Pereira's three golds highlight final day
WHITEHALL - As the gold medals and state qualifiers kept piling up for Palmerton at the District 11 track and field championship, Lauryn Solt just wanted to be part of the fun.
The Blue Bomber junior watched as her classmate Jess Pereira blitzed the field in three separate races. She saw Palmerton senior Kelsey Hay punch a state ticket by finishing second to Tamaqua's Christine Streisel in the javelin.
And after an off-day in the high jump resulted in a bronze medal - one spot of out state qualifying position - Solt needed a top two showing in the triple jump to secure a trip to the state meet.
Solt responded to the pressure by delivering a career-best jump of 35 feet to win the event by five inches.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself," Solt said. "I expected that I should be able to go in the high jump, but the girls just outjumped me.
"But I really wanted to get [to states] because there are a whole bunch of kids on my team going and I really wanted to be there with them."
Solt was one of seven area girls to qualify for states on the second day of the meet, held at the Zephyr Sports Complex at Whitehall High School.
She joined Pereira, Pleasant Valley's Kelecia Harris and Tamaqua's Kelsey Patrick as newly-crowned district champs. Hay and Blue Raider senior Kayla Hope qualified as silver medalists in individual events. Hope and Streisel also picked up silvers in the girls AA 400 relay, joining Maria Streisel and Caitlin Trainer on the podium.
Northwestern's Haley Yost was also a state qualifier, finishing fourth and setting a new school record in the 1600.
Pereira had the best day of any Class AA competitor, taking gold in the 100, 200 and 400 meter runs. She was also third in the triple jump.
The Palmerton junior was able to get out to quick leads in all her events and hold off any challengers late in the races.
"I try not to think about who's behind me," Pereira said. "I try just to push myself as hard as I can because I never know how close they are."
Pleasant Valley's Kelecia Harris knew just how close her nearest competitor - Easton's Kianna Farra - was in the Class AAA 200 meter final.
The Bears senior collected her only gold medal of the day, to go along with a pair of silvers, when she surged past Farra late in the race and then held her off in the meet's closest race.
Harris made a late push with about 20 meters left to take the lead and then leaned forward at the end, falling over and burning her knees in the process. The timers showed Harris as two hundredths of a second faster.
But controversy ensued as the participants approached the medal stand, with Harris standing on the second step of the podium, thinking she'd finished second.
"They said I won, but I didn't think I won," Harris said. "At the end, she was a little bit ahead of me and I pushed myself forward. That's how I fell. I really kicked myself forward to get a good time."
The situation was sorted out and Harris was awarded gold before going to finish the triple jump, an event she took second in. She also earned a silver in the 100.
There was no controversy in the girls javelin where Christine Streisel, ranked second in the nation in the event and the defending state champ, won with a throw 151 feet, 10 inches, over 23 feet better than Palmerton's Hay.
Streisel, who won gold in shot put on Wednesday, is the latest in a successful line of Tamaqua javelin throwers, matching Casey Wagner (2006-07) and current SEC champ, Georgia's Ali Updike (2008-09) with back-to-back titles.
"It's crazy to think of how this all started and the success that one school's been able to have," Streisel said. "I think you're expected to win when you come from Tamaqua and you throw javelin. But I expect to win too."
Patrick matched Streisel's two-gold performance when she captured the Class AA 1600 title in a time of 5:18.19 over five seconds ahead of Notre Dame Green Pond's Katie Downing. Patrick also qualified by winning the 3200.
Tamaqua teammate Kayla Hope will be in Shippensburg, site of the state meet held next Friday and Saturday, as she placed second in the 200 behind Periera.
Hope and Streisel were also part of the silver medal-winning 400 relay team with Maria Streisel and Caitlin Trainer. The team finished just over a half-second behind Bethlehem Catholic. The top four relay teams all met the state qualifying standards in a competitive event.
The other area girl to earn a state spot was Northwestern's Yost, who put in one of the more surprising performance of the evening placing fourth in the 1600 and setting a new school record in the process.
Running in a pack with accomplished racers Amy Darlington of Liberty, Paige Soner of Pottsville and Liz Chikotas of Saucon Valley, Northwestern's Yost never lost her stride.
The Tiger sophomore jockeyed for position throughout the four-lap race, moving up as far as second place at times.
Yost's time of 5:04.49 not only surpassed the state qualifying standard but broke Lindsay Kerr's school mark of 5:05.65.
"I definitely feel accomplished because she's someone I look up to and see as a mentor," Yost said. "So to beat that time is just really fantastic."