Rain can’t stop Lancers’ LaPoint in high jump

SELINSGROVE – The rain was steady and the comfort level just laughable. Loyalsock’s Wes LaPoint felt himself getting heavier and heavier with each jump during the PHAC Championships at Selinsgrove High School as his track uniform filled with moisture from rain water – not sweat on the second Saturday in May.

The early to middle portions of the conference championships were competed between rain showers that ranged from heavy, at times, to light before the afternoon sun peaked out and slowly began to dry the surfaces around Simon B. Rhoads Memorial Track.

That process came too late for LaPoint and the boys high jumpers as he described the feeling of crashing onto the blue tarp that covered the padding of the high jump as landing in a swimming pool.

The circumstances couldn’t weigh LaPoint down, though, as the junior and top seed captured the high jump championship after clearing 6 feet, 2 inches.

“There were a lot of good jumpers and I knew I had to get up,” LaPoint said. “What made it hard was the rain, but I still did well. It was challenging.”

LaPoint, who is a first-time track and field athlete after playing baseball for the Lancers, didn’t wear spikes but said his traction with his sneakers was fine and he attacked his approaches like he would on a dry surface.

He didn’t miss for the first time until reaching 6 feet, and he needed three attempts to clear that height. LaPoint, who has a personal best of 6-4 this year, needed two tries to clear 6-2.

Two jumpers were eliminated at 6-0, including Williamsport’s Thomas Ross. Ross, who reached 6-3 on Tuesday at Selinsgrove in a dual meet, finished third.

LaPoint was one of 15 local boys winners Saturday. The only events a local champion wasn’t crowned was in the 110 hurdles, discus and shot put.

Milton sprinter Chris Reuss was the lone double individual winner on the boys side. The junior won the 100 and 200 and also helped the Black Panthers win the 400-meter relay on a day the Black Panthers dominated the sprinting events. Milton placed first, third and sixth in both the 100 and 200.

Reuss and Montoursville’s Kaylee Caruso were named the top athletes of the meet.

The Black Panthers, who won the HAC-II title this year, won the overall conference title with 102 points. Selinsgrove, the HAC-I champion, was second with 81 points, and Williamsport third with 77.

The Selinsgrove girls, the regular-season HAC-I champions, won the team race with 108 points, narrowly edging defending champion Montoursville (107). Williamsport was third with 78 points.

The Williamsport boys reached a milestone during the morning’s 3,200-meter relay, breaking 8 minutes for the first time as a quartet. The Millionaires finished in 7:58.27 to offset a stellar run by South Williamsport, which, despite running an 8:08.68 and also breaking the previous meet record, finished 10 seconds behind the PHAC champions. Herb Stelly, Greg Johnson and Brandon Fedoriw just missed out winning the conference championship in 2012, losing by a second to Danville but they, along with the addition of Chet Schwoyer, dominated the day’s first scoring event on the track.

Stelly had a healthy lead over South Williamsport’s anchor as he received the final exchange, but the Williamsport senior pushed himself so the Millionaires could reach history and set a new PHAC record. Danville held the previous record of 8:10.08, set last year in the first PHAC Championships. The championships were previously known as the Coaches Invitational, so the record book was reset.

Williamsport’s record-breaking time still left the Millionaires a second short of the school record of 7:57.3 set in 1995, a time they will chase again next week at the District 4 Class AAA Championships at Susquehanna University.

Stelly added a first-place finish in the 800, running under 2 minutes while defending his conference championship and ran a winning leg in the 1,600-meter relay along with Fedoriw, Sabree Simmons and Wes Cuozzo.

Cuozzo repeated his 300 hurdles title. He was the lone runner to break 40 seconds, finishing in 39.41.

Other local boys winners were: Montgomery’s Dillan Boore (long jump), Lewisburg’s Udoka Eze (triple jump), South Williamsport’s Griffin Molino (3,200), Montoursville’s Matt Krezmer (javelin) and Garrett Evans (400) and Lewisburg’s Sean Walker (1,600).

Jersey Shore’s Mac Thompson, still beaming after pole vaulting 14-9 at Central Mountain on Thursday, cleared 14 feet to win the conference championship. The start of the boys pole vault was delayed and it was the last event to finish in front of a sparse crowd which included coaches, pole vault officials, media, the stadium’s clean-up crew and the athletes themselves.

Minus the excitement of a large crowd, Thompson received a lift from the competitive field as eight vaulters were still alive at 12-6. Typically, the Jersey Shore senior is by himself by that point in dual meets, so the deep field caught him by surprise.

“I really wasn’t expecting that at all,” Thompson said. “It gave me competition. Usually, I’m the last one up at 13 feet so it was good to have that competition in the meet.”

Three other vaulters, including Montgomery’s Dominick Galanti, reached 13-6 and another three cleared 12-6. None could match Thompson.

Williamsport’s Jaid Harsch had the identical uncomfortable feeling of LaPoint after finishing sixth in the high jump, but that didn’t keep her from winning the 100 and 300 hurdles. The hurdles sweep eluded Harsch a year ago at the league championships, but she beat defending champion Teri Stoner of Montoursville in the 100 hurdles before repeating her title in the 300s.

“To win both was great,” Harsch said, “and to beat Teri Stoner for the second time (in the 100s) was a great feeling and not just to beat her by the lean like at Lock Haven.

“To come back and win the 300s and repeat and then to do it in the rain was great.”

Harsch said she wasn’t bothered or nervous about running in the wet conditions during the 100 and 300 hurdles. She finished the 100s in 15.51 and the 300s in 46.95. On Tuesday, Harsch lost in the 300 hurdles in a dual meet against Selinsgrove’s Kayla Swartz, who finished fifth.

“I just brushed that off,” Harsch said. “I knew I’d have another chance (yesterday) and I came and got her.”

Local winners made up half of the 18 conference champions on Saturday. Caruso, the girls athlete of the meet, won the triple and long jumps. The senior just began competing in the triple jump this season after making the PIAA Championships in the long jump in 2012.

Teammate Kirsten O’Malley placed second in the triple jump, just over a foot behind Caruso.

“It’s good to have (Kirsten) because we push each other to get the top spots, first and second,” said Caruso, who also finished fifth in the 100-meter dash and ran a leg in the fourth-place finishing 400-meter relay team.

O’Malley, a sophomore, won the 200.

Other local girls winners were: Milton’s 400-meter relay, Milton’s Joselyn Pascual (high jump) and Vicki Soltys (pole vault) and Warrior Run’s Steph Shamburg (javelin).