Herb Schmidt Relays' oddities serve purpose for athletes
Hurdles rested on the front track Friday afternoon at York Suburban in a peculiar position.
In one lane they faced the south. In the next? The north.
No, the hurdle crew at the Herb Schmidt Relays didn't do anything wrong. They were for the co-ed shuttle hurdle relay, a staple of the 56-year-old event.
Unorthodox, silly and fun are a few ways such an event is described by athletes and observers. Longtime Suburban coach Dave Wickenheiser received resistance from his own coaches in previous years, which is why they joke the hurdle relay will one day be named after former volunteer coach J.P. Sheaffer.
"He hates the shuttle hurdle relay," Wickenheiser said. "He's repulsed by it."
In Sheaffer's 19 years on the Trojans' track-and-field staff, he asked why such an event would be considered. It's not like the PIAA has sanctioned hurdles relays.
"We only get to run it here," said Andrew Moyer, one of four to win the Division II hurdle race for West York. "It's a lot of fun to come out here and run the shuttles."
Teammate Jared May said they prepared for the race once last month before the Schmidt Relays were postponed until April. The race stretches 100 meters, beginning with girls running to one end before the boys then run back. West York's winning time of 1:02.57 included girls' Rebecca Gohn and Jahna Alleyne — and it even bettered the Division I top time of 1:05.73 for Dover.
Happy to be back
Of the nine teams participating in this year's Schmidt Relays, Central York became a late addition this week.
For senior runner Brook Wilson, the return to Suburban sponged up memories of his eighth-grade year when Central last competed here. Wilson remembered running a co-ed relay with his sister, Erin Wilson. He will remember Friday not just for returning but because he took signing day pictures earlier at Central.
Wilson will run next year at Rider and picked the school shortly after the winter indoor season. He signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday.
"I want to be a part of their 4x800 team that broke their (school) indoor record this year," Wilson said.
On the track, he took part in another unique race: the sprint medley, which combines four runners for a relay. In this relay, though, the first two runners each sprint 100 meters. The next one charges 200 before the final runner circles the track for a full 400-meter jaunt.
Wilson ran the final leg, but Central finished second to Dover because of jumbled handoff of the baton.
"We hadn't practiced handoffs," said Wilson, who subbed in for another runner. "It was weird with somebody coming off a 200 at full speed."
The Eagles' quartet of Kire Watkins, Shawn Orchard, Durran Ledbetter and Dillon Spahr wonin 1:39.5. Momentarily, they thought the time broke the meet record, but William Penn's 1:34.7 run in 2005 remains a gold standard.
"It was a straight adrenaline rush," Ledbetter said.
A short while later, Ledbetter and Watkins helped the Eagles' 1,600 relay team blaze past the competition before a disqualification. Their effort still propelled Dover to the Division I boys' overall championship.
The earlier medley win seemed to propel the Eagles.
"You get to do your speciality," Ledbetter said. "I love the 200 and I got to do that for the medley. It's like home. It's comfortable."
Roundup of team champions
In addition to Dover, Susquehannock won the Division II boys' title. Central York (Division I) and York Suburban (Division II) won the girls' team championships.
The Schmidt Relays hands out bronzed shoes to team champions to keep for a year.
Considering the invitational uses co-ed events, it also crowns overall champions by combining boys' and girls' scores. Central York (Division I) and host Suburban (Division II) are this year's winners.
William Penn raced only its 400-meter relay team, which won that race with a substitute runner and topped Dover by nearly two seconds.
Stu Krise, one of the Bearcats' coaches, said they needed to work on handoffs before Saturday's Jack Roddick Invitational at Shippensburg. Down a normal runner with a foot injury, Danny Acevedo subbed in to win with Ohadji Diggs, Zach Ingram and Larell Anderson in 43.71.
However, William Penn's surprise came from its girls in the field.
The Bearcats' combo of Chyna Steele and sophomore Emoni Perkiss won the girls' javelin with a combined throw of 176 feet, 2 inches. Steele, a junior and 1,000-point scorer on the basketball team, set a personal record of 84-7 on her throw. Perkiss' heave of 91-7 fell a few inches short of her PR set Wednesday in a dual meet against Spring Grove.
The showing shocked Steele, who tried out this spring with basketball as her motivation.
"I didn't think I could do it," she said, surprised that her javelin PR improved by about 12 feet.
Steele, a junior, credited the younger Perkiss.
"I look up to her," Steele said. "She's been doing this longer than me. She practices more than me, but actually helps me and teaches me to get better."
Upon receiving their gold medals, Central York junior Alexis Baublitz and York Suburban freshman Grace Tyson strolled back to the pole vault area together.
They weren't teammates. They didn't even compete at the same time Friday.
However, both are former gymnasts.
They also knew each other from competing at VaultWorx in Camp Hill.
"But we met through gymnastics," both said simultaneously.
Both also just started vaulting less than a year ago, yet Baublitz's 10-0 performance and Tyson's 8-6 jump were tops among their competition.
"Your positioning in the air helps a lot," said Tyson, who had been a gymnast since she was 2.
Baublitz broke Central's school record in the girls' pole vault a week ago and tried to match her 10-6 mark. She clipped the bar three times, but still reached enough heights to help Central win a team title.
Tyson did the same, as their gold medals made way for bronzed shoes.
Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.