SHIPPENSBURG — From determination to delight to bitter disappointment, the first day of the PIAA Track and Field Championships put competitors on an emotional roller coaster.
Amanda Kuhl rode it like a champ.
And because she did, Kuhl now has a chance to become a three-time champion in today’s track events.
Kuhl used strong and steady sprints to advance through Friday’s preliminary rounds of the Class 2A girls 100-, 200- and 400-meter dash, qualifying at No. 3 in each event at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium.
“It feels great,” said Kuhl, a Hanover Area senior who tore all the ligaments in her right knee less than two years ago but made it back to the state field for the second straight season after using sheer resolve to work her way back from the agonizing injury.
“All my hard work over the past year has really paid off.”
A couple of other competitors from the Wyoming Valley Conference cashed in at states, too.
Lake-Lehman’s Kelsey Amy finished sixth in the Class 2A girls long jump with a leap of 17 feet, 8 inches, while Meyers’ Class 2A girls high jumper Ashley Ward finished in an eight-way tie for seventh in that event by clearing a bar set at 5-2.
That earned both girls state medals, which are awarded to the top eight finishers in each event, and had to be a delight for both. Amy, a senior, was seeded 13th in the long jump, but improved on her best leap by 2 inches and finished seven spots better than her seeding.
Ward, a junior, was one of 18 competitors fighting for two medal spots, but she earned one at states by matching her previous-best high jump of 5-2 to finish tied for seventh.
And Kuhl is ready to join them as WVC representatives on the medal stand, possibly over and over again today.
Kuhl’s 100-meter sprint of 12.55 moved her up nine spots from her seeding in that event, and her time of 25.45 in the 200 lifted her three spots as she now heads into this morning’s semifinals as the third seed in each event.
But Kuhl had her heart set on the 400, and her Friday preliminary run of 57.46 moved her up one slot from her seeding and placed her right in today’s final heat, which gets underway at 1 p.m.
“The 400 is probably the event that means the most to me,” Kuhl said. “We thought this might be my best chance at a higher medal. It’s nice to know we have a medal coming.”
The state competition, which drew 4,405 paying spectators and included a state-record field of 2,518 competitors, wasn’t as kind to everyone.
Fresh off the thrill of scoring four goals to lead her soccer team to a fifth consecutive District 2 championship Wednesday, Dallas junior Ellen Arnaud was forced to face personal failure two days later in the PIAA girls Class 3A javelin competition.
Seeded third with a season-best throw of 133-2, Arnaud fell far short of upholding that standard Friday.
Her best toss of 120-8 in the preliminary round kept her out of the finals, and sent her to a 13th-place finish in the event.
“Just a difficult day,” Dallas coach Matt Samuel said. “This is definitely not her best.”
Meanwhile, an emotional Arnaud sat in frustration under the Dallas tent, dressing a huge brush burn on her lower left leg that she picked up while sliding on the artificial surface at Lake-Lehman’s soccer field in Wednesday’s title game.
But the pain she felt wasn’t physical, Samuel insisted.
“There’s really no performance limitation there,” Samuel said about Arnaud’s leg. “I think she just has real high expectations. That’s the kind of athlete that she is. She wants to excel in all sports.”
Oh well, there’s always Tuesday’s opening round of the PIAA state soccer for Arnaud.
And for a few other local competitors, there’s always today’s track finals in Shippensburg.
Holy Redeemer senior Bob Gawlas will enter today’s Class 2A boys 110-meter hurdles seeded second after his time of 14.96 in Friday’s semifinals. In that same event, Hazleton Area junior Don Pollitt is also seeded second in Class 3A based on his 14.52 time in the semifinals. And Coughlin sophomore Shelley Black earned a spot in today’s girls 100-meter hurdles and a No. 3 seed with a semifinal finish of 14.76.
Also, the WVC will send defending state bronze medalist Mandissa Marshall into today’s girls Class 3A pole vault finals. The Crestwood senior is seeded second this year off a season-best vault of 12-5.