Sock’s Neylon hoping to make most of districts

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Loyalsock’s Charlotte Neylon, front, takes the baton from Hailey Zurich for the anchor leg of the girls 400 relay during the Bald Eagle Invitational at Lock Haven University in April.

SUNBURY — There was a deep sigh, then Charlotte Neylon’s shoulders slumped. The Loyalsock junior acknowledged it’s been a frustrating track season.

Just as quickly, she perked up. Her season is far from over with the most crucial weeks upon us. And staying positive is exactly what Neylon is hoping gets her to where she wants to be.

“This season hasn’t gone the way I wanted to,” she said following the PHAC meet Saturday. “I just have to stay positive about it. I have to hope that I peak at districts instead of peaking early like I did last year. I’m staying positive.”

It’s not as if this has been a terrible season for Neylon. She comes into the first day of the District 4 Track and Field Championships today as the third seed in the 100-meter dash, the third seed in the 200, just two inches off the state qualifying standard in the long jump and she anchors the Loyalsock 400 relay team which is the second seed and one of only two teams to meet the state qualifying standard this season.

Even when she’s not at her best, Neylon has a legitimate opportunity over the two-day district meet to be a state qualifier in four events. But that’s not good enough. She wants to be at her best so she can not only compete for spots at the state meet in Shippensburg, but compete for district championships.

The reality is Neylon likes where she is in the 200. She’s the third seed in the district meet, just .04 seconds behind Athens top seed Emily Lunger. The long jump was just a way to get out of running the 400, and she missed qualifying for states in the even last year by an inch.

Where Neylon hasn’t seen the improvement that she’d like is in the 100. It was her best even as she broke onto the scene a year ago, as she qualified for the state meet and ran a personal-best 12.52 at the Susquehanna High School Classic.

This year, those times just haven’t followed in the 100. The 12.82 she ran in the finals of the Lock Haven High School Classic was the best time she’s recorded this year.

“I don’t think I’ve lost the speed, I just have to find it again,” Neylon said. “I think it’s my turnover. It needs to be quicker. Last year it was quicker and I need to find it again.”

It’s not as if Neylon has lost her speed. She’s still one of the top anchor legs in the 400 relay and one of three returning members of that group for the Lancers which qualified for states a year ago. She’s still maybe the most complete sprinter in the district.

She’s found better consistency in the 200 this year by changing her style. Instead of going all-out at the gun like she did last year, she’s left herself some energy to close and has been a consistent mid-to-low 26-second runner in the 200.

“I was dying at the end before,” Neylon said. “It’s become about saving something so I can finish at the end.”

All the speed she continues to carry in her running is the same speed which has made her a viable threat in the long jump. She’s been just shy of the 17-foot mark for the past two seasons, and last week finished in second place at the PHAC meet as she teamed with Sophia Gardner and Hailey Zurich to take the top three spots in the event.

Originally, Neylon said she started doing the long jump in order to avoid having to run the open 400. But since then, it’s become one of her better events.

“Having that speed gives you the momentum to go farther,” Neylon said. “I feel really good with it. I’m hoping I can get that extra inch I didn’t get last year so I can get to 16-11 and qualify for states.”

Regardless of how frustrating her season has been, Neylon has continued to maintain a positive attitude. It’s how she’s been able to continue to produce key points for a Loyalsock team which should be in the thick of the team race this weekend.

In the moment of competition, the focus is evident on her face. But in between each even she carries a smile around which shows just how positive she has been throughout the season. It’s that positivity which she thinks will help her get to where she wants to be this weekend.

“Maybe my times aren’t there right now, but they will be (for districts),” Neylon said. “So I’m staying positive before I go into a race every single meet.”