PIAA Track/Field recap: Two more medals for Conway

OV’s Kemp claims 3200 bronze; Coudy’s Freeman, NoPo relay team also medal

Port Allegany senior Nick Conway on his two PIAA fourth-place finishes, making him a four-time state medalist overall: “It was worth it. It was worth every bit of it. I'll walk out of here with medals on, take a picture and head  home.”

Port Allegany senior Nick Conway on his two PIAA fourth-place finishes, making him a four-time state medalist overall: “It was worth it. It was worth every bit of it. I’ll walk out of here with medals on, take a picture and head
home.”

Lori Chase
May 30, 2013

Nick Conway stepped down off the medal stand, gingerly walked back across the Shippensburg University football field, placed his hardware from the 300-meter hurdles into his backpack, and started loosening up for his next high jump attempt.

There was still more work to be done.

It was evident, though, that the Port Allegany senior’s busy schedule during the second day of the PIAA Track and Field Championships had taken its toll. Exhausted and sore from his third hurdles race of the day, he was successful on his second attempt at 6 feet, 2 inches, but 6-4 – a height he’d easily cleared at districts last week – was out of reach, leaving him tied for 10th in the event to go along with fourth-place finishes in both the 110 and 300.

“I’m guessing he’s probably a little disappointed. His goals were higher,” Port coach George Riley said. “His events were just crunched together, and when you’ve got to run three really fast races and try to high jump all within a two-hour window … Still pretty outstanding, two fourths, not bad at all. I just know it’s not what he wanted to do. But he’s going to go on and have a great college career at St. Francis.”

Conway’s Saturday morning began with placing fourth overall in the 110 semifinals, then matching that finish in the final with a time of 14.80 seconds, .03 faster than his third-place time from last year’s state meet. From there, it was off to the high jump, where both he and Gator teammate Tyce Miller cleared 5-10 and 6-0 before Conway had to leave for the 300 finals. While the rest of the jumpers stretched and relaxed, it was another fast race (40.25 seconds) and another trip to the medal stand for Conway – with a meet official waiting to hustle him back over to jump again.

“It was a long day at best,” he said. “I was trying to run 14.8 consistently, 14.7, below that, twice in a row. It takes a lot out of you. I kept hitting hurdles and my knee’s all bruised up now. And then the 300s, that was tough. I don’t even know what time I ran. I felt like I was going to jail – the lady came over and took me away before I even saw what time I ran.

“I was surprised I came back and got 6-2, really. It’s kind of upsetting that I was ranked No. 1 and didn’t get to place, but that’s high jump. It’s being consistent, and on a windy day like this, the bar doesn’t even hold itself up. It was a struggle. I got it on the second one, but at 6-4, I kept hitting it on the way up. Last week I got 6-7 on fresh legs. Definitely not fresh legs here; this was the last thing I did. But I knew it would feel this way. It is what it is.”

Although Conway fell short in his quest to join ‘Chip’ O’Malley (shot put, 1978) and Heather Amell (400-meter dash, 1991) as Port Allegany’s only track state champs, his legacy is secure in the pages of the PAHS record book, where he erased longstanding marks in both hurdles events (14.64 seconds in the 110, 39.17 in the 300), the 200-meter dash (22.4), and the high jump (6 feet, 7 inches).

“6-7’s not going to be touched. That’s going to be there for a while,” Riley said.

With his long day finally over, Conway pulled both medals out of his bag and put them on, then gathered up the rest of his gear.

“It was worth it. It was worth every bit of it,” he said. “I’ll walk out of here with medals on, take a picture and head home.”

He adjusted his grip on the strap of his backpack, and then, medals clinking together with each step, he headed for the gate.

***

Five other Gator athletes made the trip to states along with Riley and assistant coach Dan Eskesen. Friday evening, with twilight closing in and the remaining spectators huddled in the bleachers against the unseasonably cool temperatures and gusting winds, the 4×400-meter relay team of Miller, Tyler Kittilson, Sam Kysor and Josh Poorman finished seventh in their preliminary heat and 28th overall, improving three spots from their No. 31 seed. On Saturday, Miller tied for 15th in the high jump at 6-0.

“I think the guys had fun,” Riley said. “Tyce hit what he usually hits, six feet. Once in a while he gets 6-2. The boys ran their 4-by-4. It was slow” – their time of 3:47.26 was 12 seconds behind last week’s record-setting run at districts – “but it was also brutally cold and 35-mile-an-hour winds. We wanted to be better than what we came in at and we wanted to reset the school record, which weather conditions just didn’t allow. But they put forth the effort, they worked hard all week, and they got here.

“Special thanks to Scotty Brookens for coming down. He didn’t participate, he came down as an alternate in case Sam had to play baseball Friday night or somebody got hurt. I appreciate all the effort he put in this week, and all year. He was at every practice, he was trying to get his 400 time down so it was part of the team. He worked hard, and then he got to watch it from the bleachers – and he never ever whined about it one minute. Shoutout to him, because not too many kids would give up a week of time and three days down here.”

Reflecting on the 2013 season as a whole, Riley couldn’t complain about the results, which included the boys’ sixth straight North Tier League championship.

“All in all, I think we had a pretty decent year. You can’t say you didn’t have a decent year when you bring a kid to states and he goes home with medals. But this coach didn’t have a whole lot to do with that,” he said with a laugh.

“Hunter Conway is a decent, very good high jump/hurdle coach. Watching the interaction through the last few years with him and those kids, watching the hand signals that were being sent to the kids from behind the fence because coaches aren’t allowed anywhere near the kids during their events … He got the best out of them, and hopefully he’ll come back and help out again next year.

“Back-to-back runner-up at districts, six championships in a row. Hopefully we can keep that rolling along.”

***

Seven other NTL athletes also earned PIAA medals last weekend, led by Barrett Kemp’s third-place finish of 9:19.08 in the 3200-meter run.

“It feels really good,” the Oswayo Valley standout said. “I got third two years ago, and all I wanted to do was improve on that. But that was the fastest race I’ve ever run right there, so I can’t complain.”

Coudersport’s Mitch Freeman also medaled for the second time, throwing the discus 155 feet, 0 inches to place sixth in Class AA.

“I was hoping for top-three, but those guys were throwing pretty far. I was happy with sixth – improved from last year when I got seventh,” he said.

“I’ve never been to this state track when it’s been cold, and it was really windy. That definitely affected everybody – it was stopping the disc a little bit – but I still got some nice throws out there. Good way to finish up my career. I had four throws up in the 150s, so I was pretty happy with that.”

The Northern Potter boys 4×800-meter relay team of Matt Morgan, Aaron Schweigart, Ethan Kibbe, and Aaron Olney finished sixth in 8:15.32 – inches behind fifth-place Northeast Bradford (8:15.10) – for their moment on the medal stand, while Sheffield’s Jen Isenberg threw the javelin 123 feet, 10 inches to earn seventh place.

Freeman’s Falcon teammate, Jenna Gabreski, finished 14th in the triple jump with a distance of 35 feet, 3/4 inches. Gabe Rees (OV), seeded 19th going into the boys 3200, finished 17th in 10:05.55, and OV’s 4×800 relay team of Spencer Cole, Spencer Howard, Kemp, and Rees finished 10th in their qualifying heat.

Big 30 Press Day

The 40th annual Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic will have a distinct Gator presence.

Following a stellar 2012 season that included a second straight District 9 championship, plus a trip to the state semifinals, Victor Bandish, Matt Bodamer, Rickie Bova, Nick Budd, Nick Conway, Alex Gular, Tyce Miller, and Rex Windsor have all been selected to play for a Pennsylvania squad coached by Mike Bodamer and assistants Justin Bienkowski, Jason Luther, and Nate Zitnik. Add cheerleaders Caitlyn Bachman, Sara Borro, Kelsey Kio, and Caitlyn Lindsay and Homecoming queen Gabby Drabert, and the odds are good that quite a few people from Port Allegany will be headed to Bradford on Saturday, August 3, for the Big 30 parade and game.

The coaching staffs for the game were introduced at Press Day on May 19, with Bodamer and Allegany-Limestone’s Chad Lyter addressing the crowd of players and parents in the Pitt-Bradford gym.

“I’ve been involved in a few other games, and it was a wonderful experience,” said Bodamer, who assisted Bob Haskins during Pennsy wins in 1994 and 2004. “The main idea of this game, of course, is for charity. It’s a great organization that has helped a lot of people in this area. This is going to be a fun game and I know we’re going to try our hardest, but in the end, win, lose, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is the charity, so as much as you can do, please support that charity.”

Later, while the other participants were posing for photographs, Bodamer – who graciously submitted to every media request despite still being in a walking boot while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon – talked about joining so many of his players on the Pennsylvania sideline.

“It’s just an honor,” he said. “Not only Matt, but the other seven kids – I’ve known them since they’ve been in grade school, and they’ve been around my house forever. They’re all like my kids.”

With a roster stacked with the Gators’ record-setting offensive players, along with talent from other schools, fans can expect to see some points on the board on game night.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that want the ball and only one football, so I don’t know how that’s going to go,” Bodamer said, smiling. “They definitely loaded us up on skill, but we’re lacking offensive linemen. I told Matt he might be running a little more often, and the kid from Warren (quarterback Austin Jerman) is a great athlete too. So I think we’ll be all right.”

Luther and Zitnik will handle the offense, while Bodamer and Bienkowski will coach the D.

“That’s his offense. He’s been working on it for the last three years,” Bodamer said of Luther, the Gators’ offensive coordinator. “He knows what he’s doing, so let him do his thing. The kid from Warren runs basically the same type of offense, so it shouldn’t be too big of a deal for him. We’ve got a couple great backs. Hopefully (Caden) Whitman can stay healthy, and the kid from Eisenhower (John Pascuzzi) is a big-time runner.”

Lyter, a Bradford native, was equally thrilled about the chance to participate.

“This is a big deal, so I was real excited about it,” he said. “I just told the kids, my first thought was that I was honored to do it. My next thought was just to make sure my guys could coach with me – if they were in, I was in. We’re all excited to be here. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Although he hasn’t seen Port play, he joked, “I figure they’re going to throw the ball a lot.”

“I told him there’s a 25-minute video of Matt on YouTube, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find tape on us,” Bodamer said.

But as he noted during his remarks, win or lose, the game is still a great experience.

“We’ll just go and play the game, hopefully score and have some fun,” he said.