PIAA State Championships: Girls Distance Recap

Wow! Central PA athletes did awesome all season and capped off the year with some outstanding performances this weekend! Here’s a quick look at some highlights in the girls distance events:

Girls AAA 3200m

5 girls, 4 from District III, hit the National Federation Honor Roll time. 2 District III athletes broke the old PIAA Record. Wilson junior Reagan Underwood saved her best for the last meet of the year. She dropped another 22 seconds off of her time from districts to finish as state runner-up. She hasn’t run XC since her freshman year. Will this race change her mind about XC going into her senior season? She’s already committed to Liberty University for Field Hockey. Warwick’s Kate Dickow ends a great career at Warwick with a 3rd place finish. She also broke the old state record. The field has Dickow to thank as she did the pacing work for the first 3100m. She will continue her career at the University of Richmond. Gwyneth Young of Cedar Crest is the top underclassman in District III. The Cedar Crest sophomore improved her 3200m PR to 10:21.86 on Saturday morning. This season she also improved her 1600m to 4:53 and 800m to 2:18. Carlisle junior Sophia Toti finished 5th and also achieved the NFHS Honor Roll. This year she lowered her 1600m PR to 4:54 and her 800m PR to 2:18. Elizabethtown senior Cat Shontz gets the “Ironwoman Award.” She ran the 4×800 and 1600m prelims on Friday and then came back on Saturday to finish 7th in the 3200m setting a new PR. Shortly after her 3200m she ran a strong opening leg on E’towns medal winning 4x800m relay team that set a new season best. Shontz has committed to Temple University. Wilson’s Bryn Underwood earned the final podium spot running an 11-second PR. Bryn, like Reagan, hasn’t run XC since the 2016 season. Wilson has a lot of depth in the mid to longer distances and could put together a very strong XC squad if both Underwood’s were to run. Bryn is already committed to American University for Field Hockey. So, in total, District III took home 6 of the 8 state medals. Reagan is currently ranked US #18. Kate is ranked US #21. Gwyneth is ranked US#26. Sophia is ranked US#32.

Girls AAA 1600m

Yep. This was me after watching that race. What did I just watch. Oh, just a 38 year old meet record, held by an eventual Olympian, get shattered by not one, but two athletes. Both juniors. Both getting better each year. Taryn Parks of Greencastle-Antrim wins her 3rd 1600m state title in a row and runs a new US#1 time of 4:37.07!! Northern’s Marlee Starliper runs a US#2 4:37.45!! Parks took the lead from the gun and opened up a 10-15m lead on Starliper through the first 800-1000m. Starliper closed the gap and looked ready to pass with 200m to go, but Parks fought her off and maintained the lead through the finish line.

What’s happening in Central Pennsylvania girls distance running right now could be largely contributed to these two. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers could include a chapter on the impact these 2 are having on our area. Younger athletes watching these two realize early that if you want to compete at a high level then you better run fast, really, really fast. You are going to have to put in the work and push yourself harder than those have pushed in the past. I am confident that District III is the epitome of US HS distance running right now.

Penn State signee Kileigh Kane of State College finished 4th, running 4:55. She ends an outstanding career and gets to stay close to home running for the Nittany Lions next year. Looking forward to covering her throughout her collegiate career! One of my favorite stories from the weekend is Ephrata junior Mary Campbell. She kept getting better throughout the season and ran a PR 5:02 1600m at the District III meet. She finished 9th with that time, but advanced to the state meet as a couple of athletes scratched to focus on other events. She took this opportunity and turned it into a 6th place finish! She is yet another junior who will be back in the mix again next season.

Girls AAA 800m

Add Milton Hershey junior Tatyana Gibson and Elizabethtown junior Katie Locker to the list of national-level collegiate recruits in the 2020 class from Central PA. Gibson showed the state what she could do running an entire race on her feet! Last week she was tripped up and fell 120m into the race, but still got up to complete the race and finish 4th. She ran 2 PRs this weekend first running 2:14.81 in Friday’s prelims and then dropping a big PR of 2:10.35 to finish 3rd in the finals on Saturday. Locker anchored her E’town 4×800 to a 4th place finish and new season best time of 9:16.25. Her team was in 7th or 8th when she got the baton. She came back in the open 800m to run a new PR of 2:12.09 to finish 5th. Makenna Krebs ran a PR last week of 2:12 and finished 11th in the state today. She will join Kileigh Kane in State College as a member of the Nittany Lion 2019 signing class.

Girls AAA 4x800m

I’ll be honest, when I saw the schedules the Elizabethtown girls 4x800m team had this weekend I was concerned for this race. Let’s start with the 4 team members running the 4x800m prelims Friday morning. Cat Shontz then ran in the 1600m prelims and Katie Locker in the 800m prelims, both Friday. Then on Saturday morning Shontz and Madeline Quinn ran in the 3200m before the 4x800m finals. Both Shontz and Quinn came back with little rest and ran great legs and freshman Sierra Kapcsos ran a strong 2nd leg. Locker then ran a quick anchor to bring E’town up to 4th in a season best time. Great endurance strength and impressive recovery shown by their squad. Wilson and Carlisle both found themselves on the medal stand finishing 5th and 8th overall. All three could be back in the finals next year.

Congratulations to the girls running distance in Central PA this season. You were a blast to watch and cover this season. Can’t wait to see what you all do in the future!!