Last year the Athens girls’ track and field team dominated the competition en route to a District IV, Class AA title.
They look good to repeat that feat this week thanks to their big four: Breana Gambrell, Emily Lunger, Rachel Hutchison and Ariana Gambrell.
With the performance lists out, Breana Gambrell is the top seed in three individual events (100, long jump, triple jump), Lunger is the top seed in two individual events (200, high jump), Rachel Hutchison is the top seed in the 300 hurdles and seeded fifth in the 100 and Ariana Gambrell is the second seed in the 110 hurdles and fourth in the long jump.
The four together are the top seed in the 4x100 relay.
If those seeds prove true, that is 87 points just between them, which is just three points back of last year’s team that won with 90 points.
And 22 ahead of second place Mifflinburg.
Paige McCarthy is also seeded eighth in the javelin, while the Wildcat 4x400 and 4x800 relays are both seeded seventh.
That is 92 projected points right there.
Or course meets aren’t decided on paper and Athens knows that this year.
Last year they went in with the top seeded 4x100 relay group but a bad handoff knocked them out of the race.
This year the sprint relay has the fastest time in the state at 48.14 and doesn’t want a repeat of that.
“The 4x100 relay seems really strong,” Lunger said. “Just a little bit of fixes here and there and it will be ready for states.”
That relay has Breana Gambrell’s full attention as well even though she is the top seed in three individual events.
“I will focus on the 4x100,” she said. “Getting more girls to states that way and I think we have a chance of medaling there too as well.”
At the NTL Championships they breezed to a win but know things can always get better.
“There’s a couple things we have to work on like our handoffs,” explained Hutchison. “If it all clicks just right I think we will be a force to reckon with when it comes to states.”
But they aren’t taking anything for granted just yet.
“We’re going to be working every day to make sure we have it down pat,” Breana Gambrell reiterated.
Breana’s not worried about her individual events as much at districts.
Her seed time in the 100 (11.83) is three quarters of a second ahead of second place. Her long jump (20-feet, 7-inches) is among the best in the nation and her triple jump (38-feet, 5 1/2-inches) has come along nicely this year as well.
“Just keep working on my technique,” she said about getting her hop-skip-jump down. “That’s been my main goal.”
Wellsboro’s Dahlia Hosey is the second seed in both the long jump (17-feet, 10 3/4-inches) and the triple jump (36-feet, 11-inches).
Ariana Gambrell (16-feet, 10 1/4-inches) is tied with Wellsboro’s Caitlyn Callahan (16-feet, 10 1/4-inches) for the fourth seed in the long jump.
In the 100 Williamson’s Charly Slusser (12.91) is the fourth seed and highest rated freshman while Hutchison (12.97) is right behind her.
In the 100 hurdles Ariana Gambrell (15.55) is .19 behind top seed Milton’s Leah Bergey. Troy’s Anna Ensminger (16.64) is the seventh seed.
Lunger (26.10) has a tenuous lead on the 200, .03 ahead of second seed Bloomsburg’s Sage Harmon.
There are no NTL runners in the top eight in the 400 and 800 but at the 1600 Williamson’s Jules Jones is seeded third at 5:24.94, a little over six seconds away from the state standard. Jones will also be doing the 3200 and is seeded fourth at 11:48.16, a little more that 13 seconds away from the state standard.
The shorter of the two events will be her focus.
“I’m seeded third and closest in time there,” Jones said. Top two automatically advance and/or hitting the state standard.
Last year they did the two-mile on Thursday in the evening hours but the temperatures were still in the 80s, less than ideal for a distance run.
This year the 3200 is on Saturday morning.
“I think it’s going to be a lot better temperature-wise,” said Jones. “Especially since it’s two hours before the mile. I think that’s going to work out well in the end.”
Hutchison (45.35) has over half a second on second seed Nicole Varano (45.90) of Mt. Carmel in the 300 hurdles.
In the 400 meter relay Athens had over a full second on second seeded Loyalsock (50.32).
Their 4x400 relay is seeded at 4:17.84 and their 4x800 is seeded at 10:16.66.
The Wildcats are the only NTL team to have a relay seeded in the top eight.
The NTL holds the top three spots in the high jump with Lunger (5-feet, 5-inches), Slusser (5-feet, 3-inches) and Troy’s Morgan Graybill (5-feet, 2-inches).
All three are seeded at or above the state standard.
Last year Graybill came up just short of making states and will be looking to finally get over that hump.
She’s hit the standard of 5-feet, 2-inches this year so a lot it will be mental.
“Just not getting too nervous,” Graybill said. “Trying to stay calm and not psych myself out.”
She hit 5-feet in the rain and cold at the NTL Championships, a good mark on a bad day.
“That builds my confidence a little,” remarked Graybill.
This week she will be fine tuning her form.
“Make sure I don’t lean towards the bar when I get to the higher heights,” she explained. “And make sure I’m jumping up.”
Wyalusing had two in the top eight at the pole vault: Ashlee Newton (10-feet, 5-inches) and Lylah Oswald (9-feet). Newton is seeded right at the state mark.
In the throws Towanda’s Jessica Tice will be trying to get back to states in the shot put.
She is the defending district champion and is seeded second at 37-feet, 6 3/4-inches, a little more than six inches behind top seed Kamryn Snyder of Milton.
“I just need to improve the little things and part of my technique to get the further distance.”
Tice is also seeded fourth in the discus (103-feet, 9-inches) but is nearly 17 feet behind second and is 10 feet from the state standard. NEB’s Josie Haverly (99-feet, 3-inches) is seeded seventh.
In the shot put Troy’s Morgan Millard (35-feet, 1-inch) is seeded fourth and Wyalusing’s Hannah Palfreyman (33-feet, 1-inch) is seeded eighth.
It has been an emotional year for the senior and she’s trying to cope with that while also doing her best.
“To be honest, I just have to stay out of my head,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because it’s my senior year and it’s a big deal, but I just have to stay out of my head.”
She will be going for her third trip to Shippensburg.