Gardner among area winners at Selinsgrove Classic

By MITCH RUPERT

mrupert@sungazette.com

SELINSGROVE — A year ago, Brenden Gard­ner was a contender in the high hurdles, but by no means was he the favorite. At every invitational, the Hughesville hurdler had to deal with the likes Ian Nieves, Connor Oldt and Josh Guthrie.

But now, all three of those state qualifiers from a year ago now are gone. Gard­ner has be­come the favorite.

Satur­day at the Selinsgrove Clas­sic, Gardner ran like the fa­vorite. The Hughesville senior took the 110-meter hurdles final by nearly a quarter second. Gardner followed it up with a second-place finish in the 300 hurdles.

He was one of nine individuals or relay teams to win a title Saturday. Mil­ton’s Keayon Williams was the lone double individual winner, taking the high jump and long jump titles. Also winning in the boys competition were Wil­liamsport’s Michael Ling­ard (100), Jared Thompson (400) and Keith Jason (tri­ple jump), Milton’s Tyler Leeser (1,600), Milton’s Eric Wilt (200) and Loyal­sock’s Quinn Serfass (3,200). Williamsport’s 3,200 relay team also finished first.

In the girls competition, Loyalsock’s 400 relay team took first place, as did the Lancers’ Maddie Fox (high jump) and Isabel Sagar (3,200) and Milton’s Leah Bergey (100 hurdles).

Gardner knew this season was going to be his opportunity to really make a mark in the high hurdles. Oldt, Guthrie and Nieves were all state qualifiers a year ago with Nieves winning the Class AA 110 hurdles state title. But all three graduated, so Gardner put in extra time during the offseason and even competed in indoor meets.

The work paid off. His winning time of 16.39 seconds on a sunless, blustery day was impressive. He was .24 seconds ahead of Southern Columbia’s Duncan Bedford at the finish line.

“I worked my butt off all year,” Gardner said. “Last year, I was seeded second at the district meet and I had a bad day. But that’s no excuse. So this is my year to get it back and get that seed back and try to get to states.”

Saturday certainly was a good start to making that run to Shippensburg University for Memorial Day weekend. A year ago he was third at the Bald Eagle Invitational at Lock Haven. He was third at the PHAC meet. He was fourth at the Wyalusing Invitational.

But Saturday, there wasn’t a soul in front of him as he crossed the finish line. That, in an of itself, was a big step for Gardner.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Gardner said. “This will give me a lot of confidence.”

He’s put last year’s disappointing fourth-place finish at a rainy District 4 meet behind him, but he’s allowing that feeling to drive his work for his final high school season. He’s focused on his start out of the blocks, hoping that can help give him the edge he needs.

Saturday, well that start didn’t go as he had planned. But he made up for it.

“I didn’t have a good one today,” Gardner said. “But I was able to catch up with the guys and make it through.”

Fox continued her strong first week of the season by winning the high jump title. Her best make of 5 feet was impressive on a day where the wind whipped through Harold L. Bolig Memorial Stadium with a hint of Jack Frost present. The returning state qualifier jogged around the infield to try and stay warm, and she stayed warm enough to be the only competitor in the field to clear 5 feet.

“Normally the weather like this has a factor on you, but when you’re zoned in, nothing can really get in the way,” Fox said. “I’m happy for what I did. I was shooting for 5-2, but I guess the weather didn’t permit that.”

Fox cleared 5-2 in the Lancers’ season-opening dual meet on Wednesday against South Williamsport. She continued that strong start on the first day of April and complemented it with a jump of 15-9 1/2 to take second place in the long jump yesterday.

Not bad for an athlete who said she hadn’t touched a high jump pad since the state meet last May and spent the winter helping the Loyalsock basketball team finish third in the district and reach the state tournament.

“I still have high standards for myself and when I don’t meet them, I get down on myself,” Fox said. “I think now that I know what I can do, I’m going to put even more time into it. I’m really excited.”

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