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Hopewell Track and Field

9 Vikings Win WPIAL Track and Field Medals and Qualify for States

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Hopewell Track and Field took 15 athletes to the WPIAL Championship at Slippery Rock University Wednesday morning, and by the time the meet ended Thursday evening, they collected 8 medals and qualified 9 athletes to the PIAA Championship next week in Shippensburg.

Lightning delayed the meet several hours Wednesday afternoon, and it eventually had to be suspended and finished Thursday afternoon. All of the athletes displayed a remarkable resilience through all the uncertainty and extra travel and were still able to put on stellar performances with their dreams of championships and States qualifying on the line.

Nine Hopewell athletes persevered, earning medals and qualifying for States across eight events.

The first event of the day for the Vikings was the preliminary rounds of the 110m hurdles, and Hopewell was represented twice with seniors Tyler Lewis and Matthias Goth. There were two heats of prelims, with the top 8 advancing to the final. Lewis was seeded 5th with his season best time of 15.29, but his heat was hectic with a lot of banged hurdles, and he came through with a 16.13. Fortunately for him, the second heat was equally ugly, and he was able to hang on for the 8th spot in the final by just .01 seconds. Goth’s time of 16.54 was good for 12th overall, and he plans to be running the hurdles at Slippery Rock again next year, but as an SRU athlete.

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In the 110m hurdle final, Lewis made good on his second chance, and ran a much cleaner race, finishing 5th with 15.53, and securing a qualifying spot at the State meet. The top 5 AA boys and top 6 AA girls in each event automatically qualify for States, but as many as 8 can make it if they hit the State Qualifying Standard in that event.

Lewis’ clock luck would continue later in the meet with his 4x100m relay team. He, along with Josh Brunton, Zach Kovell, and Nick Adams, placed 6th – one spot out of automatically qualifying – but their time of 44.29 was .01 seconds under the State Qualifying Standard, so they will get to run again in Shippensburg next week. This is the second year in a row that the boys 4×100 relay has made it to the state meet, and hopefully the beginning of a long streak.

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The boys 4x800m relay team of Nico and Antony Flitcraft, Zach Landry, and Trevor Neal entered the meet as the 14th seed, but finished 2 spots higher in 12th overall. Nico, Zach, and Trevor are all seniors, and played a pivotal role in the team’s playoff success this season. They will be hard to replace, but Antony does return next year, and his work ethic and ambition will lead a young distance squad to more success.

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Connor Progar returned to the pole vault runways tied with Riverside’s Reece Sullivan as the top seed in the event. The Hopewell school record holder had been slowed by what a hockey coach would call a “lower body injury” over the last 2 weeks, and this would be his first meet back. He and Sullivan battled as they have all season, both clearing the winning height of 13’0” along with Garrett Eicher of Mt Pleasant, but Sullivan took the victory by tiebreaker on account of having fewer misses. Progar took the silver medal, 5 spots higher than his 7th place finish last year and is poised to fly higher at States next week.

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The girls 4x100m relay team of Maya Richburg, Emma Palmieri, Avery Boyd, and Nevaeh Persi-Jones entered the meet as the 7th seed and would have to try to qualify for States from lane 1. The quartet executed splendidly and finished 4th with a huge season best time of 50.28. They qualify for States for the third time in the last four years, and all four are returning next year as well.

This is where Mother Nature began to interfere. Right after the 4x100m relays got their medals, and just before the 400m dashes, lightning from a nearby thunderstorm forced the meet to pause and the stadium to clear for over three hours. Zach Kovell and Emma Palmieri were the only Hopewell athletes that still had to compete – they were both among the top seeds in the 400 m and 200 m sprints – and they would overcome the mental challenge of cooling down from their ready state, patiently endure the continually extended delay, and then warm back up and perform at their very best.

When they finally were able to return to the track, the girls 400m sprinters put on perhaps the most race of the day. Tori Atkins of Laurel won the top AA time in the state of 55.54, 7 of the 8 medalists beat the qualifying standard, and the top 4 all ran personal bests that rank in the top 7 statewide in AA, including Emma Palmieri’s incredible 57.93 effort. Emma took nearly a full second off her previous best time of 58.77, and she is now just .29 seconds away from Elise Farris’ school record (57.64) from 2010. She was disappointed to have finished 4th, but proud of her effort and her new PR. Breaking the 57 second range was a goal she has been working relentlessly toward since the end of her cross-country season in November, and now she is eager for the opportunity to go after two school records at the state meet next week.