Walters wins second state gold
It was almost like an exclamation point.
If nothing else, it was emphatic.
Palmerton’s Nataly Walters hit her marks and delivered her best in the Class 2A triple jump on Saturday.
The result was a perfect ending of two days in Shippensburg at the PIAA Championships for the sophomore, who won her second gold in as many days with another extraordinary performance.
Walters won the event with a leap of 38-11 after placing first in the long jump on Friday.
“I’m just really proud of myself with the whole season,” said Walters. “I worked so hard over the winter and the summer. I was in the gym for like almost, I would say, 24 hours a week to be honest. And so that was physically and mentally draining all year. I had to focus on school, clubs, school sports and then track training, lifting. It was so much.
“All those workouts where I sat there, and I was tired and I wanted to leave early and I didn’t want to finish my workout. I just pushed through it, because I knew it was going to pay off. And it paid off. It finally paid off. This is going to give me motivation for next year because I want to defend my title, I want to get two golds again, maybe another medal in a sprint or something. But it’s motivating. I’m going to train hard again. I’m not going to drop anything that I did this year.”
Walters recorded a 36-10 3/4 on her first attempt, and a 36-4 1/2 on her second before going into first place on her third and last jump in the second flight, which was 37-9 3/4.
In the finals, Walters recorded jumps of 36-7 3/4, 36-10 1/2 and her best mark, 38-11 on her last jump.
“This is all a product of what she does in the offseason, after soccer and to get to March,” said Bombers’ jump coach Jim Hay. “This is all a product of that work.”
The competition was stiff. Quaker Valley’s Jay Olawaiye hit 37-7 on her sixth and final attempt. Susquenita’s Samantha Wechsler posted a 37-7 on her fifth attempt and second-to-last jump in the finals. Carlynton’s Jordynn Carter posted a 37-6 on her second jump before the finals.
“I was really excited, and then the distance runners were actually running alongside me on the track so I took off with someone and I ran so fast and that really pumped me up,” Walters said of taking off for her last jump. “It was almost like I was going against her. I just felt like I was running so fast, so I think I got more speed, I was pumped up. After I didn’t jump as far as I normally do, I was kind of upset with myself.
“But I was like, ‘You know what? It’s my last jump, I’m in first, I can’t go down from here. What if I foul? It’s OK.’ I moved up a foot, and I jumped. I’m glad I did.”
Walters studied her competition and her own jumps throughout the event.
The last to jump in the finals, she closed out the event with a bang.
“Throughout the whole meet, I would move up like two inches,” she said. “But I didn’t want to move up too much because I didn’t want to foul. But on the last jump, it was like, roll the dice, I have nothing to lose.
“Everyone jumps uniquely. Everyone hits the board differently. The form, it looks like triple jump form, but everyone does something different in their jumps. So it’s neat to see all the different girls and their form. It was a nail-biter today. I was nervous. I wasn’t sure if I was going to win, but I knew when I had that last jump I had it.”
The sophomore now has three state medals – and two titles – to her name.
“It sounds really good,” Walters said of her accomplishments. “I’m super proud of myself. And coming into this my coach (Jim Hay) is like, ‘All right, one gold medal you get a firetruck ride through town.’ I was like, ‘OK! OK!’ I got the gold medal (in long jump). Yesterday he comes back, and says, ‘You actually need two.’
“So I was like, ‘OK, come on, I have to do this.’ But again, in Palmerton, this has never happened. No one has brought home two gold medals from states. So making Palmerton history, that’s really awesome, especially to do it as a sophomore. And I’m hoping next year, I can make it in the sprints and maybe bring home some more.”
Walters - who also qualified for states in the 100 and 200 as a freshman - navigated the grind of a long season, battling through shin splints and making sure she was ready to perform at the highest level when it mattered the most.
“We just tried to manage her pain during the season, because some weeks we go from meet to meet without her even practicing much,” said Hay. “That’s how painful her shins get. She puts so much force and aggression on her joints, especially her shins, we just have to manage that pain from meet to meet. She goes to physical therapy, she sees a PT, she gets on all kinds of machines. She really takes care of herself.”
It was a historic weekend for Walters and the Palmerton program, which last had a state champion with Jim’s son Spencer Hay in 2016 in the high jump, and has never had two at the same state championship meet.
Emma Snyder also medaled in the high jump on Friday for the Bombers.
“She’s a once-in-a-lifetime (athlete),” said Jim. “Obviously, I’m never going to have an athlete like her. I’ll never have a high jumper like Spencer. And I’ll never have a girl who can long and triple jump like her. This is a once-in-a- lifetime (experience). I’m just glad I’m able to see it. I’ve been coaching for a while, and this is special.”
And Walters might just be getting started.
“And guess what? We’re gonna do it again next year,” Hay said with a smile.