UNIVERSITY PARK – State College Area High School’s indoor track team took the term “go the distance” to heart at the PTFCA Championships.
State College won gold in the four by 800 relay on both the girls’ and boys’ sides and the girls also won bronze medals in the distance medley relay of the meet, held Sunday, Feb. 27 at Penn State’s Multisport Indoor Establishment.
State’s overall teams also finished in the top 10. The Lady Little Lions placed fourth with 27 team points as Shannon Mullin also finished third in the long jump and fourth in the triple.
“We have a strong group of young women who are excited and eager to get back to competing in athletics. Last year, the pandemic canceled our meetings during the winter. This school year began with our fall cross country girls placing second in the state. That focus and intensity has continued and has been a big part of our winter team’s success,” said State College girls coach Jennifer Evans.
“I’m so proud of what these ladies have accomplished so far.”
Marlee Kwasnica, Chloe Poindexter, Natalie Koncoski and Grace Morningstar made up the 3200 team that won with a time of 9 minutes, 28.21 seconds. Penn Charter, a non-PIAA school that State College won’t have to face in the spring, was second, more than 8 seconds behind, and Central Bucks South was third.
“I think it really goes back to the start of the season. We’re starting our training and our goal is to keep improving, peaking by the end of the season,” Morningstar said. “Between our incredible coach (Rebecca) Donoghue, our incredible support system and our family team, success is inevitable.
“The 4 by 800 relay was a fantastic start to the day, bringing our coach the first-ever gold medal for a relay. It is an honor to be coached by her.
Morningstar and Kwasnica accounted for half of the Lady Little Lion four-par 800 that finished the outdoor season with a fifth-place finish in the United States. They also ran the second leg and anchor leg respectively in the distance relay, where they took third place behind Central Bucks South and Penn Charter clocking 12:39.87.
“I’m super happy with our performance,” Kwasnica said. “I think we were able to do so well because we knew what we were capable of and what we had to do to achieve our goals. Everyone was determined to go out there and fight for a big spot. I was very motivated not only by my teammates who were running with me, but also by our entire distance team who are among my best friends and supporters.
Morningstar also ran in 2:21.02 in the individual 800 meters. Although that put her 16th and out of the medals, the time was very good.
“It wasn’t quite the result I was hoping for, but it was a good learning experience for the outdoor season. Finally, I was able to be part of the DMR which allowed us to win another medal for the day. My team managed to retain bronze and I’m so proud of every member,” Morningstar said. “When the United States arrives, the hay is in the barn and it’s about keeping a positive attitude. I feel like the more relaxed and excited we are as a team, the better we perform.
Mullin posted an 18-foot distance even to win bronze in the long jump, where she finished behind Friends Central’s Avery Lewis and Bayard Rustin’s Ava Alexander. Lewis jumped 19-11.
She made a triple jump 37-10.25. Alexander won the event with a 40-11.
“Despite my two medals, I was far from satisfied with my performances. While I was able to hit the jumps I needed at the right time, I didn’t hit the jumps I was hungry for,” Mullin said. “Coach Evans said to me, ‘One of the things that makes you a fierce competitor is that you always want more. And even if it makes you hungry, it doesn’t always make you happy. It really stuck with me and is something I will keep in mind as the outdoor season approaches. I have a lot of things to work on for spring that were obvious on Sunday, but I think my efforts will serve me well moving forward.
Friends Central was the women’s tag team champion with 63 points.
The State College Boys placed eighth with 18 team points. In addition to gold in the four-by-800, Sean Adams was fifth in the 800, Ryan Lindenberg was eighth in the 400 and the 1600 relay was sixth.
“I was convinced that we had already won this race a few days in advance. The whole team was incredibly involved in this race,” Adams said of the 3200 relay. State College athletics in the best possible position to win the competition and execute the plan the coaches had laid out for us.”
Adams anchored the gold medal four by 800, following Mathew Staniar, Trent Dinant and Tony Tzolov to post a 7:58.69. No other team has done less than 8 minutes.
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“Hugging my teammates shortly after Sean Adams’ strong finish was a moment I had envisioned since pre-quarantine on March 1, 2020. It was the day I saw our guys win the 4 par 800 relay in the United States for the first time, and the day I decided I wanted to be part of this tradition,” Dinant said.
“Matt Staniar, our first leg of the relay on Sunday, sat next to me and felt the same emotions. From lining up outside the spectator gates at 6 a.m. in 2020 to becoming a state champion in 2022, this trip was 100% worth it.
Adams also anchored the 1600 relay, where he teamed with Lindenberg, Staniar and Salahudinn Abdul-Hamid for a time of 3:26.35 and ran the half mile in 1:55.72.
Additionally, Dinant, like Morningstar in the women’s 800m, finished outside of the medals in the men’s mile, but her time of 4:22.10 was good enough to be considered an elite performance despite her 15th-place finish.
Lindenberg also posted a best time in the 400m, where he clocked 50.63.
“In the 400 meters, it was amazing to win a medal,” Lindenberg said. “Between the 400 meters and the 4 x 400 meters, I was anxious and tired of waiting. I just wanted to compete again and help the team score more points for team scores.
The State College boys also had four other top-20 performances. The medley relay of Tzolov, John Sicree, Ethan Morningstar and Charles Endres was 12th (11:04.03), Mitchell Maher was 15th (47-0.25) and Ben Spencer 19th (39-11), respectively, in the shot put and Duncan Loviscky finished 18th in the triple jump (39-3.75).
“These kids have been through a lot,” State College boys coach Artie Gilkes said. “The last time we were at the State meet indoors was before the pandemic. Sean Adams was on our four-by-eight relay at the time as a sophomore that won the state title. To see him now as a senior presenter, winning was almost more than I could emotionally handle. All the guys did what they were asked to do.