Garner, Bitting-Ellis claim State medals

By on May 31, 2017
Warwick senior Eric Garner focuses as he prepares to unleash a javelin throw of 194 feet, 4 inches at the State Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg last Saturday. Photo by Mike Shull

Warwick senior Eric Garner focuses as he prepares to unleash a javelin throw of 194 feet, 4 inches at the State Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg last Saturday. Photo by Mike Shull

The start to the State Triple-A boys javelin was a good one for Eric Garner.

Under overcast skies and a light drizzle, the Warwick junior uncorked an opening throw of 194-4 last Saturday at Shippensburg University.

“I felt pretty good at 194,” Garner said. “I just couldn’t get back up to there.”

His best throw the rest of the way was a heave of 190-2 on his second attempt of the championship flight and Garner concluded his Warwick career by receiving a PIAA fourth-place medal on the podium in Shippensburg’s Seth Grove Stadium.

“It’s not what I wanted,” he remarked, “but I can’t argue. Top four in the State … It’s great.”

Trinity Bitting-Ellis

Trinity Bitting-Ellis

Elsewhere, Warwick sophomore Trinity Bitting-Ellis brought home her first State medal, tying for fifth place in the girls high jump on Saturday after clearing the bar at 5-5. Sophomore Kate Dickow came within a whisker of earning hardware in the girls 3,200 while posting a six-second PR of 10:56.70, placing her ninth. Stroudsburg senior Michelle Joyce claimed the eighth and final medal in 10:55.53.

“(Kate) ran strong, she stayed in good contact with the group, which is a big thing for a two-mile race to hold contact and to stay in mentally and not get disconnected,” Warwick distance coach Matt Bomberger said. “We had a plan going into it and she really executed well and ran very, very tough.”

Garner figured to be a very tough thrower to beat after taking home his second straight District Three gold with a distance of 200-6. Seeded No. 2 entering the competition, only Hempfield Area’s top-seeded Hayden Fox, a senior, had a better throw (198-6) in the trials.

In the finals, the Warwick junior had throws of 180-4 and 190-2 on his first two attempts. But Penn Manor’s Alex Scheivert, who eventually won the silver, overtook him with a heave of 197-11. Then before Garner could throw again, bronze-medalist Noah Walker, a LaSalle College High School senior, nudged ahead at 195-0.

Asked if he was feeling any pressure leading up to his final attempt, Garner said, “I didn’t realize it, but when I went up for my last throw, I thought I still had two more left, so that really threw me off. But good for them (Fox, Scheivert, and Walker). They worked hard too, so they deserve it.”

Looking back, Garner admitted that he wasn’t as relaxed as he would have liked.

“I think I just got a little too anxious, being my senior year and trying to live up to the expectation,” Garner said.

Still, Warwick head coach Alex Daecher pointed to Garner’s average of 185-6 for his six throws as an indication of how well he threw at States.

“Eric had some great throws,” Daecher said. “He actually didn’t have a bad throw in the bunch. All his throws where between 180 feet and 194 feet. If they were taking the average he probably would have won, but we know they don’t do that. He just couldn’t quite get that 200 footer out there to bring home gold. I am sure he’s a little disappointed, but I am very proud of him. He is a great kid who worked so hard the past four years with me. He is a two-time District gold medalist and is going to an awesome college (University of Nebraska). His future could never look brighter.’

The future also looks bright for Bitting-Ellis, who will no doubt remember being on the medal stand for the first time.

“It’s so cool,” she said. “I love it so much. Even getting out here, it was such a great opportunity and then being able to stand on medal stand just makes it even better.”

The girls high jump competition opened at Bitting-Ellis’ normal starting height of 5-0 and she she was feeling confident.

“I just felt really good,” Bitting-Ellis said. “I had a good morning, good breakfast, so I was just ready.”

She had no problems early on, then missed her first two attempts at 5-5 before executing a successful jump on her third try.

“I kinda just took it on, like, ‘This is my last jump as a sophomore,’ so I really just needed to get my head there, just smile and look at where I was,” Bitting-Ellis said.

“Trinity had a fantastic day,” Daecher said. “To jump 5-5 at the State Meet is awesome. The key was she had clean jumps — going over on her first attempt — for her early jumps and saved her strength and energy. I am very excited for her and proud of how she performed.”

Her routine leading up to her final attempt at 5-5 was perfect.

“With me, I do a hop and then I sprint, so I can always tell, if something’s wrong with the hop, then it’s going to be all off,” she said. “The hop felt good.”

So did winning that fifth-place medal.

“This is my first year being at States,” Bitting-Ellis said. “Last year, I really tried, but it wasn’t there. This year, it was just a great experience.”

Dickow, whose previous PR was 11:03.16, had plenty of hop in the girls 3,200. Per the game plan, she went out with the pack and was among the top group of runners through the opening 400.

“The plan was to hold pretty decent splits,” Bomberger said. “We talked about going out with the pack, staying in good contact and then the second mile, just not dropping below certain splits. I was in positive communication with her on the back stretch and she just responded.”

Dickow dropped to 14th place on the fifth lap, but climbed back to 11th on the next one and was chasing down 10th place leading up to the final loop. There, Dickow overtook Conestoga’s Dominique Shultz (10th in 10:57.29) to nail down her ninth-place finish.

“I honestly didn’t realize how close she was (to a medal) because she was battling the girls over on the other side, with us being on the back stretch,” Bomberger said, “but to see her continually improve and have a positive improvement is the most important. So she’ll buy her spots next year and the year after. I’m really happy.”

Besides improving her PR by nearly six seconds, Dickow also threatened the school record of 10:54, currently held by former Warwick star Alli Mannon.

“Kate ran an awesome race,” Daecher remarked. “She had a PR and improved considerably from her 3,200 run at last year’s State Meet. She just keeps getting better every year. I know she was thrilled with her time, and her coaches were too. Kate is such a worker and I have no doubt she will be getting a medal next year.”

“That’s kinda right around where I would have pinned her,” Bomberger said of Dickow’s 10:56.70. “But then when she came around with a lap to go on our split sheet, she could have snagged the school record, so I was going pretty nuts on the back stretch. The goal was sub-11 and she exceeded that. So that’s really awesome.”

Sophomore Leah Graybill advanced to the semi-finals of the girls 200 by placing third in her trials heat on Friday with a time of 25.61 seconds. There, Graybill finished fifth in her heat in 25.30 seconds and missed moving on to the finals by just .02 behind East Pennsboro junior Cece Insalaco, who took the final spot in 25.28.

“Leah had a great run on Friday to qualify for the semi-finals,” Daecher said. “She also ran great in the Saturday for the semi-final race. I know she missed getting a medal by .02 seconds and that can be hard to swallow for a kid, but she is a strong-willed individual who will train hard and be ready to go next year to bring home the medal.”

In the girls 4×400 preliminaries on Friday, Warwick had a miscue with the baton and placed third in their heat in 3:58.74, barely missing a spot in the finals by just over a second behind Strath Haven (3:57.70), who claimed the final spot.

The Warwick girls 4×800 relay was seventh in their heat in the prelims in 9:37.50, about three seconds behind Spring Ford (9:34.00) for the final berth in the finals.

Sophomore Connor Shields competed in the boys 1,600 trials on Friday, placing 12th in his heat in 4:28.27, while senior Drayk Cassamajor ran in the boys 800 trials, finishing 13th in his heat in 2:00.60, and senior John Wilson competed in the boys high jump.

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