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TRACK AND FIELD PREVIEW: McFeaters in it for the long run

The road traveled by Tyler McFeaters, the one he thrived on, was rocky, full of dips and holes and strewn with obstacles.

The road the Northern Lebanon runner travels now during his senior spring is much smoother – kind of like the difference between driving in Pennsylvania and just about anywhere else.

Northern Lebanon's cross country star has evolved into the Vikings' track and field long-distance anchor, specializing in the 1600 and 3200 meters, in large part due to the lessons he picked up while becoming a standout 5K runner – he won the Lebanon County meet last fall.

"Cross country really helps you build up endurance and stamina," McFeaters said. "Then you get on the track and work on your speed, and it's all there."

A bronze medal winner in last's year's county 1600 event, McFeaters added the 800 this spring to his repertoire and is off to a fast start, winning five events total in Northern Lebanon's dual meet wins over Lancaster-Lebanon Section 3 rival Elco and Lancaster Mennonite.

It's not an uncommon trip. Plenty of 5K kids gravitate toward track's distance events and some vice versa. What may separate McFeaters from the pack is that he's trying to stretch his resume in this, his final high school sports season. Versatility? Just another challenge. Why not?

McFeaters already switched gears when he dropped baseball in junior high school to run track, in effect turning his already established love of running through 5K events into a year-round passion, which many track folks will tell you is necessary for success. Long and lanky at 6-foot-2, 150 pounds – "all legs" as Vikings' coach Mark Opreska puts it – the 18-year-old McFeaters is working on mixing in shorter distances. Whether it actually comes to pass in dual meet season with points on the line remains to be seen. But he enlisted the help of sprint event and football star Dom Trader, whose blazing speed currently corrupted by a leg injury, in helping with winter workouts.

"I worked really hard on my sprinting this winter," McFeaters said. "Hit the weight room, stuff like that. I worked with (sprint stars) Dom and Tyler Whitman."

The 100? Not likely. But the 400? Now there's another goal.

Opreska wouldn't deny McFeaters pulling it off. The work ethic, the discipline, the drive is what stands out for the Vikings' head man, who is in his sixth season as varsity coach. It is also the same length of time that McFeaters has been under his tutelage.

"He worked incredibly hard with our winter program," Opreska said. "It's really a year-round goal setting for him and we constantly have to reevaluate these goals as he moves forward and progresses."

A lot of that has to do with an innate character trait that didn't need to be coached up.

"Tyler's very goal-oriented; he's driven for success," Opreska said. "But he also tempers that with the hard work ethic that we need to see out of all of our athletes. There are way too many talented athletes who aren't willing to work as hard as they probably ought to. And Tyler won't stand for anything like that. He's always worked harder than everyone else on our squad; he's finally seeing the dividends of that now. He's the leader of our distance group, but he's also a quiet leader for the entire team as well."

An illustration of that came early in his track career, and Opreska was witness to it.

"He always interacted well with the older athletes," he said. "He was constantly challenging himself by running with the older group of guys who proceeded him. I think he learned a lot by working with a lot the guys who were just a year or two ahead of him. By that, I would say he learned that he was a talented athlete, but it would only pay off if he worked hard at the cardio and the conditioning."

Those long legs also work to McFeater's advantage.

"We often joke that more than half of his body is the length of his legs," Opreska said.

"But clearly, from the physical part of it, his great strength is his stride. He uses the length of his stride to create pretty well; he's got very fluent movement crossing the distances. He's also pretty hard-charging. He's got incredible speed running 400s under a minute and then repeating that after another, and that's incredibly hard to do.

"A lot of times we joke that his speed in the mile is more of a sprint."


Last season: 5-4, 3-3 L-L Section 3

Top returnees: John Zechman, hurdles, distance; Andrew Mason, sprints, jumps; Adam Fox, javelin; Derek Bosworth, jumps; Preston Cervalo, pole vault; Cody Keller, hurdles; Anthony Frattarole, middle and long distance; Nathan Ulrich, jumps; Tyler Carpenter, Matt Darok, distance.

Key losses: Garrett Bosworth, distance.

Outlook: The A-C boys are young and inexperienced, according to head coach Suzanne Sutcliff, but she expects the squad to progress as the season emerges. "I'm looking forward to seeing many accomplishments from these athletes during the season," she said.


Last season: 10-0, 6-0 L-L Section 1 (won Section 1, L-L meet, Lebanon County meet; District 3 runners-up)

Top returnees: Ivan Baptiste, Damon Edwards, sprints; Landy Cruz, Evan Horn, jumps; Jordan Cruise, Jared Glosser, Noah Redcay, Melvin Rios, Jesse Cruise, middle distance; Devon Calvert, hurdles; Matt Royer, Tanner Craun, distance; Horn, Chris Kelly, Josh Bucher, throws; Alex Diehm, pole vault.

Key losses: Denzel Pierre, Jared Brandt, Peter Groff, sprints; Willy Bragg, Chad Bomberger, distance; Mitch Weaver, Brandon Henriquez, hurdles; Daniel Neiswender, pole vault; Jarrod Cruise, middle distance; Patrick Donley, Grant Boehler, throws.

Outlook: Despite graduating 22 seniors, the Cedar Crest program remains the flagship in the county and will contend for L-L and District 3 honors once again. Coach Rob Bare reports that even after suffering such a heavy graduation attrition, the Falcons return a stunning 70 male athletes to the program this spring. With that assembly line pumping them out, the Crest looks to make it 18 straight county titles and counting. The Falcons split their first two dual meets on the new campaign.


Last season: 6-2, 5-1 L-L 3

Top returnees: Dakotta Moyer, Jared Harnish, distance; Chris Gilbertson, hurdles; Luke Darkes, James Bidelspach, jumps and hurdles; Ethan Anspach, sprints.

Key Losses: none provided.

Outlook: Coach Bob Miller will be searching for leadership in a squad that will be short on seniors this spring. If there is one thing the Raiders don't need to concern themselves with, it is squad depth. The turnout has been deep, and that has fostered a healthy sense of internal competition moving forward as athletes fight for their place in the squad. Miller is hoping that translates to wins on the track and in the field.


Last season: 2-4-1, 2-4-1 L-L Section 3

Top returnees: Jeronimo Rodriguez, sprints, jumps; Derin Klick, middle and long distance; Alex Maldonado, jumps; Connor Cummins, Lucas Imm, Alan Cooper, Luke Fureman, throws; Jan Suarez-Torres, sprints; Jesse Brownstien, Hu Luu, pole vault; Deryl Werni, distance; Erik Peiffer, pole vault, hurdles.

Key losses: Omel Francois, sprints; Linus Morales and Jaime Montalvo, distance.

Outlook: Cedars' head coach Nick Watt is raring to go with the 2015 squad following a "rebuild from the ground up which we have been working on the past five years," he said. If Lebanon's first two dual meets are any indication, Watt may be on the something. The Cedars defeated Ephrata by 16 points and blew out Garden Spot to open the season. Peiffer captains the squad while manning the pole vault and running hurdles. Francois was a big graduation hit at sprints. The Cedars have already matched last year's win total and are hungry for more.


Last season: 8-0, 6-0 (L-L Section 3 champions)

Top returnees: Dominic Trader, sprints and jumps; Tyler McFeaters, distance; Nick Auchenbach, hurdles and relays; Billy Fellows, Tyler Whitman, relays, sprints, jumps and middle distance; Ryan Morgan, jumps.

Key losses: Derek DiAngelis, pole vault, relays, hurdles; Paul Kudlanov, distance; Richard Iwuagwu, hurdles; Kyle Blackman, javelin.

Outlook: DiAngelis was a once-in-a-generation talent with his versatility and performance; his graduation leaves a huge points gap that needs to be filled for coach Mark Opreksa's Vikings. Fortunately, several key stars return on a club that roared through L-L Section 3 a season ago, to overcome that loss. Speedster Dom Trader is nursing what Opreska termed a "seasonal transition" injury to his hamstring, but is expected back. McFeaters has established himself as the premier distance runner in the county and expects to contend for league honors and beyond. Auchenbach, Fellows and Whitman broke the school mark in the 4x400 last year, while Morgan qualified for districts in the high jump. In summary, there's plenty in the tank for the Vikings to make another run at a section title and beyond, and the Vikings showed as much with a 111-39 win over section rival Elco to open the slate.


Last season: 4-5, 2-5 Mid-Penn Keystone

Top returnees: Mitchell Cooper, hurdles, jumps, relays; Jason Robinson, Max Terry, distance; Noah Davis, jumps; Ethan Harro, sprints, javelin.

Key loss: Joel Lohr, sprints.

Outlook: Coach Danny Byrd is looking for his Cougars to make a step forward this season in dual meets following a so-so 2014 campaign in the Mid-Penn Keystone. Cooper is Palmyra's most versatile member of the squad. The graduation loss of Lohr, who won bronze in the 400 last year at the Mid-Penn meet while qualifying for districts, needs to be filled. The Keystone is a tough slog, but Byrd anticipates his squad to develop and mature as the season progresses. The Cougars opened their dual meet season with a loss to Red Land.



Last season: 9-1, 6-0 L-L Section 3 (won section)

Top returnees: Reagan Hess, sprints, jumps, relays; Tori Malloy, relays, jumps; Veronica Merone, relays, jumps; Timeshah Clark, relays; Courtney Connors, relays, middle distance; Kennedy Kreamer, relays, hurdles; Amy Dreibelbis, shot put.

Key losses: Avree Wright, shot put; Alexandria Siebecker, jumps, hurdle, relays; Samantha Becker, pole vault, triple jump; Alyssa Patches, javelin.

Outlook: It was a dream season a year ago for A-C and coach Jerome Simon, as the Dutchmen dominated the section, took second at districts and seventh at states in Class AA. Wright and Patches closed out their respective high school careers as two-time district gold medalists in the shot put and javelin, respectively, while Siebecker and Becker were prior D-3 champs. But led by Hess, the young multi-event star and D-3 100 meters and long jump champ, the Dutchmen remain a deep versatile and dangerous squad. Malloy, Merone and Clark are three-quarters of a 4x400 squad that place second at districts last year. With that firepower, expect A-C to record another stellar season and contend for the top spot in L-L, districts and states.


Last season: 7-3, 5-1 L-L Section 1

Top returnees: Destinee Holloman, jumps and sprints; Emily Peters, Rachel Smith, distance; Shanna Sweigart, throws.

Key losses: Katie Gable, sprints and jumps; Haleigh Echard, distance; Brenna Rubenstein, jumps and pole vault

Outlook: Sweigart is Cedar Crest's most accomplished returning athlete; she medalled in the shot put and discus at the county and league levels and qualified for both districts and states in the shot. Holloman was a D-3 qualifier in the 100. The Falcons opened with a five-point loss to Mechanicsburg, but head coach Anne Boyer is optimistic that continued hard work, development and a strong squad attitude will help the club contend with the likes of a very formidable Hempfield outfit this spring in L-L 1.


Last season: 7-1, L-L Section 3

Top returnees: Alexis Thomas, throws; Chandelle Keller, hurdles; Hannah Williams, sprints; Abby Dundore, distance.

Key losses: none provided.

Outlook: The Raiders are in a down cycle in terms on the number of participants, but coach Bob Miller likes what he see from the girls who comprise the squad. "They are really coachable and working hard," he said. Miller is optimistic that the group can "lay the foundation for a long run of success" – even if a 7-1 repeat in L-L 3 is not in the cards this spring.


Last season: 0-6, 0-6 L-L Section 1

Top returnees: Erin Winters, Jeannie Showers, pole vault; Krista Marderness, Whitney Miglaccio and Madison Hartman, sprints; Molly Foster, distance; Avery Watkins, Morgan Truax, Kim Tobias, throws; Shilesky Montalvo, sprints and jumps.

Key losses: Brianna Taylor, throws.

Outlook: Winters anchors the squad, as the reigning District 3 champ in pole vault and a fourth-place finisher at states. She recorded the highest vault (12-8) in the state last season. Showers also earned district honors in the discipline. The Cedars are looking for their first dual meet win in a quite a while, but despite a surge in numbers, the team dropped its first two meets of the season. Coach Nick Watt believes he finally has the squad depth to end the drought.


Last season: 2-6, 1-5 L-L Section 3

Top returnees: Hannah Reese, sprints and throws; Noreage Wells, sprints and jumps; Kaitlyn Dolan, Charley Darkes, Heather Wolfe, distance.

Key Losses: Jorie Mason, distance.

Outlook: The Vikings were fairly young a year ago and didn't taste a ton of team success, but head coach Mark Opreksa pointed out that several of his athletes posted PRs during the season, giving hope to a maturation process that translates to greater success this spring. Reese was the team's MVP a year ago and holds down key spots in sprints and throws. The Vikings dropped the dual meet season-opener to Elco and lost a close seven-point decision to Lancaster Mennonite this week.


Last season: 7-2, 6-1 Mid-Penn Keystone (co-champs with Lower Dauphin)

Top returnees: Katie Dembrowski, Maria Tukis, middle distance; Miranda Salvo, distance and relays; Katy McClellan, throws; Kristen Smoluk, jumps; Jess Dembrowski, middle distance.

Key losses: Kendall Kreider, hurdles.

Outlook: If the top returnees read like the roster of Palmyra's champion basketball squad, you would be correct. The Cougars have been blessed to have remarkable group of female athletes come through the school all at the same time, and now that coach Danny Byrd has all his top charges back from the hardwood, the track season begins in earnest. Keep an eye out for Jess Dembroski and the rest of the 800 relay team, which finished fifth at states a year ago and was the 14th-ranked unit in that discipline in the entire country. Palmyra will tangle once again with Lower Dauphin for Mid-Penn Keystone honors. The Cougars snapped LD's epic 48-meet win streak within the division a year ago.