Wednesday, January 24, 2018
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Ephrata Girls Surge Past Pioneers

Ephrata's Sarah Holtz glanced over a her coach, John Keller, before she took the baton for the third leg of the 4 x 400 relay against Lampeter-Strasburg Monday afternoon at Ephrata Middle School.

The Mountaineers already clinched a Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two victory but trailed by a few paces in the final event of the blustery afternoon.

Keller leaned in, from about 10 yards away, and shouted words that stuck with Holtz long after she took the baton from teammate Haley Schaller.

"Don't think you can't do it."

Holtz erased the deficit, shooting around the track in 66.2 seconds to push the relay team to a win in 4:23.8 and the Mountaineers to a 131-19 win over the visiting Pioneers.

"The girls are really confident," Keller said of the Mountaineers, who improved 2-0 in the L-L and 2-0 overall in a quest for a fourth-straight Section Two title. "They're confident in themselves. They're confident in what we're doing around here. I just think they know they have a great opportunity to go four straight. They're on a mission."

The Ephrata boys (1-1, 1-1) completed the dual-meet sweep, 90-60, picking up their first win since the 2013 season.

At the center of Monday's action, Ephrata senior Kelly Liebl won the long jump (14-10), the 200 (25.9), the 400 (59.8) and anchored the winning 4 x 100 relay team (51.2).

"Just the clout that she carries," Keller said of Liebl, a league all-star in soccer and basketball. "She's a three-sport star here at our school. when you have someone like that leading your team, it carries a lot of weight and goes a long way."

Liebl, along with fellow senior captains Madison Fox and Erica Voigt, have not lost a dual meet in high school.

"There's definitely pressure," Liebl said. "We know teams are looking at us and want to throw us off the pedestal, but I think it's a good challenge for everyone. It keeps us focused in every meet, I think."

Competing without part of the lineup with several athletes on a class trip to Europe, the Pioneer girls (0-1, 0-1) won one event on Alexis Mongeau’s 5-0 high jump.

"They have great coaches," Pioneer coach Matt Delfert said of the Mountaineers. "Coach Keller and his staff have really built that program so much."

Beyond their core of upperclassmen, the Mountaineers draw from the depth of their underclassmen.

"The expectations are high," Keller said, "and they know that coming in. They just rise up to it."

Freshman sprinter Jennie Young added to her early season rise, winning the 100 (12.7) and joining Kelly Liebl, Kay Liebl and Kyra Horst on the 4 x 100 relay team.

"She gives us a lot of depth to our team," Kelly Liebl said of Young. "We have room for either me to be moved around or for her to be moved around. It's really nice to have that extra sprinter."

Young finished second to Liebl in the long jump (14-5.5) and clocked 51.6 seconds in the 300 hurdles, second to Samantha Weaver's 50.2.

Ephrata's Jennie Young clears a hurdle during the 300m event. Young finished 2nd in the race during the Ephrata and Lampeter Strasburg track meet on Monday afternoon March 30, 2015 in Ephrata. © Marty Heisey - LNP

Young credits her early season success to Keller.

"Coach Keller works a lot on an individual level," she said, "so he'll tell you what personally you need to do, and that helps a lot."

Keller's Mountaineers also swept the throwing events, as newcomer Kenzie Horst won the shot put (26-0.75 inches), Lisa Kramer took the discus (72-10) and Taylor Reider won the javelin (86-4).

"Our throws are still a work in progress," Keller said, "but we're getting better each meet."

And with success in each meet adds to the confidence that Keller said feeds his program.

"In the early meets, you get a chance to establish your team unity," he said. "It gets the kids who are new a chance to compete and go out and have a little success, and they start getting confidence."