Two Montoursville girls place in the triple jump

SHIPPENSBURG – Kirsten O’Malley interrupted her teammate Kaylee Caruso for a moment, wanting to share just one thought.

“I think it’s so cool that she just started this year and got third in the state,” the Montoursville sophomore said.

O’Malley interjected her thought as Caruso, a senior, pondered whether or not she wished she had started triple jumping before this year. The answer was easy for Caruso after she finished third in the Class AA triple jump at the PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University on Saturday.

O’Malley, competing in her second state triple jump event, earned her first medal, placing sixth with a jump of 36-feet, 1/2-inch. Caruso’s best leap of 36-9 actually tied her for second place with Johnsonburg’s Gabbi Benninger, but Benninger won the tie-breaker to take the silver.

The two jumps came on a blustery day more reminiscent of an early April dual meet than the Memorial Day weekend state meet. The usually exhausting heat was replaced by a relentless wind and temperatures which forced most competitors to wear long sleeves and tights while jumping.

The wind didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the jumpers, though. The wind was so strong it negated potential state records in the sprints because of being aided by the wind.

“It took longer to warm up,” O’Malley said. “You had to be really thorough in the warm-up. But it wasn’t too bad.”

Caruso only started doing the triple jump this year as a way of getting out of running the 200-meter dash. Caruso thought the triple jump was just a natural transition from long jump.

“I hated running the 200,” Caruso said after earning her second bronze medal of the weekend Saturday. “At first, it was a little weird to get the phases and stuff, but I got used to it.”

The fight in the triple jump really was for second place. First-place finisher Lanae Newsome of Brookville was the returning state champion and the state meet record-holder after posting a jump of more than 40 feet a year ago.

Newsome’s first jump Saturday was her winning jump of 39-6 . She made he second jump before passing on her final four attempts knowing nobody was going to catch her.

Benninger was the event’s second seed coming in, with Caruso the third seed. Caruso established herself as the front-runner for that silver medal, hitting her best jump on her second jump of the preliminaries. She wasn’t matched until Benninger’s last jump of the finals.

“We wanted to get 36 just to get into the finals,” Caruso said. “To finish this high really is a surprise. I wish I had started earlier. I just started long jumping last year, too. I always think, ‘What if I had jumped earlier? Where would I have been now?'”

O’Malley was the fourth seed heading into the finals after coming into the event seeded 11th. Her best jump came on her final jump of the preliminaries and was nearly three feet better than her jump in the same event last year which placed her 21st.

“The main goal was the 36-foot jump because that’s almost guaranteed a finals spot,” O’Malley said. “You just have to go for it then. Just get on the edge of the board and things like that.”

It was the first state medal for O’Malley, who said she hopes yesterday’s performance leads to more in her final two years.

“Hopefully it means more medals to come next year and the year after,” O’Malley said.