Track notebook: Milton’s Long clears 14-9 to take AA pole vault title

BRETT R. CROSSLEY/Sun-Gazette Warrior Run’s Rylie Mong vaults herself over the bar during the PIAA track and field championships at Shippensburg on Saturday. It’s Mong’s second state medal in her third trip in the pole vault.

SHIPPENSBURG — Brant Long didn’t even try to hide his feelings about winning a state championship in the pole vault Saturday. He was as open as a Sheetz at 3 a.m. with his feelings.

“Everything that happened was kind of a big, big shock,” the Milton junior said.

He wasn’t the favorite coming into the event, but he was by no means a longshot either. Long was one of five vaulters seeded at 14 feet or better. And he was one of seven vaulters who cleared at least 14 feet Saturday.

But in the end, Long was the only vaulter who went even higher than 14 feet. He established a school record and PR by clearing 14-9 and winning the Class AA pole vault state championship.

“Before this weekend it went through my mind that I was going to win this thing as long as I do everything right,” Long said. “But still, getting sixth place last year when I was seeded fourth. I thought getting first this year was unthinkable.”

This season has been quite the battle for Long. He struggled during the middle portion of the season, including no-heighting at a number of events, because he broke the pole he used for every practice and competition.

The switching of poles left him untrustworthy of a new pole he hadn’t used before. He said it left him with a mental block which took him a while to sort out.

He got it figured out in time for last week’s District 4 meet when he cleared 14 feet for just the third time this season and the first time in nearly a month. Saturday he jumped as if there never was a mental block. He sat back after being the first to clear 14-6 and watched as one-by-one, his competitors faltered at the height, leaving him as the last man standing.

He raised the bar to 14-8 in order to break the previous school record of 14-7. He added another inch to that cleared jump for his winning height of 14-9, a new personal best.

“Everything this weekend was unexpected, but I’m grateful for how it turned out,” Long said. “It was tough to learn to trust that new pole. But we worked and worked these past couple weeks and it really paid off.”

WITH THE LEADERS

Tanner Walter used a series of friends to get himself to the front of the Class AA boys 3,200 with only one lap of the track left Saturday. He used those friends as pacers and to help him break wide and weave through traffic.

And with only 400 meters of the race left, the Milton junior found himself in third place only a second behind two runners even he knew he probably had no business running with. It was just the position Walter wanted to be in. He knew his sprint down the stretch of the 2-mile race wasn’t very good, so he wanted to be in the best position possible to hold on over the final couple hundred meters.

It worked perfect as Walter broke Tyler Leeser’s school record to finish fifth in 9 minutes, 32.37 seconds to earn his first individual state medal.

“I knew those guys at the top were going to hit a pretty quick last lap,” Walter said. “But I was able to go out and put my name up with the top athletes in the state and I’m pretty proud of that.”

Walter has trained with Leeser, who runs now at Virginia Tech, over the years, including this spring. And Leeser gave him some advice on how to handle big meet like the state championships.

It was that advice from Leeser which helped Walter find ways to get himself to the front of a field which began the race in a slow 4:50 first-mile pace. Because of that slowed pace, it left a large number of the 27-runner field bunched together and Walter had to work his way to the front. He made a move with Lewisburg’s Jacob Hess to find his way to eventual winner Colton Sands of Penns Valley and runner-up Jack Miller of Jenkintown before settling in for the stretch run.

“I know I can run with these people because I’ve raced them all year,” Walter said. “Now I’m here and I know I can place at this meet and do very well.”

MAKING MAGYAR HISTORY

Earlier Saturday, Warrior Run’s Addison Magyar made history for the Defenders when he became the first athlete to win a state medal in four consecutive years at the state track meet. He did it as the anchor leg of the 3,200 relay where he helped teammates Tyrese Hazzoum, Caden Dufrene and Damein Moser finish fourth.

But each of the state medals Magyar had won to that point had always been from relay events. Before he graduated from the Warrior Run program, he wanted one moment of individual success he could celebrate. He got it later in the day in the 800.

The senior knocked out a school-record time in the finals of the two-lap race, posting a 1:57.51 to take seventh place and earn the first individual state medal of his career.

“Finally having an individual moment means the world to me,” Magyar said. “This just caps off my career. And going out like this as a senior is incredible.”

And it’s not as if Magyar has had many opportunities to win individual state medals. This year’s 800 was the first time he qualified for states in an individual event. So even a seventh-place finish was enough to send Magyar over the moon with excitement. He was very reflective in the afterglow of the race, thanking those who have spent as little as a few minutes trying to help him cultivate the kind of ability it takes to be a state medal winner.

“I said if I’m ever going to do this, it has to be now,” Magyar said. “So I gave everything my all. That was my last high school race ever and it was a great way to go out.”

MORE HARDWARE

Pole vaulting has always been a mental battle for Warrior Run’s Rylie Mong. Dating back to her freshman season, she’s battled herself as much as she’s battled the poles she uses or the height of the crossbar.

Despite all the challenges she’s faced, she’s found a way to persevere. In what has been traditionally one of the best pole-vaulting districts in the state in Class AA over the last half-dozen years, Mong walked away from Shippensburg yesterday with her second state medal in her third trip to the event. That other visit ended with a ninth-place finish.

The 11-foot jump she made Saturday tied her best at states and was enough to finish in fifth place.

“I think, personally, pole vault is one of the, or the hardest, events in all of track and field. I’m glad I was able to do as well as I did.”

Her fifth-place finish yesterday followed up her third-place finish from a year ago. And knowing it was going to be her final event representing Warrior Run, Mong wanted to go out with a bang.

“Sure, I wanted higher, but I’m glad I was able to compete for this team,” Mong said. “I’m happy I got another medal.”

NEW EQUIPEMENT

James Koconis added some equipment to his uniform for the state championships this weekend. A cast on his right wrist was new after be broke it stumbling across the finish line in the 400 at last week’s district meet. The sheet of gauze covering the road rash on his right shoulder was also a new addition.

But it didn’t seem to distract Lewisburg’s anchor leg in the 3,200 relay. He out-leaned Magyar at the finish line after a tremendous 100-meter sprint to give the Green Dragons a third-place finish in the relay with a time of 8:07.77.

“It was pretty weird. Every time I swung my arm, I can just tell it’s heavier,” Koconis said. “And I have to hold the baton in my left hand, too, which I’m not used to.”

The cast on his right hand is a big part of the reason Koconis ran the anchor leg for the Green Dragons. As the anchor, he only had to worry about accepting a baton pass from his teammates, which he usually takes in his left hand. It also prevented him from having to make a baton pass.

It also led to one of the more exciting finishes of the day with the sprint by he and Magyar, even if it was for third and fourth place and not a championship.

“At other invitationals it was me and him sprinting at the end. I love it,” Koconis said. “I think we all managed this well and we were really focused in. Even though it wasn’t our best time, I’m proud of what we did.”

EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS

A week ago Montoursville’s Raya Pauling was considering dropping the 1,600 from her schedule of events. She knew everyone would be competing for second place behind Loyalsock’s Isabell Sagar and she thought she should put her focus in the 800.

But when an injury prevented Sagar from running the 1,600, Pauling decided to stay in the event and see what happened. And what happened was the freshman won a district title. She followed that up Saturday with a seventh-place finish at the state meet, setting a school record in 5:12.85.

“I’m so excited. This was my only goal when I got down here,” Pauling said. “I was really nervous, but I was also pretty confident that I’d be able to do it.”

MAKING IT COUNT

Lewisburg’s Josh Gose had one more attempt to really make his mark on the Class AA shot put Saturday. The junior was already sitting in a medal position, but it just wasn’t quite what he wanted. So on his final throw of the Class AA event, Gose set a PR by more than a foot, launching the shot 55 feet, 2 inches to finish in fifth place.

“I gave it everything I had left in the tank,” Gose said. “I struggled with my first couple throws, but I really leveled out after that. I stepped it up to say the least.”

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