Garner-ing District gold

By on May 25, 2016
Concentrating on his technique, Warwick junior Eric Garner prepares to release the javelin for a District Three gold medal-winning 187 feet, 7 inches in the rain at Shippensburg University last Saturday. Photo by Matt Libhart

Concentrating on his technique, Warwick junior Eric Garner prepares to release the javelin for a District Three gold medal-winning 187 feet, 7 inches in the rain at Shippensburg University last Saturday. Photo by Matt Libhart

From his very first javelin throw last Saturday, Warwick’s Eric Garner was feeling good.

For that matter, the Warwick girls foursome of Leah Graybill, Samantha Shields, Deirdre White and Emily Williamson liked its chances in the 4×400 relay.

Together, they provided rays of brightness on an otherwise dreary day at cold, rain-soaked Shippensburg University at the District Three Triple-A Track and Field Championships.

Garner captured gold in the javelin with a winning throw of 187 feet, 7 inches, while the girls 4×400 relay took home the title in a top time of 3:59.81, leading a banner Warwick effort in which it earned 11 total District medals. The Warrior boys finished sixth with 29 points, while the girls placed 10th with 24 1/2 points in the final team standings.

“I’ve never been happier,” Garner smiled after stepping down from the podium in SU’s Seth Grove Stadium. “I feel great right now. I love it.”

The Lady Warriors’ relay said just as much.

“We knew we had it in us,” Shields remarked. “We just had to find it.”

By doing so, Garner and the 4×400 girls are among 11 Warwick athletes who have punched their tickets to the PIAA State Meet, to be held this Friday and Saturday, May 27-28 back at Ship.

Garner holds the No. 8 seed in the javelin with his PR throw of 187-7 last Saturday.

Fine work, indeed, considering the elements.

“Today, I knew the rain was going to be a factor,” Garner said, “but I knew that I just had to trust my body and trust the practice that I’ve been doing this week and everything would come together.”

In the trials, Garners’s throw of 186-6 eclipsed his previous-best of 185-10 from the L-L Meet and gave him the top seed in the finals. There, on his second-to-last attempt, the Warrior junior added on to his first-place throw. McCaskey’s Cain Resch won the silver medal with a heave of 182-10.

“I felt good from the first throw up,” said Garner, who also qualified for the 2017 Penn Relays with his throw at Leagues. “I knew I was going to keep getting better and then I just knew I needed to let everything out on that throw and I did. I just tried to stay confident and relaxed when I walked out (to the runway).”

Health-wise, Garner has suffered some tough breaks in his athletic career. Last year, hobbled by a back injury which he re-aggravated from his freshman season, Garner finished 15th in the District javelin with a throw of 156-0.

But he’s worked hard in physical therapy. He has paid his dues drilling on the throwing mechanics. Last Saturday, Garner was rewarded for his efforts.

“I’ve been working a lot on technique, I’ve really been working on finishing, that’s my main thing because I’ve had some trouble with that,” he said. “Now that it’s coming together, I feel like I’m starting to get better throws.”

How much better Garner might throw at States remains to be seen.

“I’m hoping to get above 200 (feet),” he said. “I think I can do it, I really do. I’ve got another meet to go. I’m feeling good too, so let’s hope.”

Taking their spot atop the medal podium last Saturday, Warwick’s (clockwise from top left) Deirdre White, Sam Shields, Emily Williamson, and Leah Graybill are all smiles after winning District Three Triple-A gold in the 4x400 relay. Photo by Matt Libhart

Taking their spot atop the medal podium last Saturday, Warwick’s (clockwise from top left) Deirdre White, Sam Shields, Emily Williamson, and Leah Graybill are all smiles after winning District Three Triple-A gold in the 4×400 relay. Photo by Matt Libhart

Girls 4×400 relay also claims title

The Lady Warriors’ 4×400 relay, too, will be geared up for a big performance at States, where they are seeded 17th in 3:59.81.

Just getting there was one of their big objectives last Saturday.

“I think our biggest goal was just to be able to come and run next weekend,” White said.

That prize was still up in the air when Graybill got the baton for the third leg.

“I started out in fourth or fifth, I was passing people and I was feeling like I was going too fast,” Graybill recalled, “but I was like, ‘Well, I can’t slow down now.’”

South Western’s anchor was still within striking distance of Williamson as they started the final lap, but the WHS freshman would not be denied. The Lady Mustangs were runner-up in 4:00.70.

“I could hear the girl behind me,” Williamson said, “and I was just thinking to myself, ‘Stay relaxed, keep going and keep her behind me.’”

She did exactly that.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that we can count on (Emily),” Shields said, “becasue you know that no matter who’s next to her, she’s going to give it everything she has. She’s just an asset to the team.”

Ian Harpel, meanwhile, won the first of his three medals by taking a bronze medal in the 400 finals in 50.33 seconds. It was just a little off of his PR time of 49.2, but he wasn’t complaining.

“Really, I wanted to qualify for States,” said Harpel, who is seeded 23rd in the 400 and 24th in the 200 for this weekend’s PIAA Meet. “That was one of my big goals. Then really, I just said to myself, ‘I know that it’s raining and it’s not the warmest, but I’m just going to do the best I can and that’s what I did, so I’m happy with it … I wasn’t really expecting a PR, so I’m happy with my time because I’ve been running it consistently.”

Competing in the second of three heats, Harpel overtook several competitors in the back-stretch and cruised to victory by nearly a second in front of Eastern York’s Reajon Treasure (51.23). CV’s Victor Suarez was third in the heat in 51.37.

“Usually from like the backstretch to the beginning of the second turn is where I pass people,” he said. “(The strategy was) go out strong, relax a little bit on the back-stretch and then that last 200, go for the home-stretch and give it my all.”

Later, Harpel was back giving it his all in the 200 finals, taking a fourth-place medal in 22.79 seconds just behind ELCO’s Ethan Anspach (22.27). CD East’s Aaron Arp won the gold in 21.99.

“It wasn’t a PR, but it was still a decent run,” Harpel said. “I’ve been working on (my starts) and it’s paid off. If you mess that up, then you’re not going to get a good time.”

Harpel was also part of the boys 4×400 relay which ran a good time of 3:26.94, moving up from the the 12th seed (3:27.70) to earn a sixth-place medal and qualify for the State Championships. He was joined by Noah Shettel, Daniel Gates and Drayk Cassamajor.

Shettel, meanwhile, added a fifth-place medal in the triple jump by reaching 44 feet, 4 3/4 inches, just a littel bit shy of his school-record PR (44-11) set last year. The Warrior senior was twice in the 45-foot range on Friday, but fouled on both attempts.

“Honestly I was just coming here to have fun,” he said. “The whole season, I kind of just put too much pressure on myself, so I just wanted to relax and hopefully I would do well enough to make (States). I was seeded fifth, I came in fifth so it worked out.”

Looking ahead to this weekend, Shettel is seeded 15th in the State triple jump.

“I’m going to be happy to be there, kinda like Eddie the Eagle in the Olympics way back,” he said. “He was happy to be there, and that’s going to be like me. It’s going to be an honor to compete. I’m just going to go and have fun, try my best and maybe break the school record again. Never been to States so it will be fun.”

Shields also ran a State-qualifying time in the 1,600, claiming a fourth-place medal in 5:07.73, but since she’s competing on two relays, she will not compete in that event this weekend. Still, Shields was happy with her finish last Saturday.Wilson’s Alison Willingmyre won the District gold in 4:56.81.

“I PR’d and that was my goal,” said Shields, who was seeded 9th in 5:11.22. “I really wanted to be under 5:10 and I knew the people that have a 5:10, so I was trying to stay with them. I knew they would pace me well and my goal was just to see how much I had left in the last 200.”

Competing for the first time at Districts in the 1,600, Shields surprised herself a little bit with how much she actually had left at the end.

“I felt pretty good,” she said. “We finished the third and crossed to go onto the fourth lap and I was like, ‘Wow, this is really going to hurt because we still have another whole lap.’ But then we hit the 200 and I was like, ‘OK, it’s only a 200.’ My goal was to be in the top five.”

Shields also took a bronze with the 4×800 relay, joining Williamson, White and Echternach to finish in 9:25.82. That was a five-second improvement from their fifth-place seed time of 9:3070.

“We just really wanted to be back next week and PR,” Shields said. “We knew that we could go faster than what we did at Leagues, so it’s a good feeling that that happened. The times were there. We just had to put them all together.”

Williamson set the tone by giving Warwick the lead on the opening leg. L-L rival Manheim Township was fifth in 9:33.97.

“My goal was to stick with those girls up front and not get boxed in,” Williamson said. “I wanted to stick with the Township girl because I knew how fast she could run and then go from there.”

Other District medalists for Warwick were freshman Kate Dickow, who finished sixth in the 3,200 in 11:05.74, freshman Trinity Bitting-Ellis, who tied for seventh place in the high jump at 5-0, and senior Cody Seese, an eighth-place medalist in the pole vault at 13-3.

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