With seven individuals and a relay team competing across eight events, the Elizabethtown Area High School track and field team had limited, yet strong chances to earn medals at the District 3 Championships, which took place at Shippensburg University on Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18. While the Bears wound up with just one victory, they also reeled in numerous accolades along the way.
The girls team finished in a tie for eighth place with South Western and Greencastle-Antrim, totaling 21 points overall. While the boys tied for 40th with just 3 points (on the back of one athlete), the Bears exited districts with five medals and nine top-10 placements. Additionally, four of their athletes and one relay team will be going back to Shippensburg on Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25, for the PIAA Championships.
Elizabethtown got its first medal on Friday the 17th during one of the final events of the day, the girls 3,200-meter run. The Lady Bears had two runners in senior Cat Shontz and sophomore Madeline Quinn, seeded third and sixth respectively. The duo previously finished second and third at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Championships, and both were eager to place highly again for districts.
However, things were tough early on, as Shontz and Quinn ended up getting caught in the back of the field out of the starting gates. The two stuck together though, working their way up through the pack and eventually settling into the middle next to Wilson junior Bryn Underwood and Dallastown junior Emily Schuler by the end of the second lap.
The foursome battled for position the rest of the way, switching spots numerous times down the stretch. During the final lap, Underwood and Schuler powered ahead of the two Lady Bears for sixth and seventh place. Shontz fought back, passing Schuler on the last turn and nearly catching Underwood as well. She ultimately finished in seventh place in a time of 10:49.55, her best of the season.
“I’m used to starting out in the very back, so I was kind of happy that we stayed in that (middle) pack,” Shontz said. “I’m pretty confident with passing even though I don’t do it the proper way. The biggest problem I had was knowing where to put a stride in. I was striding at the wrong points, which is why I kept going forward and back. I really wanted to try and catch the front pack, but overall, I think we ran pretty well.”
Quinn, meanwhile, fell back somewhat, though she was able to stay close enough to take ninth in 10:58.20, which was also a season-best. Only the top eight were guaranteed a spot in states, but Northern junior Marlee Starliper, who shattered the meet record en route to a win in 9:54.75, wound up pulling out to focus on the 1,600-meter run, so both Shontz and Quinn will be in the state field with the latter as an alternate.
“You want to be in the top-eight for the placement (early on),” Quinn said. “I know at one point we were going back and forth between sixth and ninth. I just lost it a bit at the end.”
Shontz and Quinn would start Saturday’s events as well for Elizabethtown in the girls 4×800-meter relay alongside junior Katie Locker and freshman Sierra Kapcsos. The Lady Bears were highly favored coming into the event after winning gold at leagues, holding the top seed thanks to their time at the Penn Relays on Thursday, April 25. However, they had to fight for victory this time around.
Once again, Shontz got caught near the back of the pack early on; she was in last place for about half of the first lap. However, she quickly recovered, maneuvering up through the field and eventually taking first place by the handoff to Quinn.
“Usually I either try to go up ahead of somebody before then or push myself after that,” Shontz said. “It helps us mentally if we’re able to be in first by that spot.”
Quinn maintained the lead by the conclusion of her two laps and the handoff to Kapcsos. However, Carlisle senior Meg Tate made things interesting by passing Kapcsos near the end of their first lap, holding first by the final handoff, though Kapcsos was able to decrease the distance before then.
It would be down to Locker to put Elizabethtown back in front. She succeeded in spades, overtaking junior Sophia Toti by the final turn of their last lap and holding her off down the stretch as well, giving the Lady Bears the gold medal in a program-record time of 9:21.07. They’ll be seeded third heading into states.
“Normally I try to go after people on the second lap so I don’t waste all my energy,” Locker said. “I tried to take it out a little faster this time so I could close the gap by the second. I ended up doing it, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to. She (Toti) pushed me to go faster, which is kind of what I wanted. It was a good race.”
Locker and Shontz had a short time to rest before returning to action in the girls 1,600-meter run. The field was stacked with tremendous athletes, including Starliper, Toti, Warwick senior and L-L League champ Kate Dickow, Cedar Crest sophomore Gwyneth Young and Greencastle-Antrim junior Taryn Parks, so the two had their work cut out for them.
By the end of the second lap, two distinct groups emerged: the frontrunners, where Locker fought with several others near the back, and the rest of the field, which Shontz consistently led. On the final lap, Locker made a great move to pass Dickow and Ephrata junior Mary Campbell to get into sixth, nearly catching Toti as well. She ultimately stayed in sixth (4:59.69) to get her second medal of the day, down two spots from last year but with a better time. Shontz, meanwhile, finished in 10th (5:06.50), a career best.
“I really didn’t know what was gonna happen,” Locker said. “I was hoping to stay around seventh and move up a few places. All the girls were really good competition, but I did better than where I was ranked at, so I’m OK with it.”
Locker ran her third event of the day during the girls 800-meter run. Disaster nearly struck when Milton Hershey junior Tatyana Gibson fell right after the first turn of the race, nearly taking out Locker and a couple of other runners. While no one was hurt (in fact, Gibson recovered and reached third place by the end of the first lap), it gave Locker some work to do down the stretch.
In the sixth spot after the first turn of the final lap, she gradually made a series of passes to overtake Gibson, Central Dauphin East sophomore Delaney Line and Twin Valley sophomore Anna Posh to eventually finish in third (2:15.28). While Locker won the event last season, she also finished where she was seeded at coming into the day.
“I was thinking about the seed time, but this was also my last event of the day,” Locker said. “There was no point in not giving everything if I’m not racing until next week, so I just kept going.”
Qualified for states in both the 800-meter run and 1,600-meter run, Locker opted to pull out of the latter to focus on the former, where she’s seeded fifth overall. She did the opposite in 2018, pulling out of the 800 in favor of the 1,600, which she placed seventh in. Multiple other District 3 athletes pulled out of the 1,600 as well, opening up a spot for Shontz as an alternate.
Elizabethtown’s last medal came from junior Derek Heisey in the boys 300-meter hurdles on Saturday. He had finished 21st in the high hurdles on Friday, failing to reach the finals, and decided to pull out of the high jump on Saturday since the start time would conflict with the 300 hurdles.
A surprising time of 39.75 from Conestoga Valley sophomore Loago Snavely in the second heat meant that one of the eight runners in the final heat could easily miss out on the medal stand. It was an extremely tight race down the stretch, but a strong finish from Heisey was enough to push him past Cocalico senior Joe Zimmerman and Milton Hershey senior Jaidyn Parris for sixth place in a time of 40.13, clinching a spot in states as well.
“I just wanted to hit my 200 really well and see if I could get a lead,” Heisey said. “But I saw people behind me, and I knew I had to push it through the last 100. (Zimmerman and Parris) were ahead of me a little bit, so I knew I had to beat them for sixth. I’m glad I got the opportunity, and I hope to do well next week.”
Of Elizabethtown’s three remaining competitors, two finished in the top 10 of their respective events. Junior Megan Rider, seeded last coming into the event, shocked many by making it through to the finals of the girls long jump. However, she was unable to best her initial jump of 16 feet, 7.25 inches, so she missed out on a medal, taking ninth instead.
Sophomore Carly Sedun just barely missed out on the finals of the girls discus; her heat throw of 106-9 was a foot off of qualifying. She still finished in 10th though. Junior Alicia Underkoffler rounded out the Bears field by placing 19th (48.28) in the girls 300-meter hurdles.
Heisey (boys 300-meter hurdles), Locker (girls 800-meter run), Shontz (girls 1,600-meter run) and the girls 4×800-meter relay team (Shontz, Quinn, Kapcsos and Locker) are currently set to compete in the preliminaries of their respective events on Friday, May 24, at states. They’ll go again on Saturday, May 25, if they make the finals. Shontz and Quinn will also run in the girls 3,200-meter run on that day as well.