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Bombers relay team comes up big

As Erin Gombert raced toward the line, she had the time - and the record - in her sights.

Running the anchor leg of a 400 relay team that included Claire Thomas, Nataly Walters and Sarah Sabo, Gombert blew past the competition - and maybe even the biggest expectations the group had entering the second day of the District 11 Track and Field Championships.

A winning time of 49.70 in the Class 2A 400 relay didn’t just break the school record, it also established a District 11 record, breaking the previous mark of 49.73 set by Bethlehem Catholic in 2012.

“We were really hoping for a while to be able to break it,” Gombert said of the school record, which was 49.74. “Nataly just joined the relay team about four weeks ago, and we knew that was going to help us break the school and district record, which we did today.”

The performance of the Bombers’ relay team was one of many highlights from Wednesday’s action at Blue Mountain, which saw five individuals capture district gold.

Palmerton and Northwestern each produced two individual champions. Walters and Matt Machalik captured titles for the Bombers, while Sadie Fenstermaker and Grace Yost were golden for the Tigers in Class 2A.

Lehighton’s Lorah Thomas delivered a championship-winning performance in Class 3A competition.

Record breakers

Palmerton was seeded second in the 400 relay with a time of 50.29. The group, which started with Thomas before going to Walters, Sabo and finishing with Gombert, delivered its best performance of the season when it mattered most to edge top seed Northwestern, which ran a 49.78 and also qualified for states with the team of Sophia Schaffer, Carsyn Van Norman, Taylor Langley and Kaia Grantham.

An often-times difficult race to put together and get right with timing and speed, the Bombers had no trouble clicking on Wednesday.

“We tried different things. Nataly is normally the fastest, and usually the fastest is the anchor,” said Gombert, who finished fourth in the 100. “But she gives us a good start running the second leg. I’m better at finishing, so that just worked out for us.

“It felt really good. It was really close, but we were able to get it.”

While Walters, who placed third in the 100, delivered a strong second leg in the race, her fastest split may have come afterward.

“It’s a totally different feeling,” Walters said of the race. “With the 100, it’s about whether or not I’m going to run a certain time. With the 400 relay, I feel like I almost do better in a way because I have the ability to let three people down, or I have the ability to lift three people up. So it’s really about the mental part, and realizing I’m doing this for not only myself but for the team. Of course, I’m so focused on winning, but everyone wants to win. I just tell myself, if I run extra fast and someone else doesn’t run well, we’ll compensate for each other.

“I think I had that mindset, but so did everyone else. Everyone ran extra fast, hand-offs were perfect. I ran the second leg, so I was all the way down in the far corner (in Turn 3 after she ran), so I had no clue what we ran. I saw everyone in the stands, and my mom screams out, ‘49!’ I think I ran at a 10-flat speed across the field. I was just so excited. We broke all the records.”

‘Big mark, big stage’

Walters has made a habit of producing stellar performances when the lights shine brightest. With the relay, she now owns three district records after setting long jump and triple jump records last season.

The junior closed out the meet with her third gold medal in two days, winning the triple jump with a leap of 38-4.

The defending state champion in the triple jump - and long jump - Walters has high hopes to continue that success next weekend in Shippensburg.

“Next week, hopefully I’ll be back in the 39s or maybe even reach 40,” Walters said of the triple jump, where her district record is 39-2.75. “That’s been my goal all season. That was my goal today. Maybe I’ll get that mark on the big stage. Big mark, big stage. You never know what can happen out there.”

The junior was also third in the 100 finals Wednesday with a time of 12.91.

Machalik motors

Machalik bounced back from a nagging injury that plagued him at last week’s Colonial League meet to win the Class 2A 100.

“It means a lot,” said Machalik. “Doing this sport for the first year and winning a district gold, it just means a lot. It was nice to come out with a win and go against the top athletes of the district.”

Winning is something Machalik has done a lot of in his short time on the track. At leagues, he finished third in the 100 in 11.04.

He was in top form Wednesday, flying to the finish line with a winning time of 10.95, well ahead of the runner-up, who crossed the line in 11.14.

“I was dealing with an injury the past two weeks,” he said. “So last week was not fun, running on a hurt hip flexor I guess. I was struggling last week, and I tried running as hard as I could but it wasn’t enough. This week I rested it a lot, and I tried to be as healthy as I could be for this meet. I think I got to that level. To run a l0.95, I ran as hard as I can. I don’t like to lose, so I just ran as hard as I can and got the win, so it was nice.”

A strong run in the 400 relay helped Machalik, Bryson Walters, Ty Sander and Stephen Jones advance ( to states with a second-place finish (43.36).

Fenstermaker doubles up

Fenstermaker won her second title in as many days, winning 2A shot put with a mark of 37-5 after winning discus on Tuesday.

“The mark I had today was a good one for me,” said Fenstermaker. “It was four inches under my PR, but a mid-37 throw is still really good. I had a good day.”

Fenstermaker was able to settle in after her first few throws of the competition.

“I didn’t come out that great, but I was able to get right back into it, fix up a few things on the side and I was able to have a really good throw,” she said. “My first two or three throws were about 34s, and then it was either my third or fourth throw I got my 37, and then I was kind of consistently around there.

“I kept my shoulders back, and I was able to reach over the toe board farther, which allowed my to push it farther, basically.”

The senior is looking to continue her progression - and success - as she returns to states.

“Honestly, it would be really cool to get top eight in the state,” she said. “Last year, I didn’t throw my best at states, but I wasn’t really worried about it. I thought, ‘Oh, I have another year, maybe I can go again.’ But my goal is to maybe get top eight in both (shot put and discus). I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”

Yost takes flight

Yost cleared 10-6, which is also the state qualifying standard, to win the 2A pole vault.

“It means a lot to even make it to states,” said Yost. “Last year, I thought I was going to go, and then I had an issue with either my quad or my hamstring, and I couldn’t make the last jump. But now I got to kind of have a second chance in my senior year, and I’m super happy I finally get to go.”

The top seed at 10-7, Yost was unfazed by any pressure she might have felt heading into the meet, and did what she needed to do to advance to states.

“I’m very happy with the 10-6,” she said. “Coming here, I thought it was going to be rainy and everything, so I was aiming for 9-6. I thought, ‘That is the minimum I want, and then I would be happy.’ But I am thrilled I got higher than that. Maybe it’s not my PR, but I did go for a new PR (10-9), I just have to work on my new pole. I feel like I’m very close to getting that, and even higher.”

It will be an extra special occasion if she can do it at states.

“My birthday is May 24, the first day of states, so I’m excited to celebrate that there,” said Yost. “I would love to medal there. That would be great.”

Thomas takes it

Thomas won the 3A discus with a throw of 113-2. She also qualified for states with a runner-up finish in the shot put on Tuesday.

“It means a whole lot for me,” said the Indians’ junior. “It’s the first meet that I came in seeded first and I placed first, so that’s a huge accomplishment for me. Coming off of yesterday, I definitely had a confidence boost knowing I made it to states, and this was kind of just a meet for me to go all out, which I did. I improved each throw, which was great. My coach (Gwen Davidson, formerly Remaley) was a huge source of motivation for me. She kept me mentally strong, and she’s just great overall.

“Going into finals I was a little nervous because Rosa (Gergely of Blue Mountain) is an amazing athlete and she was really close. So to hit 109 and 113 was just a great feeling.”

Thomas was the top seed in the event with a mark of 118-10. Gergely, who finished second with a mark of 103-8, had won the shot put the day before.

“My first throw was a 95 (feet), which was a good throw and got me into finals,” said Thomas. “And then my second one was 103, which I think was slightly less than her first throw, My next throw was 107, so going into finals, I had that confidence boost and thought, ‘OK, I’m in first, I want to maintain this lead.’

“Throughout my next few throws, I just kept my fundamentals in check and just went for it.”

Everything clicked at the right time for Thomas to capture her first district title.

Making the ‘Trip to Ship’

Bryson Walters also qualified for states in the 110 hurdles, placing third in the finals with a time of 15.11, under the state qualifying standard of 15.35, one day after qualifying for states in the 300 hurdles with a runner-up finish.

Palmerton’s Jake Rutkowitz advanced to states with a runner-up finish in the 2A triple jump with a mark of 43-6.5. Zack Anthony qualified for states for the Bombers in the shot put, placing third and surpassing the SQS of 49-6 with a mark of 49-9.25.

Marian’s Alex Porambo qualified for states with a fourth-place finish in 2A 800, running a state qualifying time of 1:57.15.

In Class 3A, Lehighton’s Joseph Roth advanced to states with a third-place finish in the 3A javelin, reaching the state qualifying standard with a throw of 179-6, topping SQS of 178-0.

Northern Lehigh’s Katelynn Barthold advanced to states with a second-place finish and school record time of 2:18.40 in the Class 2A 800.

Northern Lehigh sophomore Evelina Mayak qualified for states with a runner-up finish in the 2A 100 hurdles with a time of 15.30. She ran a 15.61 in the prelims.

Tamaqua’s Samantha Plasha qualified in the Class 3A long jump with a runner-up finish and leap of 17-6.

The PIAA Championships will be held next Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg University.


Day 2


Class 3A

Team legend

Parkland (Park), Southern Lehigh (SL), Dieruff (D), North Schuylkill (NS), Blue Mountain (BM), Stroudsburg (S), Nazareth (Naz), Pocono Mountain West (PMW), Northampton (Nor), Tamaqua (Tam), Emmaus (Em), Pleasant Valley (PV), Easton (Eas), Whitehall (Whi), Lehighton (Leh), Bangor (B)

(top-3 plus other locals in the top-10)

110 hurdles - 1. Andrew Beers (Park) 14.21, 2. Jack Inglis (SL) 14.71, 3. Jorge Santana (D) 15.07; 100 - 1. Joey Flail (NS) 11.01, 2. Cole Swick (BM) 11.02, 3. Joshua Shuler (S) 11.09; 1600 - 1. Giovanni Mastromonaco (Naz) 4:16.85, 2. Paul Abeln (Park) 4:20.98, 3. Jacob Burnes (Park) 4:22.34; 400 relay - 1. Blue Mountain 42.13, 2. Parkland 42.39, 3. Stroudsburg 42.76; 400 - 1. Mark Jackson (PMW) 49.31, 2. Brady Dolak (Nor) 50.13, 3. Stephen Kieffer (Tam) 50.57; 800 - 1. Giovanni Mastromonaco (Naz) 1:52.98, 2. Jared Price (Em) 1:56.79, 3. Tyler Finck (Em) 1:58.04, 5. James Morton (PV) 1:58.40; 200 - 1. Nathaniel Janukowicz (Park) 21.75, 2. Cole Swick (BM) 21.80, 3. Ryan Francis (S) 22.16; 1600 relay - 1. Parkland 3:20.62, 2. Dieruff 3:54.52, 3. Emmaus 3:26.89, 6. Pleasant Valley 3:28.27; Long jump - 1. Kyle Moore (Em) 23-11.5, 2. Jack Inglis (SL) 23-3.5, 3. Kamoni Smith-Johnson (S) 22-9.5; Pole vault - 1. Akbarov Sayyidakbar (BM) 14-3, 2. Tyler Grabinski (Em) 13-9, 3. Andrew Szeplaki (Nor) 13-9; Javelin - 1. Thomas Lloyd (Whi) 191-7, 2. Collin Torres (Eas) 184-3, 3. Joseph Roth (Leh) 179-6; Discus - 1. Julius Reyes (Park) 160-0, 2. Dylan Krugh (B) 152-8, 3. Leo Dauberman (Park) 146-7, 10. Bodie Hawk (Leh) 121-8; High jump

- 1. Kamoni Smith-Johnson (S) 6-5, 2. Jayden Ekoko (Eas) 6-5, 3. Andrew Szeplaki (Nor) 6-3.

Class 2A

Team legend

Notre Dame Green Pond (NDGP), Nativity (Nat), Palmerton (Palm), Northwestern (NW), Allentown Central Catholic (ACC), Minersville (Min), Marian (Mar), Jim Thorpe (JT), Bethlehem Catholic (BC), Pine Grove (PG), Palisades (Pali), Pen Argyl (PA)

(top-3 plus other locals in the top-10)

110 hurdles – 1. Joseph Phillips (NDGP) 14.78, 2. Noah Dolbin (Nat) 14.94, 3. Bryson Walters (Palm) 15.11, 4. Jake Rutkowitz (Palm) 15.43, 7. Shane Leh (NW) 16.02; 100 – 1. Matt Machalik (Palm) 10.95, 2. Alex Clark (NDGP) 11.14, 3. Paiten LaPoint (Min) 11.15, 8. Christopher Frame (NL) 11.68; 1600 – 1. Duke Ebert (ACC) 4:23.24, 2. Keegan Dube (Min) 4:23.82, 3. Albin Petschauer (Mar) 4:32.17, 5. Connor Hibell (Palm) 4:37.33, 7. Greyson Wellings (NW) 4:38.97; 400 relay- 1. Nativity 43.17, 2. Palmerton 43.36, 3. Catasauqua 44.36, 6. Marian 45.07, 8. Northern Lehigh 46.04; 400 – 1. Alek Gorski (Nat) 49.49, 2. Michael Stank (Nat) 50.23, 3. Saleem Diakite (NDGP) 51.40, 4. Kayden Spence (JT) 51.58, 9. Benjamin Bachman (NW) 52.83; 800 – 1. Abraham Sasso (NDGP) 1:54.53, 2. Alec Miner (NDGP) 1:54.77, 3. Mekhi Britt (BC) 1:56.86, 4. Alex Porambo (Mar) 1:57.15, 9. Sean Kershner (NW) 2:04.18; 200 - 1. Robert Williams (BC) 21.89, 2. Paiten LaPoint (Min) 22.14, 3. Nate Frankenfield (PG) 22.26, 8. Kayden Spence (JT) 23.73; 1600 relay – 1. Nativity 3:23.32, 2. Notre Dame Green Pond 3:23.58, 3. Bethlehem Catholic 3:26.05, 7. Marian 3:38.06, 8. Northwestern 3:38.06, 10. Jim Thorpe 3:39.21; Triple jump – 1. Trevor Johnson (Pali) 43-10.5, 2. Jake Rutkowitz (Palm) 43-6.5, 3. Emilo Gonzalez (Palm) 42-6, 4. Kit Kahm (NW) 42-1.5, 5. Bradley Burnard (NW) 41-8.25, 6. Michael Silliman (Mar) 41-5, 10. Francesco Ponte (NW) 40-3.5; Pole vault – 1. Terrell Estes (PA) 11-0, 2. Scott Lamoreaux (PA) 11-0, 3. Jackson Stein (Palm) 10-6, 4. Conner Miller (JT) 10-6, 5. Jacob Walkowiak (Palm) 10-6, 7. James O’Neill (JT) 10-6, 8. Troy Wambold (Palm) 9-6; Shot put

– 1. Clark Gulycz (ACC) 57-6, 2. Adrian Pirog (NDGP) 50-11.25, 3. Zack Anthony (Palm) 49-9.25, 4. Logan Anthony (Palm) 49-1.25, 6. James Rodino (Mar) 47-1.5, 10. Ryan Burkett (Palm) 43-1.25.


Class 3A

Team legend

Easton (Eas), Emmaus (Em), Pottsville (Pott), Stroudsburg (S), Parkland (Park), Wilson (W), Southern Lehigh (SL), Pleasant Valley (PV), Nazareth (Naz), Liberty (L), Lehighton (Leh), Blue Mountain (BM), East Stroudsburg South (ESS), Tamaqua (Tam), Bangor (B)

(top-3 plus other locals in top-10)

100 hurdles - 1. Maggie Scalzo (Eas) 14.93, 2. Kayla-Rayne Quinones (Em) 15.32, 3. Alexa Giuffre (Pott) 15.68; 100 - 1. Alena Murray (S) 12.37, 2. Kaley Seide (Park) 12.45, 3. Gabrielle DeVita (Em) 12.48; 1600 - 1. Virginia Kraus (SV) 5:07.29, 2. Madelyn McCartney (Em) 5:08.06, 3. Avery Errico (W) 5:12.58; 400 relay - 1. Parkland 48.45, 2 Stroudsburg 49.11, 3. Emmaus 49.27, 10. Tamaqua 51.86; 400 - 1. Julia Grant (S) 55.54, 2. Alexandra Lea (SL) 56.31, 3. Lucy Tobia (Park) 58.10, 4. Nemani Moon (PV) 59.04; 800 - 1. Lana Hurwitz (Park) 2:19.0, 2. Kylie Karavitch (Naz) 2:20.57, 3. Katie Drabouski (L) 2:21.34; 200 - 1. Alexandra Lea (SL) 24.64, 2. Kaley Seide (Park) 24.94, 3. Amanda Mercurius (Naz) 25.15; 1600 relay - 1. Parkland 3:57.39, 2. Southern Lehigh 3:59.90, 3. Easton 4:01.23; Discus - 1. Lorah Thomas (Leh) 113-2, 2. Rosalind Gergely (BM) 103-8, 3. Brooke Nwigwe (ESS) 99-4, 8. Kara Miller (PV) 91-5; High jump - 1. Alena Murray (S) 5-3, 2. Claudia Walls (Em) 5-1, 3. Elena Johnson (SL) 5-1, 5. (tie) 5. Sarah Coccio (Tam) 4-11; Javelin - 1. Rosalind Gergely (BM) 154-8, 2. Makayla Keck (BM) 149-10, 3. Julia Pinter (B) 135-0, 8. Emma Repsher (Leh) 115-0; Long jump

- 1. Emma Shafnisky (Naz) 17-6.5, 2. Samantha Plasha (Tam) 17-6, 3. Jariana Rivas (Eas) 17-3.5, 4. Gabriella Brown (Leh) 17-1.5.

Class 2A

Team legend

Notre Dame Green Pond (NDGP), Northern Lehigh (NL), Northwestern (NW), Jim Thorpe (JT), Palmerton (Palm), Catasauqua (Cat), Pine Grove (PG), Schuylkill Haven (SH), Nativity (Nat), Marian (Mar), Minersville (Min), Panther Valley (PV), Lehigh Valley Academy (LVA)

(top-3 plus other locals in top-10)

100 hurdles - 1. Savina Steele (NDGP) 15.28, 2. Evelina Mayak (NL) 15.30, 3. Katie Brensinger (NW) 16.39, 4. Leah Wasko (JT) 17.08, 6. Ruby Walters (Palm) 17.16; 100 - 1. Hailey Jenkins (Cat) 12.28, 2. Viktorya Luckenbach (PG) 12.31, 3. Nataly Walters (Palm) 12.91, 4. Erin Gombert (Palm) 12.96, 6. Carsyn Van Norman (NW) 13.20, 7. Kaia Grantham (NW) 13.24; 1600 - 1. Anna Schaeffer (SH) 5:17.72, 2. Brenna Hammerstone (NDGP) 5:22.05, 6. Sophoa Cornell (NW) 5:31.13, 10. Stacy Bos (JT) 5:40.41; 400 relay - 1. Palmerton 49.70, 2. Northwestern 49.78, 3. Pine Grove 50.59, 5. Marian 52.20; 400 - 1. Savina Steele (NDGP) 57.36, 2. Sara Spolski (Nat) 58.99, 3. Sophia Schaffer (NW) 59.55, 6. Alizabeth Pikitus (Mar) 1:02.45, 10. Natalie Moffitt (NL) 1:04.24; 800 - 1. Lauren Bower (NDGP) 2:16.91, 2. Katelynn Barthold (NL) 2:18.40, 3. Samantha Karwacki (NDGP) 2:21.39, 6. Cora Wentz (Palm) 2:27.53, 8. Aubrey Bonner (JT) 2:29.94, 9. Kherington Yezik (NW) 2:30.34; 200 - 1. Viktorya Luckenbach (PG) 24.62, 2. Hailey Jenkins (Cat) 25.63, 3. Erin Gombert (Palm) 26.29, 5. Carsyn Van Norman (NW) 27.11, 7. Kaia Grantham (NW) 27.17; 1600 relay - 1. Notre Dame Green Pond 4:04.16, 2. Catasauqua 4:11.80, 3. Northern Lehigh 4:13.70, 4. Northwestern 4:16.56, 5. Jim Thorpe 4:20.10, 7. Marian 4:22.08; Pole vault - 1. Grace Yost (NW) 10-6, 2. Alyssa Cook (Min) 9-0, 3. Olivia Rosenberger (JT) 9-0, 4. Maddy Bennyhoff (Palm) 8-6, 5. Dani Rimsky (JT) 8-0, 6. Ava Okuley (NW) 8-0, 7. (tie) Sadie Gair (Palm) 7-6, Taylor Langley (NW) 7-6; Shot put - 1. Sadie Fenstermaker (NW) 37-5, 2. Kaycee Raczka (Min) 36-3.25, 3. Jessica Heydt (Palm) 35-3.5, 4. Olivia Thomas (Mar) 34-10.75, 5. Brenda Banks (PV) 34-7.5, 7. Katie Brensinger (NW) 32-4.5; Triple jump

- 1. Nataly Walters (Palm) 38-4, 2. Brooke Rawls (LVA) 35-10, 3. Maggie Hoffman-Long (Min) 35-7, 5. Aubrey Frable (Palm) 34-2.75, 6. Evelina Mayak (NL) 34-0.5, 7, Leah Wasko (JT) 33-3.5, 8. Gabby Lucas (Palm) 33-3.

The Palmerton 400 meter relay team of Claire Thomas, Erin Gombert, Sarah Sabo and Nataly Walters set a District 11 Class 2A record in winning the gold medal on Wednesday. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Northwestern's Grace Yost clears the bar on her way to capturing gold in the Class 2A pole vault. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS