HS TRACK AND FIELD: Dunmore's Michalczyk, North Pocono's Franceschelli aiming for PIAA medal stand
May 26—Almost immediately after last season ended, Maura Michalczyk and Nicholas Franceschelli went to work.
Their goal, after falling short, was to reach the PIAA Track and Field Championship meet at Shippensburg University.
This weekend, both will reach the goal. Now they aim to fulfill their destiny on the medal stand.
Michalczyk, a junior at Dunmore, and Franceschelli, a senior at North Pocono, compete in the field events and are seeded among the top eight in each of their events. Michalczyk enters in a tie for the fourth seed for the girls Class 2A pole vault, while Franceschelli is seeded fourth for the boys Class 3A javelin. Those events are scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. at Seth Grove Stadium.
On Friday, the two-day meet starts with final races in the 1,600-meter run at 9 a.m., preliminary races on the track, and field event finals in selected events.
Last season, Michalczyk started to learn the pole vault for the first time.
A hurdler and sprinter by trade, she made the transition to the vault quickly. At the Walter Godek Invitational, Michalczyk had a clearance of 7 feet, 9 inches. By season's end, she finished fifth at the District 2 Class 2A Championship meet with a mark of 9-0 and owned the school record at 9-6.
"I was doing pretty well for my first year," Michalczyk said. "As soon as my sophomore year ended, I started putting in the training. It was always a goal of mine to make the state meet."
Michalczyk's next move included going to the Hudson Valley Flying Circus group to train with pole vault coaches Tim St. Lawrenson and Bob Sorensen and Susquehanna's Tatum Norris, last year's PIAA Class 2A silver medal winner.
Her track and field career took off from there.
In her first dual meet of this season, Michalczyk broke her school record with a winning height of 10-6 against Carbondale Area. Later, in Dunmore's fourth meet against Lakeland, with a school mark of 11-3.
At the district meet, Michalczyk cleared 11-0, which equaled Norris' best height. However, Norris won the gold with fewer misses, but both qualified for the state meet.
"It has been a hard season because the weather didn't cooperate and there weren't the best conditions for pole vaulting," Michalczyk said. "At districts, we had 30 mile-per-hour winds. We had to make it work. It was exciting, though. Tatum and I train together, and that really pushes both of us.
"I am going to try and stay relaxed, and I am excited about the meet."
Franceschelli was coming off a fourth-place finish at the Spagna meet last season with a season-best throw of 151-5 in the javelin. But at the district meet, he couldn't find his rhythm and finished 11th with a mark of 142-4.
That was all the motivation he needed.
"Last year at the district meet, I had a bad day, and that is when I really wanted this," Franceschelli said. "The season came to such an abrupt end, you didn't see it coming. I wanted to go as far as I could this year."
North Pocono coach Jason Sepkowski has said that nobody worked as hard as Franceschelli in the preseason or during the regular season. He had the best throw of 184-6 in the dual meets and launched a throw of 185-8 to win gold at the Spagna championship meet.
At the District 2 Championships, battling Wyoming Area's Drew Mruk and Hazleton Area's Samuel Guzman, Franceschelli hit a career-best 193-10. Mruk won the gold with a toss of 208-7, Franceschelli won silver, and Guzman won bronze at 183-2. All three reached the state meet and are seeded among the top eight with Mruk being first among the 25 qualifiers.
"Expectations are high," Franceschelli said. "Drew is a fantastic athlete. I am hoping to get another big mark, just like at districts. There are going to be some terrific athletes competing, so you have to focus on you and the technique that you have worked so hard to perfect, and you hope to put it all together."
Athletes from Wallenpaupack and Wyoming Valley West qualified through regional events and will compete at Shippensburg University in Unified Track.
Events include the 100-meter dash, 400 relay, 400 and 800, the lon jump, shot put and javelin.
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