LOCK HAVEN - The 14th annual Bald Eagle Invitational track and field meet opened on a slightly sour note for Mifflin County, as Mary Havice, the defending champ and record holder in the steeplechase, saw her place fall to second and her record go to a Maryland athlete in this year's event.
Here's the good news: That was pretty much the worst thing that happened to the Huskies all day.
In fact, in the very next race, another record that belonged to a Mifflin County school fell, and this time it was to Mifflin County - in fact, it was the same four girls.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Mifflin County’s Mary Havice sprints out of the water hazard while competing in the steeplechase at the Bald Eagle Invitational Friday in Lock Haven. Havice came in second in the event.
Sam Peters, Whitney Strohecker, Jenn Lake and Marissa Long, who subtracted five seconds from the meet record in the 4x800-meter relay a year ago wearing Indian Valley colors, took five more seconds away in this year's event, finishing the race in 9:41.98.
"It was a new year and everyone's running better than what they were last year. I knew we could do better and I was excited about it," said Long, who ended the day with multiple gold medals after winning the individual 800.
"We try to push ourselves to get a lead and to keep it to help everyone else out," she said. "If someone's having an off day we try to depend on each other."
Mifflin County travels to Altoona Tuesday
When it came time to run for herself, the two-time state medalist - one indoor, one out - was in the unusual position of being the pacesetter after spending the last two years trailing State College's Chloe Schmidt.
"I thought it was hard because there was no one trying to push me, but I was trying to work up there by myself because I didn't know how close they were," she said. "It's hard because I have to start to learn to run against myself and not someone else."
Mifflin County's relays could have used Irving Berlin's "Anything You Can Do" as a soundtrack in the meet. The boys couldn't match the girls in the long-distance version, but did come across the line fourth in that one. But the lads got the ladies in the 4x100, with Tim Beck, Michael Kline, David Yale and Ian McGinnis taking the No. 2 spot in their race, while the girls quartet of Peters, Erika Shawver, Ashley Shawver and Madi Walters was third.
In the final race, the 4x400, the Mifflin County girls took third, which clinched a second-place team finish for the Huskies behind DuBois. But the boys did better - they won the team race, clinching victory before the 4x400 was run. The boys settled for sixth in that one.
Long was not alone as a first-place finisher as an individual, although she was the only member of the girls team to do it. The boys' success at finding the top of the podium began with Nathan Baumgardner, who won the 110 high hurdles and placed in the 300 hurdles. There was no secret to it, he explained.
"I came in here seeded seventh in the 300s and sixth in the 110s, and I was just hoping to place. I came out, ran my race and got first," Baumgardner said. "You never know - somebody from a different heat could have a good day. It gets me going, it makes me want to run a lot harder."
Now he can look ahead to the next big race.
"I'm going to try to get a good place at districts and hopefully go to states. That's what my main goal is this year," Baumgardner said. "I'm going to try hard."
A pair of jumpers who drove the success of their team a year ago were back at it again in this meet, although one found himself struggling while the other proved to be the most prolific for the Huskies with three individual medals, including one first-place finish.
Jake Shepherd won the high jump, was third in the long jump and fourth in the triple, while teammate Harry Lowber won the triple jump and was third in the high jump. Lowber was expected to do well in the long jump, but it did not do well by him - he scratched all three of his preliminary jumps, and was done in that event.
"Just like that, I'm out," he said. "It hurt my confidence a lot. You can't let that drag you down."
His first jump in the triple, 44 feet, 10 3/4 inches, was his best of the season and more than enough to finish in the top spot. But he'll need a couple inches to catch Shepherd on the high jump, something he said he'd like to do. Shepherd doesn't mind the rivalry.
"He always wants to beat me. He just has to work at it," Shepherd said. "He will, eventually."
But in this meet, Shepherd stood as the king.
"I'm pretty happy with that actually," he said. "It was quite a bit of work. I'm tired now - I'll be tired for quite a long time.
"It was all worth it."
Other multiple winners for the Huskies were Madi Walters, Jenn Lake, Whitney Strohecker, Sam Peters, Megan Becker and Erika Shawver for the girls, and Ian McGinnis from the boys team. Havice, Walters, Strohecker and Lake all had top three individual finishes, with Walters collecting a pair of seconds along with her third in the 4x100.
Midd-West, which had a limited squad at the meet, had only one placewinner on the day: Jacob Keister was eighth in the boys triple jump.