Indians, Blue Demons runners show well at state meet
By Hannah Christopher, Track & Field Editor, The Times
SHIPPENSBURG — You’ll excuse Courtney Smith if this past weekend was de ja vu all over again.
The Unionville High School junior won her second state title after winning the state Cross Country title last fall, overcoming a tough field and unusually cold, blustery conditions, capping a number of strong performances by Kennett and Unionville athletes at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association State Track and Field Championships, held at Shippensburg State University.
The 3,200-meter run was the first event on a chilly Saturday morning and the petite, yet powerful Smith was golden, turning in a personal record of 10:24 over Tessa Barrett of Abington Heights by one second. Pushed right to the end, Smith ran her last 400 in a 1:12 split to win her second state title. Other Unionville runners in the field included Emily Fisher, a junior, who finished in 10:59 (13th) and senior Annie Birkenmaier ran the race in 11:04-good for 15th. Birkenmaier, an outstanding student and athlete will attend Lehigh next year on scholarship to compete in distance events for the school.
In other events, senior Steve Yannacone, Williams College bound next year, went into Saturday’s finals for the 800 with the second fastest prelim time of 1:55.48 — and looked to be a contender for a medal in the event.
But, after a choppy and physical race, Yannacone ended up finishing ninth overall with a time of 2:01. Yannocone, who has been battling a knee injury over the past year, has a personal record of a 1:54 in the 800 — so it was clear the conditions and rough nature of the race slowed — plus his injury — impacted the pace. He is, he said, almost 90 percent now with his injury and has been cross training and working hard to rehabilitate throughout the season. It makes it all the more impressive that he was on the starting line of the 800 final with the best in this huge state of Pennsylvannia.
Yannocone said,” It was a rough day, everyone was talking about the wind. It was a vicious and very physical race. I was shoved over the interior barrier and had my shoe stepped on by another runner in lap two. ” The physicality of the race was so much that one of the favored runners, Alec Kunzweiller out of Cumberland Valley, tripped and fell coming around the last 100 yet still finished the race.
When asked about what he has gained from being part of the Unionville track and field team over his high school career he said, “I had the opportunity to learn a lot about leadership and compromising. We set goals high and would haggle from there. This year we had nine boys from the team run under 5 minutes in the mile. ”
Yannocone is a two year captain for the Indians and is headed to Williams in western Massachusetts to run track and study political science and international relations. He said he likes his pain in short bursts and therefore will only compete in track but not in cross country for the “Ephs” of Williams.
Another Unionville athlete, Kim Lapczynski ended up 13th in the finals for the long jump with a leap of 17’06. She plans to attend Bucknell next year where she will compete on the track team. Jasmine Gillespie, a sophomore, ran the 300 meter hurdles preliminaries on Friday at Shippensburg and ran a 48 but did not qualify for the finals on Saturday. At the Unionville Invitational track meet earlier this month, I witnessed Gillespie race and win the 300 meter hurdles. She has beautiful form and there will be more to come from this young lady in the future.
Olivia Young, who is another super, fast distance runner and also a sophomore, gained a medal in the 1600-meter run on Saturday with a 5:05 time good for eighth place in the finals. Young. along with the other 1600-meter runners had to run preliminaries on Friday to qualify for the event on Saturday. On Friday, Olivia ran a 5:01. Two fast miles two days in a row, is not an easy feat.
Kennett High School also had a number of athletes qualify for the state meet. Senior CJ Lowe qualified in the 100 meters. Lowe ran the preliminaries on Friday and made it to the semi’s on Saturday. The senior was an outstanding running back for the Blue Demons in football and will run track and field for Ole Miss in the highly competitive SEC next year. Brittany Plummer finished in a six-way tie for the pole vault in tenth place with a vault of 11 feet. Kennett’s multi-sport star Malik Rochester finished 29th at the states in the triple jump with a hop, skip and jump of 41′ 7″.
For complete results visit Pennxc.com.