DISTRICT 11 AAA TRACK AND FIELD: Kleckner, Haas dominate

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

May 20—ORWIGSBURG — There will be no break for Pottsville's Payton Kleckner.

No easing up in her training regimen.

Kleckner, who placed fourth in the high jump two years ago the last time the PIAA held track and field championships, is going back to Shippensburg as a senior and taking direct aim at a gold medal.

Wednesday afternoon at Blue Mountain's Eagles' Nest, Kleckner eased to the District 11 Class 3A gold, clearing 5 feet, 5 inches, to easily outdistance the next three medal winners, Pocono Mountain's Isabella Horvath, Southern Lehigh's Jayden Kline and Easton's Jonna Pettus, who all cleared 5-1.

"It feels great," Kleckner said. "Sophomore year I got third (at districts) and it was a great experience.

"I had some really, really advanced girls behind me, so it really feels good to come out on top this year."

The hard work will continue for Kleckner leading up to states. She'll practice daily. She'll work out on the side. She wants that state gold.

"I'll have practice every day, then I go to the gym after," Kleckner said. "These next 12 days are crucial for states.

"You keep going. Only the last few days you scale down so you don't get sore. But, until then, work hard."

Kleckner, who leaped 5-6 in winning the Schuylkill League championship last week, has a goal of 5-7 and thinks that could be enough to stand atop the podium in Shippensburg.

Haas dominates

Blue Mountain junior Olivia Haas crossed the finish line in the 1,600 and slowed to a trot. Behind her, the battle for second place was just coming out of the turn, approximately 80 meters away. Second-place Lana Hurwitz of Parkland finished more than 20 seconds back.

Haas went out early, she went out fast and she never looked back. She left no doubt.

When she stepped atop the medals podium to receive her gold medal, it was her father, a legendary distance runner in his own right, Randy Haas, placing the gold around her neck.

"That was so special," Haas said of her father's presentation. "I wasn't expecting that. It was a surprise."

Her goal for the state meet is a repeat of the district meet.

"I'll be definitely going for that gold," Haas said. "I know there's a lot good girls in the state who are really running well right now."

Later, Haas earned her second state championships berth by claiming the gold in the 800 run. That one was a much closer race with the Blue Mountain junior edging Easton's Sophie Emin by less than two seconds.

Wallace rebounds

Jim Thorpe's Lydia Wallace wasn't happy with a pair of second-place finishes in last week's Schuylkill League meet.

She did something about it.

Going out fast from the gun, Wallace worked hard and earned the gold medal in the 300 hurdles after missing a state berth earlier in the day in the 100 hurdles.

"I was not happy with how I performed last week, and to come out today, I knew it could be my last race as an Olympian," Wallace said. "I just wanted to do everything I could do and get that one more race in.

"At states, I would love to get on the podium."

Another Olympian

Jim Thorpe freshman Kaila O'Connor, a state qualifier early in the competition with a second-place finish in the 100, came back even stronger late in the day, capturing gold in the 200-meter dash and earning her second PIAA championships berth.

Schuylkill qualifiers

A trio of Lehighton girls will be competing in Shippensburg after second-place finishes Wednesday.

Kelsey Gaston qualified in the 3,200-meter run, Brittney Bartasavage finished second in the 100 hurdles and Abigail Meckes earned a berth in the discus.

Gaston earned her state opportunity with a strong performance on the last lap, breaking away from third-place finisher Brooke Labenberg of Parkland over the final straight to claim silver.

"My goal was just to make it, and coming in, I was thinking maybe I could stick with the first runner," Gaston said. "Then I was like, why risk that chance, so what I did was run with the second-place girl.

"I made her go on the outside lane and I was on the inside. I just made sure I stayed with her, then on the last lap I just took off."

Meckes, who didn't fare well at Blue Mountain during a regular-season dual meet, was much happier with her District 11 performance Wednesday.

"I felt pretty good because I was ranked second, and third place was pretty far down," Meckes said. "But, last time I was here was in the regular season and I didn't throw very well, but it was raining.

"But, that still kind of scared me a little bit. Today, I threw like five feet down from my PR, but on a stressful day like this, that's pretty good. If I'm able to medal somehow that would be great, but I'm just excited to be going there."

Later, Meckes earned her second state berth, finishing third in the javelin and exceeding the state meet qualifying distance with a throw of 123-7. Qualifying distance was 122-0.

North Schuylkill and Jim Thorpe will both be represented on the boys' side in Shippensburg.

For the Spartans, Terry Thomas, with a leap of 21-3, earned a silver in the long jump, while Thorpe's Allan Bailor, with a throw of 55 feet, finished second to Nazareth's Cody Breidenbach in the shot put. Bailor's teammate, Aiden Clements earned a state berth in the pole vault, finishing second and clearing 12 feet, nine inches.

Another Spartan, Tristan Bolinsky, missed qualifying with a third-place finish in the shot put, but bounced back to finish second in the javelin with a throw of 158 feet, earning his first state meet berth.

"It started off rough today, I had some good throws, but unfortunately they were right sector fouls," Bolinsky said. "I made some changes, I ended up getting it in and I ended up with a really good throw in the end."

Pottsville's Bobby Walchak was the 110 hurdles winner at last week's league meet but only the No. 4 seed at districts. He exceeded that seed by two spots, placing second behind Easton's Sincere Johnson and gaining a state championships berth in the process.

"It was awesome," said Walchak of earning the state berth. "The competition was amazing and I never really faced anything like that all year.

"I just want to go there (Shippensburg). I've never been there, and it's going to be a nice experience."

Coming close

A number of Schuylkill League athletes came close, but just missed qualifying for the PIAA championships.

On the girls' side, Jim Thorpe's Laura Clarke placed third in the discus while teammate Lydia Wallace was third in 100 hurdles. Bartasavage, who qualified in the 100 hurdles to get to states, missed in the 300 hurdles with a fourth-place finish.

On the boys' side, North Schuylkill's Mike Reilley and Jack Dean finished 3-4 in the javelin. North Schuylkill had another near miss when Bolinsky finished third in the shot put. Right behind Bolinsky in fourth was Tamaqua's Toby Berg.

Blue Mountain pole vaulters Michael Levkulik and Bradley Gherghel finished 3-4 in that competition, both missing out on state berths.

District 11 record

Wilson's Damon Simpson established a district record in the 100-meter dash, covering the distance in 10.72 seconds to eclipse the old mark of 10.74, set by Jason Kremus of Northampton in 1989. Kremus was on hand to present Simpson with his gold medal.

Contact the writer: croth@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6025