Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lady Panther breaks longstanding record

LOYSBURG - For some of the participants, the warm, dry and sometimes blustery conditions Wednesday at Panther Community Stadium were just ideal for spectacular performances.

You might even say they were Taylor-made at least for Northern Bedford's Taylor Crawford.

"I guess I'm just used to the wind here. We joke that it's never not windy here,'' Crawford said.

Crawford won three individual events - breaking a longstanding record in an event in which she wasn't even top-seeded - to highlight a strong day for individual girls at the District 5 Track and Field Championships.

Crawford captured the 100-meter hurdles, triple jump and long jump, while NBC's Nicki Leach took first in the 100 and 200, and teammate Cassie Beach won the javelin. Led by junior Crystal Dibert's gold-medal efforts in the discus and shot put and a victorious 3,200 relay, Bedford managed to edge out the Lady Panthers for the team title, 104-96.

The winner in each event advances to next weekend's state meet in Shippensburg, as does anyone meeting a predetermined time, height or distance. Everett's Alex Zanella rounded out the winning performances for area girls in the 3,200 run, and Bedford's Brandy Harris qualified for the PIAA meet by achieving the qualifying standard in the long jump.

Crawford had been seeded second to Harris in the long jump but pulled out a leap of 18 feet, 2 inches that was nearly 5 inches better than her previous best and a half-inch superior to that of McConnellsburg great Kim Spriggs' District 5 record from 1984. Harris jumped 18-0.

The joke was that the strong breeze might have carried the slightly-built Crawford to the new mark.

"The wind could have pushed me that far,'' Crawford said, laughing. "I definitely thought I was least likely to do my best in that event. I'm really proud.

"I wasn't even born when that record was set. Hopefully, it will be broken by someone that isn't born yet.''

Crawford came up a half-inch shy of Spriggs' meet mark with a 37-1 in the triple jump and managed to come back in the second half of the 100 hurdles to win a showdown with Windber's second-seeded Sarah Snyder, who posted a better time than Crawford in the trials.

"Winning [against Snyder] at the West Central meet gave me a real confidence boost,'' Crawford said. "The second part of my race is normally the best part. My starts aren't always the best, and I usually pick it up about halfway through.''

This will be Crawford's fourth trip to the interdistrict meet. For Leach, though, it will be the first. Northern Bedford's junior sprinter was seeded second to Berlin's Shelby Philip in the 100 and Shade's Chloe Mapes in the 200 but managed to prevail in both events with times of 13.24 and 26.71 seconds, respectively.

"I was really worried, because I wasn't [seeded] first. I think it may have driven me more to try as hard as I can, because I knew it was really close, and I just made me try my best,'' Leach said. "I just came in trying to run my best times.''

For Dibert, the district meet meant a last chance to take care of some unfinished business.

"I wanted to hit 110 in the disc and 38 in the shot all year. I finally did that today,'' Dibert said.

Dibert had already met her goal in the discus, but her best effort in the shot coming in was 2 inches shy of her objective. On her third throw, she broke her magic number - and the Lady Bison record - with a 38-1 1/4.

Dibert's winning throw in the discus came on her first attempt and held up by 4 inches over teammate Keshia Foor. Foor and Lauren Nave comically helped the 5-7 Dibert - who took a bow after winning the discus - up and off the highest perch on the awards stand, but they wouldn't have let her live it down if either of them had beaten her.

"In practice, they'll beat me and kind of rub it in my face,'' Dibert said. "It pushes me.''

Beach, a junior, surpassed her top-seeded distance in the javelin finals with a 125-1. Despite being favored and leading the whole way, Beach was wary of Dibert and Hyndman's Kasie Shoemaker, her close friend and champion when she was at Bedford last year.

"I just gave it all. Mainly, I just let it rip,'' Beach said. "I felt pressure, especially with Crystal and Kasie. I had my eye on them the whole time. Everybody says you don't want them to win, but [Shoemaker's] a good friend. You want to see her do her best.''

Zanella put aside the frustration of not coming through as the No. 1 seed last season by leading basically the whole way in the 3,200. Her 12-minute, 38.50-second time was about a half-minute off her personal-record, but that didn't dampen the feelings of the Everett sophomore, who battled a series of nagging injuries all year and wasn't taking anything for granted.

"Every race is different. Last year, I was seeded first and didn't win. That taught me to give it all you got and don't hold back,'' said Zanella, who also posted a PR with her second-place finish in the mile. "It's great to PR, but going to states is so much better.''

It was a tough day to be a top seed - only 10 of the 18 ended up winning.

Harris was favored in the high jump as well as the long. The Bedford senior, who was high jumping 5-4 and 5-6 for most of the season, won't get a chance to defend her PIAA bronze medal in the event after she was unable to make 5-2, both the height achieved by Chloe Mapes and the PIAA qualifying standard.

"I definitely am upset, because I know I can do 5-2, at least,'' Harris said. "I think my head was still in the long jump.''

Harris' one consolation was that her distance in the long jump was enough to more than a foot beyond the state qualifying standard. Long jump was considered Harris' stronger event before her success in the high jump at last year's state meet.

"I better do something good down [at states],'' Harris said.

Chestnut Ridge's Kristen Koontz, meanwhile, was ranked first in the mile and the 800 coming into the meet but had to settle for a third and a sixth.

Bedford's 3,200 relay came in seeded second but grabbed the lead early and held off Windber, with anchor Sarah Lashley crossing and collapsing over the finish line in a time of 10:20.69.

"I was just going all out, and my legs gave out at the end,'' Lashley said.

"We knew Ridge was our major challenge. Our goal was just to get out to a big lead and stay ahead,'' leadoff runner Chelsea Diehl said.