UNIVERSITY PARK - Nate Baumgardner slid up behind teammate George Donahey, and a minute later it was high fives and fist bumps all around.
And why not? Baumgardner, the only member of this year's indoor track team from Mifflin County who made it to the state championships a year ago, punched his ticket in the 60-meter hurdles - by the skin of his teeth.
It was his last chance, too - the State College High School Invitational No. 3, contested Thursday at Penn State's Ashenfelter complex, not only is the last item on the Huskies' indoor schedule, but is one of the last before the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association meet, which will be held here on March 1.
Sentinel photo by JEFF FISHBEIN
Mifflin County's Nate Baumgardner runs the 60-meter hurdles at Penn State University on Thursday. He qualified for the indoor state championships in the event for the second straight year.
The senior hurdler's manual time, with the adjustment added, slid under the qualifying time for his event by a split second. In fact, he initially thought the time recorded was too slow to give him a shot at states.
"The fact that I thought I didn't make states was kind of a disappointment," Baumgardner said. "I was still looking forward to making states again because I made it last year. I'm better than last year."
Why Donahey as his celebration partner? Because the vaulter - who posted a school and county indoor record in the event earlier in the season - was alone as a state qualifier until Baumgardner made it.
Donahey's official qualifying jump of 13 feet, 9 inches was sufficient to put him in the championship event. Since then, he's upped the ante with a 14-3 vault, and was looking for more on Thursday. Complete results were not available Thursday for inclusion in this edition.
"We're going to go for 15 and then go up from there," Donahey said. "We're going to get pretty high. I don't know where it's going to take me."
A third athlete, distance runner Darien Knudsen, missed state qualification by six-tenths of a second in the mile run.
Baumgardner admitted there was no guarantee he would make it - he was worried, he said.
"Yeah, I was. I've been battling hamstring injuries all through the indoor season," he said. "I was worried that maybe coming out, I would come out too hard and maybe pull my hamstring."
Now that he's there, he's ready to go and has no plans to let the past influence the future, at least as far as his hamstring goes. He also went to states last spring in outdoor, so there's plenty of reason for him to reach for the brass ring now, while he has the chance.
"You never know what's going to happen in the spring. There's plenty of opportunities to recover in the spring," he said. "It would be a big loss if I got injured, but it's indoor states. No matter what, I'm going to go hard and try to do my best.
"I know what the competition is like now so all I have to do is wait for the meet to come. I'll be prepared for it."
Donahey, who seems to have learned the secret to defying gravity compared to his numbers last spring, attributes his improvement to a family connection.
"I've been going to training at VaultWorx in Harrisburg two times a week to get training from my uncle - he's the owner of it," he said. "We've just been working on more technique stuff."
For example, he said, he's learned to develop a trail leg, something he didn't have previously.
"I'm also trying to work on hitting the plant with more bending of the pole, make it more powerful. It is difficult, but I think I've got it," he said.
Will he be the leader others will follow in the spring?
"That would be nice," he said. "I've got to jump maybe 15-4, 15-7 just to be No. 1."