SHIPPENSBURG - Despite the temperature reading in the mid-50s with a constant 25 mile-per-hour chilly wind, it didn't stop a handful of local athletes from advancing in the PIAA Track and Field Championships.
Marian's Nico Agosti, Northern Lehigh's Caleb Johnson and Palmerton's Austin Shupp each qualified for the finals or semifinals in two events. Johnson and Agosti will compete against each other in the AA 200 and 400-meter dashes, while Shupp will try his best in both of the AA hurdle races. All three will be seeded in the top ten in each of their events on Saturday.
Shupp had slightly better seedings in his events than Johnson did coming into the competition, as he was seeded third in the 300 hurdles and sixth in the 110 hurdles.
The junior increased his seed heading into the finals of the 300 hurdles by finishing with a time of 39.72 seconds. That time was good for first in his heat and second overall. He was slightly slower in the 100 hurdles (15.2 seconds) and will head into the semi-finals seventh overall.
"I thought the (300) went well," said Shupp. "The head-wind was tough to push through on the back stretch, but the tail-wind really helped coming home.
"I think I can definitely run a lot faster in the 100 tomorrow. I am just going to prepare all night and hopefully come out and make the finals in that. I think everything went pretty well considering the conditions."
Johnson, seeded fourth in the 200 and sixth in the 400, also advanced to the semifinals and finals respectively. Johnson breezed through the 400 with a time of 50.22 seconds - which was good for second overall and just one-tenth of a second behind the fastest runner.
The Bulldog then posted a time of 23.08 in the 200. He was third in his heat and thus qualified for the semi-finals.
"My time in the 200 was a little slower than I would have liked," said Johnson. "I got into the semis though, so that it all that matters.
"I actually did a little better in the 400 than I thought I would. I am just grateful to be in the finals. Time is nice here, but it is all about place."
Agosti will accompany Johnson in the same two events. He came in seventh overall in the 400 with a time of 51.15 seconds, and tenth overall in the 200 with a time of 23.19 seconds.
"I didn't get out the way I wanted to during the first 100 (of the 200), but I got it together coming around the turn and just carried it out to the finish," said Agosti. "I need to work on my start a little bit.
"I thought I got out pretty good in the 400, but then I hit the wind on the back stretch which was pretty bad. I fought through it and came around the last turn and kept it going to finish strong."
The only local athlete to medal on the first day of competition was Palmerton's John Snyder. The senior came in eighth in the AA shot put with a throw of 49 feet, one inch. Fittingly, he was the eighth seed coming into the day at 52 feet, two-and-a-quarter inches.
"I threw three feet under my PR and I think if I threw my PR I would have gotten seventh, so I am happy with eighth place," said Snyder. "My goal coming into the season was to win a state medal. I did that so I have no regrets."
Tamaqua's Eric Hertzog, whose fastest time last year was 14.73 in the semifinals, posted a time of 14.47 in the AAA 110 hurdle prelims. He will enter the semis seeded fourth overall and will look to better his eighth-place finish from 2012.
"I think my time is really good heading into the semifinals," said Hertzog, who actually bettered his seed-time by eight one-hundredths of a second in the cold weather. "I just have to focus, run my race and keep bettering my time.
"I ran in this weather basically the entire season. I am used to this weather and I want to use it to my advantage."
Two other local runners advanced to the semifinals in their respective events. Marian's Chris Bruno (100-meter dash) finished third in his heat with a time of 11.22 seconds. He had a seed time of 11.27 coming in.
Northwestern's Cam Richardson will join Johnson and Agosti in the 200 semis. His time of 23.31 was good for 15th overall and allowed him to advance.