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PIAA Track and Field Championships

Smith Soars to State Championship in High Jump Despite Late Venue, Footwear Change Because of Weather

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Just before Hayden Smith was set to warm up for the Class 2A high jump competition at the PIAA Track and Field Championships, heavy rain began to fall on Seth Grove Stadium on the campus of Shippensburg University.

A delay of just over 90 minutes ensued. Then the event was moved indoors.

In the past, that would have been enough to rattle Smith, a Union/A-C Valley sophomore. It would have been just the thing to unnerve him.

Not Friday.

Smith actually saw it as a blessing in disguise.

“Whenever I came here, I saw the high jump mat outside was facing a different way than last year,” said Smith, who didn’t place last season at the state meet, finishing ninth in the high jump. “That plays a big role in your steps — you’re running downhill and it was terrible. I was kind of thankful that we went inside because it was flat. It felt good. I was in a good rhythm.”

He certainly was.

Smith had no hiccups in winning the state title, clearing 6 feet, 5 inches. Once he had everything wrapped up, he tried 6-10, but just clipped the bar on two attempts. That would have snapped his own school record of 6-9.

Smith had never done the high jump inside before. But as soon as he got his bearings — and shoes on his feet that offered a better grip on the floor — he was on his way.

“I just kept calm, no nerves really,” Smith said. “Coach (Dave Sherman) talked to me the whole time and, I mean, I went out and did it. I felt great today. Last night, we had a pep talk. That got me calm and fired up and I just came out and did my best.”

It didn’t take long for Sherman to realize Smith was going to leave with a gold medal around his neck.

Smith took a jump at 5-10, just to get used to competing indoors, and exploded over the bar.

He did so again over 6 feet.

Another coach looked at Sherman and said, “He’s going to win it.”

“He jumped really well,” Sherman said.

Smith did so while wearing training shoes, which offer better grip on the indoor surface, but are much heavier than the traditional shoes worn by high jumpers.

“It’s like wearing cinder blocks on your feet,” Sherman said of the training shoes. “It’s different. It’s different jumping in them. They’re much heavier — they’re built for distance running and not for high jumping. High jumping shoes don’t weigh anything.”

Once he was the only one to clear 6-5 and had the state championship wrapped up, Smith wanted to go bold.

Very bold.

He wanted to try to clear seven feet, but was talked down by Sherman to 6-7. Eventually, though he settled on attempting 6-10.

“He went back and forth on where he wanted to go,” Sherman said. “I think I said 6-7, maybe go with that, you know, get the best mark you can at the state meet. But I think he heard me say seven feet. I was like, ‘No, no, no.’

“I said if you want to do something goofy, just go for 6-10,” Sherman said. “You’ve never cleared 6-10.”

Smith, though, wanted seven feet.

Badly.

“Oh, next year,” Smith said. “I’m gonna come and take it.”

For now, Smith is more than happy with taking a gold medal back to Rimersburg.

“I’m speechless,” Smith said, looking down at the medal with a wide smile on his face. “I don’t even know what to say. It’s awesome.”

WAGNER THIRD IN DISCUS

Redbank Valley’s Cam Wagner spent all week at practice heaving the discus more than 160 feet.

Except when he was playing baseball for the Bulldogs in the District 9 Class 2A semifinals.

It was a whirlwind few days for the Redbank junior. Two sports. Two big stages.

Nothing was bigger than Friday afternoon.

Wagner spent the 90-minute rain and lightning delay sitting in a car with his mother, headphones on his ears blocking out all distractions. He remained focused on his goal.

To do better than his fourth-place finish at the PIAA championships last season in the Class 2A discus.

Wagner did just that, throwing 162-5 to place third.

The top four throwers were all within seven feet of each other. J’Ven Williams of Wyomissing Area won at 167 feet. Will Patton of Shenango was second at 164-4 and Lacota Dippre of Lakeland was fourth at 160-2.

“I felt confident coming into today,” Wagner said. “I knew if I had a good throw I could possibly get top three.”

Wagner’s holiday weekend isn’t over. He’ll play for a District 9 baseball crown Monday afternoon in DuBois.

Success has come Wagner’s way often this year.

This fall, Wagner was a member of the Redbank Valley football team, which won the district Class A crown and made it all the way to the state title game. In the winter, he was on the Bulldog basketball team that finished runner-up in the district and advanced it to the second round of the state tournament.

“Football was just a way different experience than this,” Wagner said. “I mean, we were the obvious underdog. Even in basketball, we still went to the state tournament and won a playoff game. Honestly, it feels amazing just to be where I’m at right now.”

HUMMELL FOURTH IN THE JAVELIN

Ryan Hummell watched the top two throwers in the Class 2A javelin try to one-up each other.

He admitted it. He was in awe.

“The one kid threw 200 and then the next kid threw 209,” Hummell said, smiling. “It was nuts.”

Hummell, who had an 180-foot throw this season, hit 166-7 Friday morning before the rains came to place fourth behind Drew Mruk of Wyoming Area (211-9), Miles Higgins of Ligonier Valley (200-11) and Josh Lehman of West Shore Christian (171-11).

Hummell’s best throw was his first of the day.

“I felt good,” Hummell said. “I just couldn’t get another one out there.”

Hummell worked extensively on his footwork this week in preparation for the event.

“I haven’t practiced footwork at all,” Hummell said. “I’m happy with how I did.”



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