Wednesday, January 24, 2018
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Ephrata Girls show power in opener


The stealth mode has been removed from the Ephrata girls' track and field team.
 
Mountaineers coach John Keller and his experienced, deep and versatile squad all seem OK with that notion.
 
"They know we're not going to sneak up on anybody this year,'' Keller said of his squad after it overpowered visiting Lampeter-Strasburg 112-48 in the Section Two and season opener for both teams on a frigid Friday.
 
The Pioneer boys, on the other hand, took the measure of Ephrata by a 90-60 margin. Ryan Lawler won the 100 (11.3), 200 (23.8) and high hurdles (16.3) and J.T. Conroy the high jump (5-6), long jump (19- a-v) and triple jump (39-2 3/4) to front L-S.
 
Both outcomes were expected, although the final margins of victory came as somewhat of a surprise.
 
"We're so-called loaded,'' Keller said of his girls, who won the Section Two crown last year by wresting it from L-S. "But, we do have some holes.''
 
Those holes were hard to see Friday as the Mounts' Mary Witmer, Kelly Liebl and Crystal Hartman led a dominating performance both on the track and in the field.
 
Witmer won the high hurdles (career-best although wind-aided 14.9), intermediate hurdles (48.4), 400 (61.0) and triple jump (35-1/4). Hartman claimed the shot put (31-1 1/4), discus (99-11) and javelin (117-6). Liebl took the 100 (12.5) and long jump (15-2).
 
"There's a lot of pressure on us because of what happened last year,'' Hartman said. "We lost some key members, but overall, the family is together and going strong.''
 
"It's very exciting, and a promising start,'' Witmer said of taking down L-S. "They're always at the top of the section, so beating them is definitely a good start to the season.''
 
Witmer said she and her teammates were quite nervous at the outset, because "L-S has a lot of good runners. Then, we saw they weren't there, or at least they weren't running.''
 
Pioneers coach Matt Delfert acknowledged that his team was, in fact, short-staffed, due to a school-sponsored trip to Spain.
 
Those losses, Delfert said, probably would not have made up the difference in the final score, but "you can't lose five scoring athletes and expect to win track meets.''
 
In other words -- and yes, this is totally co-opting and butchering a phrase, but -- the plane to Spain mainly meant no reign for L-S.
 
On the other hand, Delfert said he was excited to see so many of his younger kids step up and play important roles for the first time in their scholastic careers.
 
He said there were plenty of outstanding individual efforts by his girls, but there was just no way they were going to compete with the juggernaut that is the Ephrata squad.
 
"I'm happy with the way we got the season started,'' Keller said. "But my approach, it's going to be the same. I've told the girls they can't look past anyone. We've got to be ready to go and we've got to have our guns blazing.''
 
Keller did say, though, that he knows what he's got on his roster.
 
"Liebl. Witmer. Hartman. That's a tough three to beat,'' Keller said. "Now, we don't have people backing them in every event, but that's a pretty good group to start.''
 
That's the making for not only a good dual-meet team, but potentially a good championship-meet squad.
 
"We have a lot of goals,'' Keller said. "Our first goal is to go undefeated and win the section. That other stuff, well, we'll wait and see.''
 
"We have some big goals and one of those is that we're going for league champs this year,'' said Hartman, filling in Keller's ''other stuff.''
 
The Mountaineers scored 60 points and finished second behind Hempfield (80) at the 2012 L-L League Championships, as the Black Knights won their 11th L-L title since 2000.
 
Ephrata would like to reverse that outcome this time around, and really get noticed.