Szukics, Perriera lead Bombers
nancy scholz/times news Palmerton's Monty Szukics (left) wins the race to the finish line in the 100 meter dash. Pen Argyl's Anthony Gentile (right) placed sixth.
WHITEHALL A lot of talent and a little motivation can be a powerful combination.
Palmerton's track team's used that mixture to produce one of the school's best league meets in decades.
Motivated by finishing second by three-tenths of a point last year, the Blue Bomber girls won the Colonial League Championship meet by 25 points over Southern Lehigh Wednesday at Whitehall High School.
The Blue Bomber boys 4x100 relay team was also motivated by a loss. After dropping a baton against Catasauqua during the regular season their only loss of the year the foursome of Travis Wolfe, Dallas Miata, Alex Vignone and Monty Szukics got revenge at the league meet, beating the Rough Riders for the gold medal.
"Right after we dropped the baton," said Miata. "We promised ourselves we weren't going to let them beat us again. We wanted revenge and we weren't going to stop at anything to make it happen."
Both relay teams came across the finish line in meet record time. Palmerton came in at 43.68. Catty ran it in 43.81.
It was still close when Szukics took the baton for the final leg. The senior had already won two gold medals and would win another later in the meet. But none were as important to him as the relay.
"I'm always pumped for the 4x100," he said. "I just can't wait to get that baton. I feel like once I get it I just take off."
His teammates know they just need to stay near the lead and their anchorman will close it out.
"Anytime Monty is running, you never have any doubt," said Miata. "He always comes through. We all run well, but when we give Monty the baton he's like nothing I've ever seen."
Szukics started the day with a gold medal in the 100 meters, where he was the top seed. He ran an 11.19, just .15 off the meet record. He felt some pressure to win, but didn't let that slow him down.
"There's a lot of good competition in the Colonial League and I'm expected to win it," he said. "That puts a lot of pressure on me. I'm almost obligated to do well."
He followed that with a win in the 400 meter run. He ran that race in 50.47, beating the second-place finisher by more than half a second.
"I wasn't seeded first so I knew if I wanted to come out with the victory I was going to have to run really hard," he said. "I was coming around the turn and I saw out of my peripheral vision that guys were ahead of me and I knew I had to give it a little extra kick. I tried my best and came out with the victory."
He finished his day with another meet record, running the 200 meters in 22.7.
While he was the Bombers only boys gold medalist, the girls team had several. Kelsey Hay increased her career total to eight with a win Wednesday in the javelin. Jessica Pereira won gold in the 100, 400 and triple jump. And Lauryn Solt earned first place in the high jump as the team won its first league meet title since winning five straight Centennial crowns from 1980-84.
Palmerton girls have won two consecutive regular season titles, but when Saucon Valley edged them at last year's league meet, they were determined to bury all competition this time.
"It feels awesome," said Pereira. "After losing by such a close margin we wanted to come back this year and take it by a lot. We're finally on the banners in our gym."
Pereira was the top seed in the 100 and beat the field by running it in 12.83.
"I had gotten beat earlier this season by Amy Kester of Notre Dame," Periera said. "I was nervous about racing her."
Kester placed second at 12.94.
Pereira won the 400 with a time of 59.83.
"I've only run it twice this year other than today," she said. "I was seeded high but I didn't think I was going to do that well."
Pereira took the triple jump title with her best jump of the year by over a foot at 34-10 14.
"It was really unexpected," she said. "I was seeded third."
She also placed second in the 200 meters.
Hay felt relief after winning the javelin title. As a two-time defending champ she knew the bulls eye was on her.
"I was so nervous," Hay said. "Probably the most nervous I have ever been coming into a Colonial League meet. Just having it all off my back right now I'm so relieved."
Solt won the high jump by clearing 5 feet, 2 inches.
"I'm definitely impressed with the way I jumped," she said. "I came in at 4-6. I cleared 5-1 on first attempt. It took all the pressure off."
Solt is the defending District 11 Class AA champ. She went to states last year as the 22nd seed and earned a medal by tying for third place.
"It showed me I'm capable of being as good as any of the girls in the state," she said. "It definitely boosted my confidence."
The day didn't only belong to Palmerton. Northern Lehigh's David Getz earned his first league gold in the 110-meter hurdles. He ran the final in 16.08, a tenth of a second better than Pen Argyl's Jason Brandt. He was the top seed and validated it with a title.
"They always said the person on top has more pressure," he said. "I was feeling it today. It definitely was a lot. I started off kind of slow. My form and smoothness kept me going. It got tight at the end and all I kept thinking was 'faster, faster.'"
Several other area competitors earned league medals Wednesday for placing in the top four.
Second-place finishers from the area include Northwestern's Tyler Stelmack (1600) and Haley Yost (800, 1600), Palmerton's Jennifer Snyder (javelin) and Solt (triple jump).
Third-place finishers were Northern Lehigh's Caleb Johnson (400) and the Bulldog boys 400-meter relay team, along with Palmerton's girls 400-meter relay team.
Area athletes who placed fourth at leagues are Northwestern's Lauren Anderson (100), Palmerton's girls 1600-meter relay team, the Bombers Jaclyn Wood (800) and Northern Lehigh's Autumn Stauffer (high jump).