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Taryn Parks, Abby Yourkavitch help each other earn gold

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Call them rivals if you want, but "friends" might be a more accurate word to describe Abby Yourkavitch and Taryn Parks, two of the best distance runners in all of District 3.

There is no hate between Yourkavitch, a junior from Chambersburg, and Parks, a freshman at Greencastle-Antrim, just a desire to become faster than ever before. The duo have spent some time this season meeting up in various parts of Franklin County to hone their craft.

If the 91st Jack Roddick Invitational at Shippensburg University serves as any indication, the high-powered running sessions have paid off.

Yourkavitch churned out a win in the 3200 (10:51.65) before Parks later cruised to victory in the 1,600 (4:56.71) and 800 (2:16.70). The girls hugged, laughed and took pictures together. They were among the highlights for a Franklin-Fulton region that hauled in six gold medals.

"Sometimes Lauren (Hirneisen) and I go to Chambersburg to run with them and sometimes Abby comes to Greencastle to run with us," Parks said. "We've known of each other for quite a while, but now we're getting to know each other."

Yourkavitch opened the first race of the day with a bang, leading wire-to-wire in a Class 3A 3200 race that saw her finish more than 23 seconds ahead of the runner-up. If it sounds like Yourkavitch was in a hurry, it's because she was.

"I'm going to prom tonight with a group of friends and will have two hours to get ready," said Yourkavitch, who confirmed that her nails were already taken care of one day earlier. "I'm ready to take my heels off and go dancing."

Yourkavitch didn't leave the building until completing the 1,600 with Parks. The Trojans' ace broke away from being boxed in to set the pace for the opening 800. The second half of the race saw Parks surge to the lead and post a school-record time to hold off Northern's Marlee Starliper (4:58.08). Yourkavitch claimed third in 5:06.78.

"Abby and I planned for her to take out the first 800 and it was a help when she did pull up there," Parks said. "From there, I wanted to get to the front, stay there and finish with the win."

Parks went on to win the 800. With nobody in the field wanting to lead the pack, Parks stepped into the first position. The move nearly backfired when Carlisle's Meg Lebo closed the distance, but Parks dug deep to win the neck-and-neck sprint to the finish.

"I don't like the 800," an out-of-breath Parks said immediately following the race.

While this was Parks' first time at the SU Invite, it was the last go-around for McConnellsburg's McKenzie Gelvin, a senior bound for Temple. Gelvin topped the 2A field for come-from-behind wins in the 400 (59.06) and 800 (2:16.01). She claimed the lead in the 400 with about 150 to go and later, took over the 800 race on the second lap to dust the competition.

Gelvin said that SU's Seth Grove Stadium, home of the PIAA Championships, is her favorite place to run.

"It's fun to run here, I hope I have the opportunity to run here in a month," Gelvin said. "I'm still disappointed with last year. I was seeded No. 1 in both events and I don't know what happened, something got to my head. I'm ready to be in that position again this year and come out on top this time."

The meet was cold and rainy at times, conditions that did not suit Greencastle senior thrower Jenay Faulkner. To be fair, the conditions didn't suit anybody. The shot put circle rapidly filled with standing water and throwers often had to pull double-duty and use a broom to sweep the water out. Mud surrounding the area only made matters worse.

Through all of this, Faulkner was able to pull out the win with a throw of 40-6.5.

"It's hard to get the mindset right when it's cold and rainy," said Faulkner, who also took sixth in the javelin (108-4). "You're worried about not slipping in the circle. It was a relief to get that big throw out there. I was hoping to build on it, but I didn't."

Other locals with top five finishes were Fannett Metal's Lizzie Peppernick (3rd in the 2A discus, 109-9; 5th in 2A shot, 31-11), Chambersburg's Kaylee Mowery (5th in 3A 3200, 11:25.63), and McConnellsburg's Kellyn Perry (5th in 2A 400).

The Chambersburg 4x100 team of Secret Shaffer, Sydnie Gilbert, Ariana Appenzellar and Breya Clopper placed fourth in AAA with a time of 50.43. Shaffer said her team would love to get its time down to the 49s.

"It was nervewracking running against some faster people," Shaffer said. "This invitational really helps you get motivated to run."