CB West’s Villalba, Pennridge’s Sheva, North Penn girls 4×4 claim gold at PIAA Championships

SHIPPENSBURG — It was the final mile of Marissa Sheva’s high school career, and it went by in a hurry.

“This state title means more to me than any of my other state titles,’ the Pennridge senior said afterwards, “and I’m really glad that I could end on this note.’

Sheva raced to the gold medal in the Class AAA 1,600-meter run Saturday afternoon at sunny Shippensburg University, crossing the finish line in 4 minutes, 44.73 seconds. Her time was within three seconds of a 34-year-old state record, and a fitting climax for her years at Pennridge.

“With about 150 meters to go, I knew I had it,’ Sheva said, “and I was really trying to get as well under 4:50 as I could.’

Sheva’s gold was part of an outstanding day for locals, as Central Bucks West’s Maddie Villalba raced to her second straight title in the 800, and the North Penn girls 4×400 relay earned gold in the final event of the afternoon to help power the Maidens to a third-place finish in the team standings.

For Sheva, things had very much come full circle.

“Three years ago, I made a mistake against (Pennsbury’s) Sara Sargent that took me a while to live down,’ she said. “I went (hard) way too early — I went about 50 meters too early, and I knew I couldn’t make that same mistake and I knew that Mady (Clahane) had a lot of closing speed too.’

With about 300 meters to go, Sheva began to kick and ultimately pull away. This time, she picked precisely the right moment, and unlike 2012 — when she lost Sargent by a quarter of a second, Sheva won in commanding fashion, outlasting Cumberland Valley’s Mady Clahane (4:47.95) to the finish.

“I had my eye on her the whole time,’ Sheva said. “(Early on), I had a feeling that the girls ahead of me were gonna drop back, and it was just gonna be me and Mady. So I just kept my eye on her, and whenever she was ready to make a move, I was ready to go with her.’

Sheva took the final turn to a resounding roar from the crowd, as she was closing in on the gold.

“You never know if the crowd is screaming for you or the girl behind you,’ she said. “That’s the scariest part. I felt myself tightening up — I was getting nervous. I’m not gonna lie. It felt like deja vu from my freshman year when I saw Sara Sargent to my right. I knew that my last 50 meters had to be as strong as possible.’

Sheva, who won gold in the mile indoors as well as a gold in the 32 outdoors last spring, led Pennridge to a fifth-place finish in the team standings, with further contributions from Taylor Chapman (fourth in 100/fifth in 200) and the bronze-medal 4×100 relay.

Villalba, a junior, defended her title in the 800, and this year, she was even faster.

“It feels absolutely amazing,’ she said. “Two years in a row is pretty cool for me.’

Villalba crossed in 2:07.33, topping the 2:09.70 by Penn Wood’s Agnes Mansaray, her closest competition.

“We went out fast,’ Villalba said. “I did not want to lose. I knew I wasn’t gonna have an awesome kick because we went out so fast. (Mansaray) was pushing and pushing, and I just didn’t want to let up at all. I didn’t want to give up any positioning because I knew it would be that much harder to make up in the last run, so I just tried to stay in front as best I could.’

Barely an hour later, Villalba was back on the track, joining Aly Logue, Lauren Olsen and Quinn Shiffler to medal in the 4×400 relay with a sixth-place finish.

North Penn went into the final leg of the relay just about tied with Susquehanna Township, and then Uche Nwogwugwu turned it on.

“I just started sprinting. I didn’t even think about it — I just had to go,’ said the sophomore.

Nwogwugwu got the lead right away and never let up, out-kicking Susquehanna to the finish. The Maidens’ foursome of Allison King, Leana Dean, Mikaela Vlasic and Nwogwugwu clocked an impressive 3:46.73, just a half second off the state record.

“We knew we had to win this today,’ Nwogwugwu said. “Last year, we came in third, with CB West (getting gold) — they were an amazing team, so we wanted to be number one — really bad.’

It finished off a spectacular weekend for the Maidens’ sophomore, who also raced to silver-medal honors in the 400 dash as well as leaping to a silver in the triple jump.

“That was a big shock,’ Nwogwugwu said of the triple. “I was mainly focused on (the 4×4) and my open 400, so with the triple jump, it was like ‘ let’s just do it and see how I do.’ And I did really well. I was really surprised, and grateful.’

Christopher Dock’s Bailey Kratz capped her Christopher Dock career with quite a weekend. The senior made four trips to the Class AA medal stand, including a fourth-place finish in the 200, a seventh-place finish in the 100 dash, and a seventh-place finish as part of the 4×100 relay, all following up her eighth-place finish in the long jump on Friday, as Kratz led Dock to a tie for eighth in Class AA.

The Pennridge boys 4×800 relay foursome of Austin Howell, Dan Williams, Jeff Espinal and Tucker Desko raced to a silver medal, crossing in school-record time of 7:40.56, and later in the day, Wissahickon’s Darien Williams raced to a bronze medal in the 100 dash and Christopher Dock’s Austin Kratz was the silver medalist in the AA 200.

The Maidens amassed 37 points over the two-day event, which included a sixth-place medal by the 4×8 relay along with fifth-place medals by the 4×1 and triple jumper Allison Williams.

Cheltenham took home both team trophies in Class AAA, while the Hickory girls and the Springfield Montco boys stood atop Class AA.

Follow Kev Hunter on Twitter @khunter10

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