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McKenzie Gelvin, Josh Booth put McConnellsburg on map

Prior to the PIAA Track & Field Championships, it is likely that many people hadn't ever heard of McConnellsburg High School. Or even know how to pronounce the name, as evident from the P.A. announcer's stutter over the word throughout the day.

But come Saturday afternoon, that had all changed, thanks to Class AA podium appearances from two Spartan runners, and three top-five state finishes.

McConnellsburg sophomore Josh Booth earned his first state medal, a fifth place, while junior McKenzie Gelvin stepped onto the podium twice, collecting third- and fourth-place medals in the girls 800 and 400, respectively.

"I know coming from a small area, no one knows who we are, and it's great to see that we can still compete with these big schools who are used to going to states and bringing a ton of people," McConnellsburg girls coach Joni Dunkle said. "You don't have to come from a big school to be competitive and we proved that today."

Word of McKenzie Gelvin traveled from her home school of Forbes Road, down to McConnellsburg, around District 5, and finally ended up on the lips of almost every PIAA spectator.

"Do you know who McKenzie Gelvin is? What does she look like? When is she running?"

After breaking two of her own school records Friday in the 400 and 800 prelims, Gelvin had favorable seeds in both races, and a chance to grab not only her first state medal, but had a state championship in reach.

With a fourth-place finish in the 400, in which she was seeded fourth with a time of 57.28, Gelvin admitted she was disappointed with her finish, but glad she advanced to win a state medal after not even making it to the finals in 2015.

"I definitely improved from last year, and I was more competitive, so obviously that's a lot more fun," Gelvin said. "It's a great feeling to know that you made it on the state podium."

Gelvin's focus this season, however, was the 800, in which she was seeded first after her record-breaking run Friday. But after a rough start, Gelvin was next-to-last after the first lap. But she made up incredible time in the final 300 meters to claim third with a time of 2:16.70.

"I just kept thinking this is the last time I have to run until next year," Gelvin said. "That kind of motivated me to win another medal."

Booth placed fifth in the boys 300 hurdles with a time of 39.77. He was seeded second in the final, and finished fifth 0.11 seconds faster than his preliminary time Friday, despite hitting the fourth hurdle.

"I wasn't focusing on my steps, and I was short coming to it, so I had to spread my steps out," Booth said. "But yesterday I didn't get off to a fast start, so I really focused on that today, and it paid off."

"They did an outstanding job leading up to this," Dunkle said. "They have put 100 percent into practices and meets, and they worked really, really hard and this was their goal. I can't wait till next year, because they are both hungry for next year. They will be even better next year."

McConnellsburg senior Connor Johnson competed in the boys AA shot put, placing 13th with a throw of 46-1.75.