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Palmerton crowns three champions

WHITEHALL - They were crowning achievements for championship performances.

And that was just the start.

The first day of the Colonial League and Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Track and Field Championships ended with plenty of hardware for Times News area athletes.

Palmerton captured three titles, with Connor Hibell, Nataly Walters and Ryan Burkett leaving Whitehall’s Zephyr Sports Complex with gold, while Northwestern’s Gavin Nelson soared to a championship in the high jump.

We are the champions

Walters turned in a record-setting performance at last year’s league meet, capturing the triple jump with a leap of 39-8.

She got close to the record set in the long jump last season by Northwestern’s Faith Yost (18-9), winning the event with a leap of 18-6 1/2.

It was a remarkable accomplishment and season-best for the top-seeded Walters, who missed significant time with an ankle injury earlier in the year.

“Coming out of today, I’m super happy,” said Walters. “It’s a big confidence boost, especially coming back from a pretty serious injury. It’s not my best, but it’s certainly not my worst. Now I’m ready to head into districts and perform even more there.”

Walters - a defending district and state champion in the event - entered with a mark of 18-1 1/2 this season. The junior set a district record in the event last season at 18-10 1/2, and owns the all-time area best at 19-1 1/2.

“Today my goal was to jump 18-10,” said Walters, who will also be competing in the 400 relay. “Coming off of an injury, it was a big task. I knew if I jumped my best I could get it. My last jump was amazing, but I didn’t hit the board, so it was 18-3. But that’s a whole foot I lost. So if I hit the board, I have a feeling I would have gotten it. I didn’t get the record, but I’m perfectly fine with that. This is just giving me momentum into Wednesday, and leagues and districts and states, hopefully.”

The junior is the top seed in the triple jump today, an event she won at leagues, districts and states last season. Walters set league, district and all-time area best records in the event a year ago.

Walters (12.53) and teammate Erin Gombert (12.73), along with Northwestern’s Carsyn Van Norman (12.84) and Kaia Grantham (13.01), also advanced to the 100 finals. Gombert (26.66), Grantham (26.89) and Van Norman (26.94) all made it to the finals in the 200.

Hibell delivered a tremendous performance to win the 3200 with a personal best time of 9:59.78. The sophomore was seeded first at 10:04.37.

“The strategy first was to stick with everyone, then to make sure I was in the front but not necessarily leading so I could key off someone for the first few laps,” said Hibell. “I think it was the end of the third lap I wanted to start making a gap as much as I could and hold it until the end of the race. “

Hibell did that, pulling away from the pack to secure a convincing win.

“It gives me confidence for districts,” said Hibell, who is also seeded third for today’s 1600. “I think I ran a 10:14 (in the 3200) last year, and I was maybe better at the mile. But now I’m better at the two mile this year.

“I think I’m peaking now. I don’t think I could have run a sub-10:00 a month, or three weeks earlier.”

Burkett, the top seed in the discus, narrowly missed his mark of 171-5, winning the event with a throw of 168-8, with teammate Zack Anthony fourth.

“I knew I was the top seed, but I’ve had bad meets before,” said Burkett. “I went in there and just wanted one good, safe throw, and then I knew I would be good for finals to try to get some long throws in. I tried to get a safe throw in the beginning and it was a good, decent throw ... so I kind of just relaxed and went into it and landed first, which was nice.

“It’s definitely a big relief because I’ve been chasing this since summertime and through all of last year. Ever since I came here as a sophomore and saw how big it was. I just knew I really wanted to win this. I really just gave it my all today. It’s awesome.”

The junior has been stellar all season, something he hopes will continue at districts.

“I feel really comfortable, because to be able to go to a big meet like this, it’s going to be the same atmosphere at districts, maybe even a little bit bigger,” said Burkett. “But I feel really comfortable, and I know I can perform.”

Nelson delivered in the high jump, where he was also the top seed, clearing 6-5 to win the event. He was seeded first at 6-7.

“It feels great,” said Nelson. “I’ve wanted to get this since last year, when I was third. Since then I’ve known that I really wanted to win the Colonial League title, and it feels really good. I tried 6-8.5, which is the school record, but couldn’t get it.”

Nelson was a state qualifier in the high jump last season. He also watched former teammate Faith Yost earn gold in the event at states a season ago.

“Faith was an amazing coach, she helped me with a lot of stuff,” Nelson said of Yost, who graduated last year. “She was definitely always there for us. She was a great mentor. She helped me with my form, she helped me stay confident. She really taught me how to perform in high jump. She was a state champion, and she was very talented and really helped me a lot.”

Bomber success

Palmerton’s Bryson Walters (300 hurdles), Jake Rutkowitz (long jump) and Emma Snyder (high jump) all earned runner-up finishes.

Walters (15.14) and Rutkowitz (15.37), along with Northwestern’s Shane Leh (16.15) also advanced to the 110 hurdle finals.

“I ran a 39.81, which is a PR for FAT,” said Walters of the 300 hurdles. “So I’m really happy with that. For the majority of the season, sub-40 (seconds) was my goal, and I did hit that with handheld timing at a few home meets. But now that I have that on paper at an FAT meet, at a big league meet, I’m going to really work to get that below a 39.5.”

Rutkowitz hit a personal best in the long jump, with a leap of 22-1. He was seeded sixth at 20-10 1/2.

“This season has been amazing,” said Rutkowitz, a freshman. “The coaches have been great. Everyone has really helped me out. I’m so happy with how I was able to do.”

Snyder, who tied for fifth in the high jump at states last year, cleared 4-11 despite feeling under the weather to place second. She was seeded second at 5-3.

“I definitely didn’t do as well as I expected to today, just the height,” said Snyder. “But I was sick, so I’m happy with what I did for being sick. But I’m really hoping to do well next week at districts.”

Tiger stripes

Northwestern’s Sadie Fenstermaker (discus) and Hannah Gober (javelin) showcased the Tigers strong throwing program with runner-up finishes.

Fenstermaker tossed 104-8 in the discus to place second, while Katie Brensinger medaled with a fourth-place finish and throw of 93-6.

“I’m happy because there’s room for improvement,” said Fenstermaker, who was seeded first at 119-4. “Even though I didn’t throw anywhere close to my PR, I still feel like I can work through the next week, and do really well at districts. So I am a little frustrated, but in the end I’m OK. I still got second. That’s not bad at all. What I threw is still a good throw.”

Fenstermaker is also seeded first in today’s shot put.

Gober threw 108-2 in the javelin to earn silver.

“It’s very exciting to medal at leagues,” said Gober, who was seeded second. “I was hoping to gain a few more feet today (on my throw). My PR this year is 119-0, so I have a little bit to go. I’m going to try again next week at districts, and hopefully qualify for states. But you can’t ask for more with a medal as a sophomore. I’m very happy.”

Northwestern’s Kit Kahm also had a big PR in the long jump with a mark of 21-8 to place third. He was seeded 12th at 19-10 1/2.

The Tigers’ 3200 relay team of Sean Kershner, Braidon Berk, Francesco Ponte and Greyson Wellings ran a PR of 8:28.91 to place third in their second time running together. They were seeded fourth at 8:41.85.

“We knew we had a chance to all have a very good race, and come out and get a big PR, and also podium, which was our main goal,” said Kershner.

“We have some 400, some longer distances guys, and we just work well together,” said Wellings.

“We just move,” Ponte said with a laugh.

‘Dawg day

Northern Lehigh’s Bailey Smith placed second in the javelin with a throw of 147-1.

“I feel like I’ve improved every single meet,” said Smith, who was the top seed at 147-3. “I threw 160-0 in practice, and that is the goal, to try to get that. But for me, the goal is just to have fun. That’s all I’ve always lived off of, whether it be any other sports, schoolwork, school in general, anything. Just have fun. I just want to make the most of it.”


... Palmerton’s Matthew Machalik advanced to the 100 finals with a time of 11.08, fastest in prelims.

Northwestern’s Katie Brensinger (16.47), Northern Lehigh’s Evelina Mayak (15.49), and Palmerton’s Ruby Walters (17.13) advanced to the finals in the 100 hurdles.


... Pleasant Valley’s Jareal Moore qualified for the 100 finals in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference meet with a 11.14. Moore also advanced to the finals in the 200, running a 22.48, third fastest in prelims.



Team scores and legend

1. Southern Lehigh (SL) 58, 2. Palmerton (P) 51, 3. Notre Dame Green Pond (NDGP) 48, 4. Northwestern (NW) 31, 5. Palisades (Pali) 19, 6. (tie) Wilson (W) 17, Bangor 17, 8. Salisbury (S) 11, 9. Catasauqua (C) 10, Northern Lehigh (NL) 8, 11. Pen Argyl (PA) 2.

(top-three plus other locals in the top-10)

3200 relay – 1. Notre Dame Green Pond 8:10.50, 2. Southern Lehigh 8:22.30, 3. Northwestern 8:28.91; 300 hurdles – 1. Jack Inglis (SL) 39.20, 2. Bryson Walters (P) 39.81, 3. Joseph Phillips (NDGP) 40.17, 9. Shane Leh (NW) 44.89, 10. Caleb Pastier (P) 44.90; 3200 – 1. Connor Hibell (P) 9:59.78, 2. Jeffrey Sunderlin (W) 10:09.85, 3. Gregory Rubino (SL) 10:13.86, 5. Xander Giandomenico (NW) 10:25.47; Long jump - 1. Jack Inglis (SL) 22-8, 2. Jake Rutkowitz (P) 22-1, 3. Kit Kahm (NW) 21-8; Javelin – 1. Dainn Vassallo (NDGP) 154-7, 2. Bailey Smith (NL) 147-1, 3. Grady Oravec (SL) 145-2, 4. Alex Konze (P) 142-3, 6. Brendan Miller (NW) 132-0; Discus - 1. Ryan Burkett (P) 168-8, 2. Dylan Krugh (B) 149-1, 3. Adrian Pirog (NDGP) 134-8, 4. Zack Anthony (P) 131-1, 10. Logan Anthony (P) 119-9; High jump

- 1. Gavin Nelson (NW) 6-5, 2. Trevor Johnson (Pali) 5-11, 3. Michael Maslonka (NDGP) 5-9, 4. Trent Ader (P) 5-9, 7. Seth Kern (NW) 5-5.


Team scores and legend

1. Southern Lehigh (SL) 42, 2. Notre Dame Green Pond (NDGP) 41, 3. Northwestern (NW) 39, 4. Saucon Valley (SV) 38, 5. Palmerton (P) 32, 6. Pen Argyl (PA) 19, 7. (tie) Wilson (W) 16, Northern Lehigh (NL) 17, 9. Palisades (Pali) 14, 10. Bangor (B) 12, 11. (tie) Catasauqua (C) 2, Salisbury (S) 2.

(top-three plus other locals in the top-10)

3200 relay – 1. Saucon Valley 9:42.08, 2. Notre Dame Green Pond 9:42.68, 3. Southern Lehigh 9:59.86, 5. Northern Lehigh 10:08.18, 7. Northwestern 10:46.59; 300 hurdles – 1. Savina Steele (NDGP) 44.64*, 2. Faith Schiffer (SL) 47.00, 3. Elliana Wallbillich (PA) 48.50, 4. Ruby Walters (P) 48.81, 6. Katie Brensinger (NW) 49.96; 3200 – 1. Virginia Kraus (SV) 10:53.98, 2. Avery Errico (W) 11:32.40, 3. Madison Dietz (PA) 12:01.54, 9. Emma Heil (NL) 12:40.89; Discus – 1. Evelyn Hersh (NDGP) 109-11, 2. Sadie Fenstermaker (NW) 104-8, 3. Breanna Prugar (SV) 95-3, 4. Katie Brensinger (NW) 93-6, 5. Dekota Barthold (NL) 93-0, 6. McKenna Kirk (NL) 88-9, 8. Mallory Conner (NW) 84-2, 9. Daisy Richards (NL) 82-10; High jump - 1. Ella Schweitzer (NDGP) 5-2, 2. Emma Snyder (P) 4-11, 3. Brooke Bleam (SV) 4-11, 5. Kamarrah Saslo (P) 4-9, 6. Celina Ruddell (NW) 4-9, 7. Taylor Wasilewski (P) 4-9, 8. Norah Silfies (NW) 4-9, 9. (tie) Morgan Smith (NL) 4-7, Ava Okuley (NW) 4-7; Javelin - 1. Kaitlyn Carson (Pali) 109-9, 2. Hannah Gober (NW) 108-2, 3. Chloe Proko (B) 107-1, 6. Kylie Christman (NW) 100-10, 8. Alexandra Diehl (NW) 91-5, 9. Gretchen Schaible (P) 90-1; Long jump

- 1. Nataly Walters (P) 18-6.5, 2. Raquelle Riggins (SL) 16-5, 3. Ellie Brown (SV) 16-3, 4. Katelynn Barthold (NL) 16-1.5, 5. Abby Pomajevich (NW) 16-0, 6. Allison Herrmann (P) 15-10.25.



Team scores and legend

1. Parkland (P) 41, 2. Northampton (N) 32.50, 3. Emmaus (Em) 32, 4. Easton (E) 25, 5. Freedom (F) 24.50, 6. Nazareth (N) 17, 7. Stroudsburg (S) 14, 8. Allentown Central Catholic (ACC) 12, 9. (tie) Whitehall (W) 10, Dieruff (D) 10, 11. Pocono Mountain West (PMW) 5, 12. (tie) East Stroudsburg North (ESN) 4, Liberty (L) 4, 14. East Stroudsburg South (ESS) 3.

(top-three plus other locals in the top-10)

3200 relay – 1. Emmaus 8:07.54, 2. Parkland 8:19.18, 3. Nazareth 8:21.55, 9. Pleasant Valley 8:37.55; 300 hurdles – 1. Andrew Beers (P) 37.12, 2. Jorge Santana (D) 39.26, 3. Peyton Falzone (N) 40.04; 3200 – 1. Ethan Willard (P) 9:40.21, 2. Colin McGuigan (P) 9:42.23, 3. Dylan Boyle (F) 9:48.17; Triple jump - 1. Kyle Moore (Em) 48-1.5, 2. Kevin Polonia (S) 47-3.75, 3. Brooke Britt (F) 45-4; Pole vault - 1. Tyler Grabinski (Em) 15-6*, 2. Andrew Szeplaki (N) 13-3, 3. Samuel Hayes (N) 12-9; Shot put

- 1. Clark Gulycz (ACC) 58-8*, 2. Kayden Weaver (W) 49-6.5, 3. Peter Diaz (E) 48-2.75.


Team scores and legend

1. Parkland (P) 36.28, 2. Easton (E) 36.14, 3. Emmaus (Em) 34.28, 4. Nazareth (N) 21, 5. (tie) Pocono Mountain West (PMW) 16, East Stroudsburg North (ESN) 16, 7. (tie) Allentown Central Catholic (ACC) 15, Stroudsburg (S) 15, 9. Northampton (N) 14.14, 10. Liberty (L) 12, 11. East Stroudsburg South (ESS) 9.14, 12. Whitehall (W) 6, 13. Freedom (F) 3.

(top-three plus other locals in the top-10)

3200 relay – 1. Parkland 9:28.83*, 2. Emmaus 9:33.92, 3. Easton 9:55.38, 9. Pleasant Valley 10:43.36; 300 hurdles – 1. Maggie Scalzo (E) 44.06, 2. Kayla-Rayne Quinones (Em) 47.61, 3. Ana Gbur (P) 48.81; 3200 – 1. Madelyn McCartney (Em) 10:52.18*, 2. Kaya Meler (PMW) 11:26.28, 3. Payton Campbell (Em) 11:29.77; Pole vault - 1. Adisa Naomee (N) 10-6, 2. Sophie Braido (E) 10-6, 3. Tessa Hopkins (W) 10-0; Shot put - 1. Celis Miranda (ESN) 34-3.75, 2. Aubrey Delong (P) 34-0.75, 3. Maiya Baptiste (ESN) 33-8.75, 9. Kara Miller (PV) 31-2.25; Triple jump

- 1. Grace Coppola (ACC) 37-8.75, 2. Lindsey Pelaez (S) 37-0, 3. Adisa Naomee (N) 35-7.25.

* - EPC Record.

Palmerton's Emma Snyder competes in the high jump at Tuesday's Colonial League Track and Field Championships. Snyder finished second in the event. PATRICK MATSINKO/TIMES NEWS