SHIPPENSBURG >> Despite that unmistakable burly frame of a discus thrower, for Dock’s Alex Martin, it was very much mind over muscle.
“My state of mind,” the Pioneer junior said of what made the difference for him Friday, earning a bronze medal in his very first appearance at states. “About two hours before I was gonna throw I was really hyped up and ready. When 12:30 rolled around, I started calming myself down and got myself just to really think about my throw and everything.”
And his second of the afternoon is the one that did it.
“It felt really smooth coming out of my hand,” he said of his throw of 159 feet, 9 inches, third best out of 21 competitors in Class 2A. “Coming into this weekend, I was looking forward to it.
“It was a bit of a surprise for me,” he said with a big smile. “I was seeded fifth so I wasn’t really sure what was gonna happen. But I came in on my practice throws and I was feeling really good.”
Martin’s exploits were part of a tremendous Day One by locals, as the PIAA State Championships got underway on a cool, overcast day at Shippensburg University.
Several area standouts battled through injury, illness and fatigue, some unfortunately not getting to compete on Friday, including Souderton Area’s Shamar Jenkins (heel injury), the favorite in the Class 3A Triple Jump who was coming off an outstanding district and conference meet.
Martin was forced to cope with a sprained elbow while Upper Dublin’s Brian Kaufmann dealt with a pulled hamstring.
“Gonna go get some ice,” he said with a laugh, shortly after receiving his well-earned eighth-place medal in the 3A Triple Jump. “It was pretty neat. That was my first time going to states, getting a medal at states.
“I kind of just did a lot more training, a lot more lifting and stuff (this week). I came in here with an injury. I wasn’t even expecting to get a jump in. On my first one, I re-pulled my hammy but it was good enough to medal. This week was a lot of rehab and light jogging and some bike work (because I got hurt at districts). My first time sprinting full-speed (since then) was today.”
Wissahickon’s Ahmir Johnson went up, up and away in the triple, touching down with a silver medal in Class 3A.
“The thing that was different (here) was I got a slow clap, which hyped me up a little bit and I improved my jump,” he said of the big crowd, helping to spur him on to a 46-11.75, which topped 23 others in the event. “My original goal was to jump 48 feet but I jumped 46-11.75, so that was good enough for me.
“It was actually a lot of great competition. One of our best jumpers in AAA (Jenkins) got injured so that’s unfortunate.”
Johnson stood out in his first ever appearance at states.
“Definitely getting in the weight room, working on my form and my speed and all that (really helped),” the junior said. “It sounds crazy,” he said with a smile, “but my goal is 50 feet for my senior year.”
Madison Langley-Walker was one of the busiest athletes at Shipp on Friday, PR’ing in the 100 semis, also qualifying in the 300’s, and earning silver in the 3A Triple.
“This year, I’ve had more focus, being able to transition from one event to another,” said the Upper Dublin junior, who raised her performance even higher after a fourth-place medal in the event in 2016. “And being able to stay on top of my mistakes and fix them while doing my events (has been key). I love competing here.
“I was hoping for a further jump. I didn’t get that but at least I made the podium with a (38-10.75). I’m satisfied with that. But I know next year, I can come back and do better.”
Dock’s Austin Kratz cranked out the fastest prelim time in the 100 dash, shortly after he earned bronze in the 2A Long Jump (21-11).
All that on three hours sleep.
“I was sick for the last three days so I was trying to get over that. Had some coughing fits last night,” he said. “I’m hoping to get good rest for semis and finals. I was really hoping that I could get a 22 (in the long) but it is what it is. I’ll take a third. Third’s still a great place.
“It felt really good. I really hadn’t been long jumping this year. That was probably my fourth time this year. It was nice knowing I can still get those high jumps without practicing much. Really excited (for Saturday in the 100). I’m really pushing to see if I can beat (defending champ Jahvel Hemphill of Bloomsburg) or not. It’s gonna be hard but I hope I can.” It’s shaping up to be a heck of a battle for the team title in 3A Girls, with Cheltenham and North Penn pushing several runners ahead to Saturday.
The Knights’ Uche Nwogwugwu triple jumped to a fifth-place medal with a 38-7.5, also looking to defend her state title in the 400 Saturday, while Upper Dublin’s Alex Liu added to the Cardinal medal count with a fourth-place tie in the boys pole vault (14-6).