BROOKVILLE — Sam Hetrick wants another medal, the Redbank Valley Lady Bulldogs want to keep building on a memorable season and Keaton Kahle guns for a return trip to states while leading a contending sprint relay.
And for Union, the pole vaulting of Nolan Cumberland gives the Knights a chance at a state berth.
That just about sums up the lead storylines for this Friday’s District 9 Class 2A Track and Field Championships at Brookville Area High School.
It’ll be a combined meet with Class 3A again this year with the schedule starting at 1 p.m. and finishing up under the lights around 9 p.m.
A top-two finish or meeting a state-qualification standard in any of the 18 events punches a ticket to the PIAA Championships at Shippensburg University May 24-25.
Last year, Hetrick was the area’s lone qualifier after winning the high jump title. He went to Shippensburg and captured a medal, tying for seventh place in his first trip to states.
He went into districts a year ago as the top seed at 6 foot, 5 inches and he’ll be the top seed again this time around with a career-best jump of 6 feet, 7 inches he achieved on the same runway at the DeMans Invitational in Brookville in April.
“Obviously, Sam will be our best chance to not only win a D9 title, but do it in style,” Bulldogs head coach Andy Rex said. “He has been consistent in every important track meet this year and really hasn’t been contested other than his own teammate with Declan Fricko. Jumping 6 feet, 3 inches gets both of them an automatic trip to states, so that will be our main focus.”
Hetrick is the lone jumper who has gone higher than 6-foot-3 inches with Smethport’s Brandon Peterson at that mark. Seven other jumpers, including Fricko at 6-1, have cleared 6 feet or more.
Kahle is seeded No. 3 in the 100 dash, No. 8 in the 200 dash and is part of the No. 4-seeded 4x100 relay with Hetrick, Javin Brentzel and Joe Mansfield.
Two years ago, Kahle finished second in the 100 dash to earn a trip to states, running an 11.24 which would’ve also qualified him on time. Last year, he finished seventh in the preliminary race, missing the finals and a chance for another trip.
This year, his season-best time is 11.21 seconds and if he runs that or 11.3 or under, he’ll get back to Shippensburg. The Brookville duo of Bryan Dworek (10.76) and Ian Thrush (10.82) have been a step ahead of the rest of the field. Brookville’s Cabe Park (11.22) and Cranberry’s J.T. Stahlman (11.3) have also run state-qualifying times this year.
“Keaton is looking strong, as he always does,” Rex said. “He has company however, in a very strong field of 100 dash boys. He will need to run 11.3 to get that automatic bid to states and that time will be required to make it out this really strong group of potential multiple state medalists.
“Keaton has ran sub 11.3 a few times this year, so he knows exactly what he needs to do on Friday. With such strong competition, we believe he can make that required time as they will all push one another.”
The Bulldogs’ sprint relay is certainly in the mix as well. Its season-best time of 45.3 has it in the hunt for at least one of the two automatic state berths.
Brookville’s season-best time of 42.18 seconds is No. 1 in the state, but the second state spot could come down to Elk County Catholic (44.94), Karns City (45.15) or the Bulldogs. The automatic qualifying time is 44.3.
“Javin, Joe, Samuel and Keaton have been running strong all season and are excited for the matchups on Friday,” Rex said. “We are aiming for that second-place spot at this point, as Brookville is just straight up dominating and breaking every record in the area. A time of 44.3 is the state qualifier and that is not out of the question. With perfect handoffs and speed, we think that No. 2 spot at districts is certainly within our means.”
The Bulldogs qualified athletes in 11 different events.
“We have several others with legit chances to make it to the big show next weekend,” Rex said. “Anthony Baileys is sitting in a great spot to snag that No. 2 spot in the discus. Austin Rupp has an outside chance in javelin. Sam in the long jump is only a foot away from the automatic qualifier. Trenten Rupp has an outside chance in the pole vault.
“Several boys have given themselves great opportunities. Now all they need to do is be prepared for Friday and have some of their biggest days of the season.”
For the Lady Bulldogs, their 9-1 dual meet season and perfect run through the KSAC for a conference championship has been all about balance. And the district seedings show that as they’ve qualified athletes in all 18 events.
However, there are no locks for states. While 13 entries are seeded in a top-six scoring spot, they have just one top-two seed with the No. 2-seeded 4x800 relay.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out this season. Even without having any No. 1 seeds going into districts, we have at least one athlete in every event,” Lady Bulldogs head coach Mike Fricko said. “To me, that is really something special. Getting some of them to the state competition will be an added bonus, but I think, for the younger athletes, just the experience at a district championships can’t be overlooked. It certainly bodes well for the future of our program.”
The 4x800 foursome will likely be Quinn Fricko, Ryleigh Smathers, Emma Huffman and Carley Shick. Their season-best time of 10:54.34 is well behind top-seeded Kane’s time of 10:32.6 and right in the mix for the second state berth with No. 3 seed Northern Potter (10:54.91) and No. 4 seed Brookville (10:58.25), the only other relays under 11 minutes this year.
“I think the 4x800 has a solid chance, but there are several teams right there and it is guaranteed to be an exciting race,” Fricko said.
In the throws, Lindsay Evans is seeded No. 3 in the discus and No. 6 in the shot put. Both of those events are wide-open with graduation taking with it a very talented group of throwers with it. In the discus, the top seed is Karns City’s Sara Knox at 113 feet, 1 inch. The next four seeds are separated by six feet.
In the shot put, it’s even closer. The top seven seeds are separated by 14 inches and that includes Lady Bulldogs’ No. 6 seed Taylor King.
Four are seeded No. 5 — Paiton Rizzo in the long jump, Brooke Eberle in the high jump, Hope Spence in the pole vault, Elisabeth Hook in the triple jump and Carley Shick in the 400 dash.
Three other Lady Bulldogs entries are seeded sixth, all of them featuring Paiton Rizzo. She’s No. 6 in the 100 hurdles and triple jump while also being part of the No. 6 relay with Hook, Katie Davis and Mariah Clark.
“Lindsay Evans thrives on this type of competition and if she has a good day, her chances to move on could certainly be attainable,” Fricko said. “I wouldn’t rule out any of the other top-six seeds either. That’s the thing I love about this event — anything can happen. We just have to wait and see who’s ready to step up and perform.”
For Union, it’s three athletes in five events for the boys led by Cumberland who’s had a solid season in the pole vault. He’s seeded No. 3 with his school-record mark of 13 feet cleared last week at the Redbank Valley Invitational. He’ll need to clear 13 feet, 6 inches to secure an automatic state berth.
Seeded ahead of Cumberland are No. 1. Moniteau’s Kyle Norling (14 feet, 2 inches) and Kane’s Teddy Race (13 feet, 6 inches).
Quintin Weaver is seeded No. 9 in the 800 run and 12th in the triple jump while Doug Huffman is seeded Nos. 8 and 15 respectively in the 110 and 300 hurdles.
The Damsels’ lone entry is the 12th-seeded 4x100 relay that will include from the group of Maria Ashbaugh, McKayla Deitz, Alayna Ford, Lainey Stockdill and Kennedy Andrae.