MAHANOY CITY – Rebecca Minehan has vaulted her way to success by setting the bar high. Eric Hertzog has found personal achievement by hurdling every obstacle put in his path. Christine Streisel has distanced herself from the rest of the field by successfully throwing her weight around.
All three Tamaqua track and field standouts entered yesterday afternoon's Schuylkill League Championships with a target on their backs, but true to form, all three left Mahanoy Area's Alumni Field with gold around their necks.
While the trio paced a Tamaqua contingent that accounted for six first-place finishes on the day, the rest of the TIMES NEWS area was well represented on the winner's podium with a total of 35 medalists (12 gold, 13 silver and 10 bronze). The 12 gold medals was the most for TIMES NEWS area athletes since 2010 (13).
Adding to her massive medal collection was Tamaqua's senior Christine Streisel, who collected her fourth and fifth Schuylkill League gold medals and seventh and eighth overall. The Duke University-bound senior three-peated in the Virgil Scott Memorial Javelin with a winning throw of 140-11, while successfully defending her shot put championship with a heave of 39-2.
"Every time you come into these League and District meets, the main goal, no matter what you throw, is to get that first-place medal," stated Streisel. "To come in only doing two events, and to walk always with two golds is definitely encouraging."
However, despite throwing 140-11, the distance was down from her winning javelin distances of the previous two years (150-10 and 147-5 respectively).
"Today was probably one of my better throws of the year, but I'm definitely not happy with it. This is the time you want to be peaking, and if I can take the bad start to my season and turn it into a really good finish, I'd be happy with that. I still have two more meets and a few more weeks to fine tune things and to get back to where I should be and to where I want to be."
Tamaqua, and it's Factory of javelin throwers, finished 1-2-3 in the event with Paige Demetriades claiming the silver and Morgan Boyle taking home the bronze. It is the seventh straight year a Tamaqua girl has claimed the gold medal in the javelin.
"To stand up there on the podium and to have them say 'Tamaqua' three times in a row is definitely something cool to be a part of," added Streisel. "Now, it's up to them (Demetriades and Boyle) to continue the tradition."
Senior Eric Hertzog also three-peated in the 110 high hurdles by lowering his time for the third consecutive year. Hertzog won the event with a time of 14.54 and picked up a second gold medal by running the anchor leg of the Tamaqua 400 relay (with Dalton Nunemacher, Tyler Hope and Zach Oliveria) in a time of 43.91.
"I came in here with a bad hamstring, so I wanted to take it easy and just run a clean and smooth race," said Hertzog. "I've been running under 15 seconds consistently, so I just want to keep my head clear and focus on getting ready for Districts next week.
"I also put a little more emphasis on today's race because I wanted to win it for Coach (Jerry) Zubey who passed away earlier this week. I just wanted to go out there and make him proud – these gold medals are more for him than they are for me."
Tamaqua also got a record breaking performance from junior Rebecca Minehan, who broke her own school record (previously 10-3) in the pole vault with a winning height of 10-6. Minehan's vault also tied a Schuylkill League Championship record with Pottsville's Lindsey Runkle, which was set in 2005. Minehan bettered her height from last yea'r meet (9-0) by a foot-and-a-half.
"I was hoping to get 10-9 today, and I came close a few times, but I'm definitely happy with 10-6," touted Minehan. "I've been training seven days a week in the offseason, sometimes I was even going in to practice before Church, so I'm just glad all the hard work is finally paying off."
The final Tamaqua athlete to capture a gold medal was freshman Chelsea Frantz. In her first League Championship race, Frantz led from start to finish and defeated Minersville's Amanda Purcell by nearly three seconds.
"I came in here knowing I was up against a Blue Mountain girl that had the same time as me, so I just wanted to come in here as a freshman and make a good first impression," stated Frantz. "This was my only event today, so I put all my energy and focus into having a great race."
Speaking of great races, Marian sophomore Nico Agosti stole the show with two individual gold medals and a silver in the 1600 relay.
Agosti, seeded first in the 400, led from start to finish and established a new personal record with a time of 50.47 (breaking his previous mark of 51.22). Agosti then came back to win the 200 in 22.25, which broke his previous best time of 22.94.
"In the 400, I knew Blue Mountain's Tristan Dickey was going to come out hard and push me, so I just ran as hard as I could the whole way through the race," stated Agosti. "I knew I was moving out but I had no idea how fast I actually ran."
Agosti was seeded second in the 200, and was actually in third place with about 70 meters to go; however, a strong finish allowed him to pull ahead of North Schuylkill's Ethan Motsney and edge Tamaqua's Tyler Hope at the finish line (22.25 to 22.42).
"I tried to get out really smooth and run the turn hard. Then, when I got to the straight, I just tried to lengthen it out and I ended up catching both of them," lauded Agosti. "I expected to do pretty good today, but to come out of here with two golds is just amazing. I knew it was going to be good competition so I just gave it all I had."
Marian's third gold medal of the Schuylkill League Championships was won by Christy Digiandomenico. Digiandomenico posted a personal best time of 48.68 to beat Jim Thorpe's Devon Matz (49.25) in the 300 intermediate hurdles. Blue Mountain's Elizabeth Rauenzahn appeared to have the race well in hand, but a stumble in the final 30 meters with one hurdle to go allowed Digiandomenico to claim the victory.
"She (Rauenzahn) led for most of the race, but sometimes that's a good thing because it pushes you even harder to catch up," said Digiandomenico. "She stumbled a little there at the end and that was the opening I needed to take the lead. This is my first medal and it's an amazing feeling."
The final three gold medalists representing the TIMES NEWS area came from Jim Thorpe.
The Jim Thorpe girls 1600 relay team repeated as champions with a time of 4:14.47. Catherine Condly, Anjelica Poalillo and Amber Castillo participated both years, while Devon Matz took the place of the departed Kayla Susko.
In the high jump, Olympian freshman Rayan Green was one of four participants to jump 6-0, but won the gold by virtue of the lowest number of jumps at the tied height.
"I didn't think I was going to do that well at first, especially in my first big meet," stated Green. "I just give praise to God for allowing me to jump over the bar and this is a huge confidence booster heading into Districts next week."
In the boys 800, Jim Thorpe's Robert Taylor was seeded fourth, but crossed the finish line first in a time of 2:04.33.
"I had the perfect start in the beginning and it just carried on the rest of the race" said Taylor. "It was nice to lead from start to finish. I kept expecting someone to come right up behind me at the end, but there was really never any threat."
Jim Thorpe's Anjelica Poalillo (200, 400) and Courtney Capper (1600, 3200) finished with two silver medals apiece.