PIAA Track & Field: Saxe, Whitehead Win Medals On Day 1
SHIPPENSBURG — Matt Saxe walked to collect his javelin and wound up with an umbrella in his hands instead.
Conditions could have been better for the Northwest junior’s debut at the PIAA Track & Field Championships.
Instead, Saxe threw into a slight headwind all Friday morning. It was strong enough to send an event worker’s umbrella tumbling from the edge of the throwing grounds at Shippensburg into the landing area for javelins.
Saxe got some applause as he scooped up the umbrella in stride. More cheers came on his next attempt, when he overcame the persistent gusts for what was clearly his longest throw of the day.
Uncorking a 180-foot-3 throw with his penultimate chance, Saxe went from the bubble of the PIAA medal stand to fourth place in Class 2A.
He was one of two Wyoming Valley Conference athletes to finish the opening day of the meet with a top-eight finish and medal.
“I was telling myself, hey, you need to get a good throw here,” Saxe recounted his thoughts midway through the event. “So, I got the 180 and I was pretty happy with that.”
“I’m excited. I want to come back next year.”
Hanover Area junior Asad Whitehead placed eighth in the morning’s Class 2A boys long jump. He recorded his top mark of the day at 21-foot-2.5.
Medalists were determined in field events only Friday. Preliminaries were held for track events, in which Meyers senior Nazir Dunell (Class 3A boys 110 hurdles), Holy Redeemer sophomore Karissa Spade (Class 2A girls 100 and 200), Dallas sophomore Alondra Church (Class 3A girls 200) and Coughlin junior Rafael McCoy (Class 3A boys 100 and 200) moved on to today’s semifinals.
Lake-Lehman junior Abby Paczewski reached the finals in the Class 2A girls 1600, and Holy Redeemer’s girls 4x400 relay did the same. Redeemer junior Cameron Marcinkowski starts and ends her meet in today’s Class 2A girls 3200 finals.
Entering states as the top seed at 200-foot-9, Saxe wasn’t lucky enough to wait a day for his javelin finals. He had to go right back to dealing with the conditions in front of him after he took sixth in the preliminaries with 163-foot-9, 170-foot-10 and 163-foot-10 throws.
Though the wind didn’t exactly rattle Saxe, it was nevertheless on his mind. He focused on launching his throws at a lower angle to combat it.
“But that’s just hard for me,” he said, “because it’s hard to adjust the form I’ve been doing over and over again for the whole year. I just didn’t adjust well enough.”
With two throws to go, he cleared his mind and looked closer to his usual self with the medal-clinching throw of 180-foot-3. Another gust of wind blew into the runway moments after Saxe’s javelin landed.
It’s a good thing he nailed that fifth attempt. Saxe’s other two throws in the finals sailed 162 feet, 7 inches and 160 feet flat; eighth-place medalist Hunter Lindsay of South Park topped out at 171-foot-10.
In the big picture, fourth in the state isn’t too shabby for Saxe. He was last year’s District 2 runner-up at just 164-foot-3 but will enter his senior season with a school record to extend and a district title to defend.
“It’s motivation to train really hard this summer and hopefully come back next year,” he said.
Hanover Area’s Whitehead also made it to the medal stand in his first year of jumping.
Whitehead, who competes today in the triple jump, used the packed bleachers and unique states atmosphere as motivation to jump well. He said he met his top mark twice, which made all the difference in breaking a tie with the ninth-place finisher.
“It’s amazing. I’m very proud of myself,” Whitehead said. “I didn’t really expect to get this far. It’s an amazing experience, and I’m just excited I got another year left.”
Whitehead climbed from the 10th seed to eighth in his first event. Today, he’ll try to make the jump from 12th.
Contact the writer: email@example.com; 570-821-2054; @CVEricShultz on Twitter