 16th in the Class 3A javelin (165 feet, 5 inches).

n Everett’s Nathaniel Maxwell ran out of steam just before the finish line and finished ninth (1:57.68) in the Class 2A 800-meter run.

n Joe Wertz of Bellwood-Antis finished 18th in the Class 2A shot put with a throw of 46 feet, 3 inches.

n Central Cambria’s 3,200-meter relay team just missed a medal, finishing ninth (8:18.05) in the Class 2A race.

n Tussey Mountain’s David Smith tied for 14th by clearing 12 feet, 6 inches in the Class 2A pole vault.

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