Wednesday, January 24, 2018
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Ephrata Girls win Leagues!


It was the biggest mountain left to conquer, and the Ephrata girls' track and field team lived up to its nickname by finally scaling the highest local peak.
 
The Mountaineers captured their first L-L League Track and Field Championships title in school history Saturday.
 
"Holy smokes, didn't think it would happen,'' Ephrata coach John Keller said of winning the crown.
 
Scoring 59 of their 89 points on the track, the Mounts edged perennial title contender and last year's champion Hempfield 89-85 in front of a nice crowd on a day that began under cloudy skies, featured a fairly heavy downpour midway through the meet, then ended under glorious sunshine.
 
"I can't say enough about this team,'' Keller said while holding back tears that eventually he couldn't stop. "They just hung together all year. Didn't quit. Could have wrote them off today.
 
"It looked pretty bleak there for a while, then the girls' 4x1 (400 relay) took the track. Set the school record. That just kick-started everything.''
 
Ephrata got its biggest contribution from one of the most talented athletes in school history, as senior Mary Witmer won the high hurdles (14.68), ran the ninth-fastest time in the country this season and set a meet record in winning the intermediate hurdles (42.32) and ran a blistering 56-second split on the victorious 1,600 relay team Saturday. Add to that a victory in Friday's triple jump, and the Liberty-bound Witmer contributed 38 points to Ephrata's cause.
 
"How can you discard what she did today?'' Keller said of Witmer, who's been a catalyst for the Mounts' back-to-back Section Two dual-meet championships and now the league title.
 
The Mounts entered the meet-ending 1,600 relay leading Hempfield 79-77, so they need to finish in front of the Black Knights to secure the team trophy.
 
Sophomore Kelly Liebl, who also won the 200 in 25.72 and was fourth in the long jump in 15'-11 1/2" led off and put Ephrata in front. Witmer then took the baton and recorded her amazing split to give the Mounts some breathing room.
 
Junior Erica Voigt, who was filling in for an ill Andrea Castillo, ran her leg and handed off to Jordan Crills, a senior who's in her first year of competing in track.
 
"We knew the whole meet was on the line,'' said Liebl.
 
"I was just like, 'No, not having it,' '' Witmer said of allowing any other team -- especially Hempfield -- getting a chance at winning the relay. "I just wanted to finish strong and hold the lead.''
 
Voigt said she was confident in her leg, even though she wasn't originally in the lineup. She was, however, part of the same group that won the 1,600 relay at least year's championships. "I just tried to stay relaxed; give it my all,'' she said.
 
Crills, for her part, added a bit of comic relief when she admitted that she "always hears Keller yelling at me. I think about that the whole time. He says to run scared. Act like they're coming for us. I know it's just a race, but ...''
 
The Mounts ended up winning two of the three relays and taking second in the 3,200 relay that got the meet started Saturday morning.
 
"Going in, I thought we had a legitimate chance to win all three,'' Keller said. "I thought that's what we had to do to win this meet.''
 
Senior Moriah Pfautz, junior Yasmina Davis, freshman Kay Liebl and sophomore Kelly Liebl claimed the 400 relay in a school-record 50.19.
 
Kelly Liebl, Witmer, Voigt and Crills took the 1,600 relay in a season-best 4:01.71, while the sophomore Castillo, junior Vanessa Hurst, freshman Jordan Carvell and junior Nicole Wilkerson placed second in the 3,200 relay in 9:53.83.
 
Carvell (5:28.69) also added a sixth-place finish in the 1,600, junior Crystal Hartman added a silver in the discus (112-3) and bronze in the javelin (119-3) and Voigt (33'-1/2") took fifth in Friday's triple jump behind Witmer (37-1) to complete Ephrata's scoring.
 
Keller did acknowledge that had Hempfield had junior sprinter Sarah Helgeson available -- she was the top seed and defending champion in the 100, 200 and 400 -- things might have turned out differently.
 
"I think (Hempfield) could have folded with a Helgeson, and they didn't, '' Keller said. "But you race who's here. Unfortunately, in sports, you have injuries.''
 
The Knights, for their part, weren't using the absence of Helgeson as an excuse.
 
"We really came together as a team,'' said senior Claire Davis, who improved from sixth-place seeds in both events to take third in the long (15'-11 3/4") and triple (34'-7 1/4") jumps. "Sure, it would have been nice to have Sarah, and yeah, it might have made it different, but we had so many girls step up.''
 
"We are a team, and rallied around each other,'' said Knights coach Curt Rogers. "The girls, they had no real battles in our (dual) meets, but here, at leagues, we were in a real dogfight.''
 
The Knights scored 53 of their 85 points on the track, getting wins from sophomore Danielle Bland in the 100 in 12.49 and the foursome of Maris Kurcina, Kelsey Nolan, Bri Thomas and Maria Yoder grabbing the 3,200 relay in 9:44.64.
 
"We were beaten by a very good team,'' Rogers said of the Mounts. "They also were classy winners.''
 
Moving to the head of the league's freshman class was Manheim Township's Meredith Newman, who claimed the 400 in 57.84 and then came back 90 minutes later and won the 800 in 2:16.57.
 
Newman held off Donegal's Karlee Farr (58.68) and Township teammate Sarah Gottschalk (59.82) in the quarter-mile, which was contested during some of the heaviest rain.
 
In the 800, Newman bettered Lampeter-Strasburg's Joslin Sellers (2:16.57) by setting the pace from the start, pulling away about the midpoint, then striding into the finish.
 
Penn Manor's Greta Lindsley, who won the 800 a year ago, sat out the event after taking the 1,600 in 5:03.95 late Saturday morning, and winning her third straight 3,200 title in 11:25.09 Friday evening.
 
Conestoga Valley's Savannah Stauffer and Cocalico's Ashley Strenko both cleared 5-2 in the high jump, but Stauffer earned the gold on fewer misses.
 
Lancaster Catholic sophomore Hannah Knowlton won the long jump at 16'-6 1/4", with Manheim Central's Lauree Weigand (16-0) second in front of Hempfield's Davis.
 
Cocalico freshman phenom Emily Stauffer threw 41-9 1/2" to win the shot put, while Garden Spot's Maddy George lived up to her top billing by winning the javelin with a throw of 125-5.
 
The Spartans ended up third in the team standings with 61.3 points, followed by Cocalico (38) in fourth and Manheim Township (33) in fifth.