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State track preview: Busy season for PV’s Yuricheck

Given a choice? Or given a chance?

For Panther Valley senior standout Mikayla Yuricheck, it was both.

Yuricheck has embraced a challenge that has helped her write a remarkable chapter in her athletic career.

Not only has Yuricheck carved out a record-setting run with the Panthers’ softball team, she has also established herself as one of the top throwers in the area.

The senior hasn’t missed a beat doing both this spring. Last week, Yuricheck threw a personal best 125-5 to place second in the Class 2A javelin at the District 11 Track and Field Championships to move on to states.

“It’s so exciting because it’s just something that everyone looks forward to, and everybody wants to go to states,” she said. “So it’s just awesome to finally get the opportunity to go and enjoy it.

“I don’t really get to work on javelin that much because of also doing softball. But the last few days at practice I’ve been working really hard just to try and get footwork down and angles right and all the small stuff that makes it go 10 feet further. Inches turn into feet. It’s important.”

And few would know the importance of the finer details more than Yuricheck, who became the first player in program history to reach 100 career hits this season as the Panthers also qualified for the district playoffs.

“Mikayla is an incredible athlete with many natural abilities, but her work ethic is really what makes her special,” said softball coach and Mikayla’s mom, Tara Yuricheck. “Mikayla has excelled on the softball field again this season, most recently gaining selection for a spot on the First Team for the Schuylkill League Coaches All-Area Team. Track is her secondary sport, and she set a goal this year of making it to states. Mikayla has to maintain extra focus when practicing her throwing for javelin because her practice time is very limited in season due to her also playing softball. It has been wonderful watching her excel at both, while also achieving goals she set in softball.”

A year ago, Mikayla was a First Team All-State catcher with a .672 batting average, 21 extra base hits and 36 RBIs, while also placing third in the javelin at districts with a throw of 116-0.

“There have been days where I go and throw the javelin at a track meet, and then race back to the school and go play softball. It’s kind of crazy,” said Mikayla, who was also seventh in the discus at leagues this year. “I spend a lot of time in my backyard just doing form-work with javelin; it’s a little bit harder with discus. But javelin is a little bit more doable. It’s definitely a lot of work. And then you have to process all of your schoolwork on top of it.”

In addition to her success in the javelin at districts, Yuricheck also had a throw of 91-9 to place third in the discus at leagues.

“When I got hired as head coach, that was one of the first things I said I wanted to do. In the 1990s I remember all of the best athletes did track and baseball. Tommy Miller, Tommy Rosahac, Fenty Black, Brad Miller, etc.,” said Panther Valley track and field coach Paul McArdle. “We wanted to bring that back so kids didn’t feel like they had to choose. Obviously, Michael Pascoe had great success with it, and now Mikayla is as well.”

Mikayla estimated that she has had more meets than practices this season working on her throwing events.

“I would say at most five practices,” she said after last week’s district meet. “I’ve been able to throw it in more meets than I have been able to in practices. It’s definitely tough to do.”

At districts, she hit the state qualifying standard on her first throw, and got her best mark on her next one.

“I really like that javelin is really just a mystery kind of thing. Some days you go out there and one little thing with your form could make you throw the javelin 10 feet further,” said Mikayala, who was seeded second in the javelin at districts. “And the amount of work you put into it determines what you get out of it. It’s all up to you.

“The number I’m going for now is 130-(feet). I would love to break the school record, which is around 135-0. I think it’s doable with a lot of work.”

And she’s never shied away from the work it takes to get better.

“She has increased her PR all season and whether she breaks it or not, she has had so much fun chasing that record,” said Tara. “Mikayla has worked very hard academically as well to balance the classroom with her two sports this spring. Mikayla really enjoys being busy and does not like having down time. She manages her time well, and often does school work later at night on game days.

“I am so proud of her and all she has achieved. I am looking forward to seeing her excel in the future, and I have no doubt she will always put in the extra work required to compete at the next level.”

Mikayla has made the most of every choice - and chance - throughout her career. This weekend at Shippensburg, where she is seeded seventh and in contention for a medal, will be no different.

“I’m just hoping to put up good numbers at states and enjoy the experience,” she said, “because I’m a senior and this is my last chance to do it.”

Weekend to


Last season’s PIAA Track and Field Championships produced three state titles and numerous medals. Palmerton’s Nataly Walters won the Class 2A long jump and triple jump, becoming just the third Times News area athletes to win two gold medals in that year’s state meet. Northwestern’s Faith Yost capped her career with a gold medal in the Class 2A high jump, and placed eighth in the long jump. In addition to Walters and Yost, Jim Thorpe’s Kaila O’Connor and Ridge Snyder also earned multiple medals. O’Connor was second in the 100 and fourth in the 200, while Snyder was fourth in the 800 and helped the 1600 relay team to a sixth-place finish. Palmerton’s Emma Snyder also tied for fifth in the Class 2A high jump. Snyder (high jump) and Walters (long jump, triple jump, 400 relay) will have a chance to add to their totals this weekend.

Ready to compete

The following are the Times News area athletes who will be participating in this weekend’s PIAA Track and Field Championships in Shippensburg. Action begins at 9 a.m. both Friday and Saturday.


Class 2A

3200 relay - Northern Lehigh, 15th, 9:57.85 (Finals, Saturday, 11 a.m.; 25 teams)

100 hurdles - Evelina Mayak, Northern Lehigh, eighth, 15.30 (Prelims, Friday, 10:45 a.m.; Finals, Saturday, 10 a.m.; 26 athletes)

400 relay - Palmerton, fifth, 49.70; Northwestern, eighth, 49.78 (Prelims, Friday, 12 p.m.; Finals, Saturday, 1:05 p.m.; 29 teams)

400 - Sophia Schaffer, Northwestern, 18th, 59.55 (Prelims, Friday, 1:30 p.m.; Finals, Saturday, 1:40 p.m.; 28 athletes)

300 hurdles - Ruby Walters, Palmerton, 25th, 48.50 (Prelims, Friday, 2:30 p.m.; Finals, Saturday, 1:55 p.m.; 29 athletes)

800 - Katelynn Barthold, Northern Lehigh, sixth, 2:18.40 (Finals, Saturday, 2:25 p.m.; 25 athletes)

High jump - Emma Snyder, Palmerton, 16th, 5-2 (Friday, 9 a.m.; 27 athletes)

Pole vault - Grace Yost, Northwestern, 22nd, 10-6 (Saturday, 9 a.m.; 26 athletes)

Long jump - Nataly Walters, Palmerton, first, 18-6 (Friday, 12:30 p.m.; 28 athletes)

Triple jump - Nataly Walters, Palmerton, third, 38-4 (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.; 32 athletes)

Shot put - Sadie Fenstermaker, Northwestern, 11th, 37-5 (Saturday, 9 a.m.; 25 athletes)

Discus - Sadie Fenstermaker, Northwestern, 10th, 112-10 (Friday, 9 a.m.; 26 athletes)

Javelin - Mikayla Yuricheck, Panther Valley, seventh, 125-5 (Friday, 12:30 p.m.; 24 athletes)

Class 3A

Long jump - Samantha Plasha, Tamaqua, 19th, 17-6 (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.; 25 athletes)

Shot put - Lorah Thomas, Lehighton, 23rd, 33-10.5 (Friday, 9 a.m.; 25 athletes)

Discus - Lorah Thomas, Lehighton, 19th, 113-2 (Saturday, 9 a.m.; 25 athletes)


Class 2A

110 hurdles - Bryson Walters, Palmerton, 11th, 15.11 (Prelims, Friday, 11 a.m.; Finals, Saturday, 10:15 a.m.; 26 athletes)

100 - Matthew Machalik, Palmerton, eighth, 10.95 (Prelims, Friday, 10 a.m.; Finals, Saturday, 10:50 a.m.; 38 athletes)

400 relay - Palmerton, 10th, 43.46 (Prelims, Friday, 12 p.m.; Finals, Saturday, 1:05 p.m.; 33 teams)

300 hurdles - Bryson Walters, Palmerton, eighth, 39.56 (Prelims, Friday, 2:30 p.m.; Finals, Saturday, 1:55 p.m.; 29 athletes)

800 - Alex Porambo, Marian, 12th, 1:57.15 (Finals, Saturday, 2:25 p.m.; 33 athletes)

3200 - Albin Petschauer, Marian, 24th, 9:48.87 (Finals, Saturday, 9 a.m.; 31 athletes)

High jump - Gavin Nelson, Northwestern, fifth, 6-5 (Friday, 12:30 p.m.; 24 athletes)

Triple jump - Jake Rutkowitz, Palmerton, 12th, 43-6 (Saturday, 9 a.m.; 25 athletes)

Shot put - Zack Anthony, Palmerton, 13th, 49-9.25 (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.; 26 athletes)

Discus - Ryan Burkett, Palmerton, second, 168-0; Jesse Rodino, Marian, third, 155-11 (Friday, 12:30 p.m.; 25 athletes)

Class 3A

Joseph Roth, Lehighton, ninth, 179-6 (Friday, 9 a.m.; 24 athletes)

Panther Valley's Mikayla Yuricheck gets ready to throw the javelin during a meet last season. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO