Mitchell leaps to win
Pleasant Valley's Mike Mitchell won the Class 3A long jump on Wednesday at the District 11 Track and Field Championships. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
SCHUYLKILL HAVEN - Mike Mitchell made it clear last week that he was going to be ready for the District 11 championships.
The Pleasant Valley senior left the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference meet a week prior with a runner-up finish in the long jump and a bronze medal in the triple jump.
What a difference a week makes.
Mitchell backed up his win in the Class 3A triple jump on Tuesday with another gold medal Wednesday - this time in the long jump. Like he did a day earlier, Mitchell soared to victory with another PR, winning the event with a leap of 23-2.5, breaking his own school record.
Liberty's Darian Street also jumped 23-2.5, but Mitchell won the event with a longer second jump.
"I feel really blessed," Mitchell said. "I came out to do it. It took me until senior year to do; that got me pretty upset to do that. Junior year, I thought I was gonna do it, but it didn't happen. Senior year, I came back more motivated."
And it shows. Mitchell delivered the best performances of his career the last two days at Blue Mountain High School.
"I believe I'm in the best shape of my life right now," Mitchell said. "I'm gonna be coming different at the state track meet."
Mitchell qualified for the state meet in the triple jump as a sophomore and made it to Shippensburg in the long jump last year. Now, he has the opportunity to finish his career with a bang - and maybe some hardware - in both events.
"I feel pretty good. I feel like I'm getting better and better each week," he said. "I feel like I'm improving like a foot each week. So at states, I plan to try and pull out a 24-(foot jump in the long jump), and for triple, I'm trying to pull out the 49- or 50-(foot) jump.
"I think I can be No. 1. If I can get all the steps, get on the board and (have) the perfect run-through. I think I can do it."
Mitchell was one of six individual gold medalists from the Times News area on Wednesday.
Lehighton's Tanner Haydt showed his grit in the Class 2A 400. Haydt, the top seed in the event, overcame a lower leg injury suffered at last week's Schuylkill League championships to win the 400 with a time of 50.82.
"I knew coming in, that it was going to be a tight race," said Haydt. "There's a lot of competition and a lot of tight times. But I knew if I ran my race, like I did a couple weeks ago before the injury, that I would be good to go."
Haydt gave it everything he had to secure the win, falling shortly after he crossed the finish line.
"I figured that I would pretty much be coming into an even race at the end, and that it would be whoever had enough to give, and I just gave everything I had left," said Haydt. "It boosts (my) self-confidence a lot. Personally, coming in here, I felt like I had a lot to prove to other people and to myself, that I can still do it, even though there was a little bit of adversity with my leg. But I'm glad that I came out on top."
The senior wasn't done after the 400. Haydt, along with Caine Carpenter, Shae Blasiak and Joseph Petit-Clair (3:30.98) placed second in the 1600 relay to advance to states.
Lehighton's Aaron Bowman won the pole vault, clearing 13-6 on his first attempt.
"It means a lot," said Bowman. "A lot of hard work. A lot of practice.
"I think I've progressed a lot, and I really like the way I've progressed. It was very consistent."
Tamaqua's Matt Smarr also cleared 13-6, but did so on his second attempt and finished second. Smarr also qualified for states.
Tamaqua's Brad Clemson (2:02.09) roared to a win in the Class 2A 800.
"It means a lot," said Clemson. "I've been working since the end of cross (country season), and I knew from last year I had a good shot, and I've been working hard ever since and it's great to watch it pay off."
Palmerton's Jake Martinez (2:04.48) was third in the 800 after winning the 1600 (4:36.03) earlier in the day.
"It's what everybody dreams of going into the season," said Martinez. "This is Week 21 for me. I started back in January, so it's been a long road. My coaches have helped me, my team's helped me so much, and just to be up here shows all the hard work that we put in this season (has paid off) and I'm so grateful for everybody that helped me along the way."
Marian's Jarrin Geisinger impressed in the Class 2A 100, winning the event in 11.21. Geisinger beat out Palisades Michael Creighton (11.32) for the title.
"I didn't expect to get first, but it feels great to get first," the sophomore said. "The kids I race against push me harder to get better times."
Jim Thorpe's Joseph Schwartz (14.96) placed second in the Class 3A 110 hurdles to qualify for states.
"It feels great," said Schwartz. "I didn't think I was going to make it not too long ago. But things turned out right."
While Schwartz advanced out of the Class 3A field, Palmerton's Jordan Nelson did so in 2A competition. Nelson (15.75) was second in the Class 2A 110 hurdle finals.
"I've definitely grown a lot," said Nelson. "I'm a lot more confident than I was at the beginning of the season."
In addition to Nelson and Martinez, the Palmerton team of Aaron Stasko, Mike Eckhart, Cody Waterhouse and Mike Stasko (44.12) finished second in the 400 relay to advance to states.
"I thought it was a crisp race from all four of us," said Mike Stasko, who also qualified for states in the 300 hurdles on Tuesday. "The handoffs were good. I thought we ran smoothly.
"It's good, because there's a lot of pressure, especially at districts, to try to get to Shippensburg, because that's a huge honor to get there. So to perform how we did today, and PR in this, this is when it matters. So it was huge."
Northern Lehigh's Jackie Ni (46-3.25) placed second in the Class 2A shot put to qualify for states. Ni also qualified for states in the discus on Tuesday.
"That feels pretty good. That feels honestly great," said Ni. "Not many athletes get to do that."
After winning the Class 3A 3200 on Tuesday, Pleasant Valley's Seth Slavin qualified for the state meet in the 1600 on Wednesday. Slavin finished third in the event in 4:23.65 - under the state qualifying time, and the school record.
"Once I started running, I felt most confident," said Slavin. "Once I got out there, about lap three, I knew what I had to do. Coming into that last lap, I just gave it my all and held on as long as I could. To break the school record, it really means a lot to me."