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The Blue Ridge and Montrose girls' teams return the bulk of their key performers making them likely to be the strongest of the county's high school track teams this season.
Elk Lake will have two of the area's top individuals in Jessica Squier and her brother Robert, both distance runners. They led their teams to victory in last week's limited schedule.
Jessica Squier joins Montrose discus throwers Bob Dean and Lori Cooper as the county's three returning District 2 champions.
Katie Onyon, Rachel Hall and Mindy Stanton lead the returnees for Blue Ridge, which went 8-1 last season to finish second in Division II of the Lackawanna Track Conference behind Western Wayne.
Onyon finished second in District 2 Class AA in both the shot put and discus. Stanton joined her in the district's top six in the discus.
Hall finished second in the district in the 3200 meters and third in the 1600.
Blue Ridge finished sixth among 22 teams at the District 2 championships.
Montrose returns four of its top five girls.
Cooper leads that list, which also includes Charlene Slusser (shot put), Julie Teed (100 hurdles) and Sheena Severcool (100).
Jessica Squier won the district championship and finished 13th in the state in the 3200 as a freshman.
Susquehanna's Jen Covert is among the league's most versatile performers with her work in jumps, hurdles and sprints.
Mountain View's Ashley Robinson was third in the district in the high jump.
Dean won the District 2 boys' discus championship over eventual state champion Nathan Poindexter of Valley View. He was also fourth in the javelin.
The other top returning boys' performers are: Robert Squier, Montrose pole vaulter Joe LaBarbera, Mountain View high jumper John Maher and Blue Ridge long jumper Chad Burman.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Forest City junior Amanda Vitzakovitch, who led her team into the second round of the state tournament, learned last week that she had been named as a third-team, all-state Associated Press Class A girls' basketball selection.
Vitzakovitch passed the 1,000-point mark early in the season and helped Forest City win the Lackawanna League Division II North first-half title.
In the American Hockey League, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins took things right to the finish.
The Penguins finished the season on a six-game unbeaten streak that helped them clinch a playoff berth Saturday then lock up home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a dramatic, 4-3, overtime victory in the regular-season finale Sunday in Philadelphia.
three games of the first-round miniseries at the higher-seeded team, the Penguins still faced the possibility of ending their season on the road in the first round until Toby Petersen's goal 56 seconds into overtime.
"There were two keys coming into this weekend," Petersen said. "One was getting into the playoffs. The second was getting the home ice.
"This is big. Just how big remains to be seen."
Defenseman Rob Scuderi stole a pass in his own end and started out on a two-on-one. He stayed clear on the right side while Petersen raced into position on the left side.
"I saw their D get caught in the zone," Petersen said. "I jumped up with (Scuderi). I screamed the whole way up the ice because I knew I had the guy beat."
Binghamton had already locked up its playoff berth, but did not secure its division title until Saturday's 4-2 victory in Albany. Jeff Ulmer scored the game-winning goal in the third period.
The division title was the seventh for the city of Binghamton in its 21 seasons as an AHL member. The Binghamton Rangers, in 1995-96, were the last to win a division title.
Antoine Vermette of the Senators was the AHL's Rookie of the Month for March with 11 goals and seven assists in 16 games.
In International League baseball, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons opened pursuit of their fifth straight playoff berth before the fourth-largest paid crowd in team history.
The Red Barons opened their 15th season with a paid crowd of 12,117, but lost to the Ottawa Lynx, 5-4, despite five strong innings by Eric Junge.
In arena football, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers opened their second season with a 46-25 loss at Greensboro.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Binghamton Mets are scheduled to play their Eastern League home opener Thursday at 6 against the Norwich Navigators.
Additional weather problems should further complicate the spring schedules, which have yet to get started for many county high school teams.
Maryellen Korty, a sophomore pitcher from Forest City, and Nadine Taylor, a freshman from Susquehanna, are members of the Wilkes University softball team.
Korty is 4-3 on the mound for a team that is 7-8 overall. In nine appearances, including seven starts, she has a 3.67 earned run average. Korty has allowed 67 hits, but just 11 walks, while striking out 25 in 47 2/3 innings.
Last season, Korty got her college career off to a strong start, going 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA before missing the latter part of the season with an injury.
Taylor might spend some time on the mound if the team needs a third or fourth pitcher. She is listed on the roster as an infielder, but also part of the mix in the outfield.
In 10 games, including four starts, Taylor is 1-for-10 (.100) at the plate. She has scored two runs and drive in one. She also has drawn two walks and sacrificed once.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
DALE, JR. Sweeps Talladega, Talladega, Ala.-Dale Earnhardt Jr. is getting close to owning the Talladega Superspeedway, as he swept both NASCAR races at the 2.66-mile track this past weekend.
The win Sunday in the Winston Cup Aaron's 499 was especially sweet for him as he had to start from the rear of the field after his team discovered
water in the engine oil of his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet on Sunday morning and had to switch engines.
Earnhardt managed to avoid most of a big wreck that occurred on lap four after a tire blew on Ryan Newman's No. 12 Alltel Dodge.
Newman's car flipped on its side before it hit the ground, then slid down to the bottom of the track, and briefly caught fire. Nearly 30 cars were collected behind him and all were damaged to some degree.
Earnhardt was able to stay on the lead lap, but he lost the draft.
He continued to battle his way back towards the leaders until he passed Jimmy Johnson for the lead on lap 172. On the pass, he took part of Johnson's rear bumper with him.
On lap 178, Johnson was able to regain the lead with drafting help from Ward Burton. There was a seesaw battle between Burton, Johnson and Matt Kenseth until lap 185.
Earnhardt made a move under Kenseth that took him across the yellow line, but after review, NASCAR ruled it a legal pass.
He then held on to the lead for the final three laps and beat Kevin Harvick across the stripe by about a car-length.
His win was his fourth straight Talladega Winston Cup victory.
Elliott Sadler had one of his best runs of the season as he came in third. Ricky Craven and Terry Labonte rounded out the top-five.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2. Kevin Harvick, 3. Elliott Sadler, 4. Ricky Craven, 5. Terry Labonte, 6. Sterling Marlin, 8. Ward Burton, 9. Jeff Gordon, 10. Matt Kenseth.
Top-10 points leaders after 8 of 36 races: 1. Kenseth-1233, 2. Earnhardt Jr.-1104, 3. Busch-1046, 4. Johnson-1013, 5. J. Gordon-1011, 6. Craven-1000, 7. Waltrip-994, 8. Harvick-977, 9. Stewart-937, 10. Sadler-895.
EARNHARDT, JR. Wins Busch Race The top ten results of the NASCAR Busch Series Aaron's 312, run Saturday, April 5 at Talladega Superspeedway: 1. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2. Joe Nemechek, 3. Shane Hmiel, 4. Ron Hornaday, 5. Mike Bliss, 6. Jamie McMurray, 7. Michael Waltrip, 8. Mike Wallace, 9. Coy Gibbs, 10. Tina Gordon.
BODINE Continues As Busch Leader Top-10 points leaders after 7 of 34 races: 1. T. Bodine-996, 2. McMurray-957, 3. Hornaday-927, 4. Hmiel-897, 5. Keller-889, 6. D. Green-855, 7. Bliss-853, 8. Riggs-815, 9. Kahne-813, 10. M. Wallace-784.
The Old Girl Is 55 But Getting Better Like an ugly child that has blossomed into a beautiful woman, Martinsville Speedway will be celebrating a happy 56th birthday this year.
The .525-mile track, which will host the Craftsman Trucks and Winston Cup Virginia 500 this Sunday, now ranks as one of the most comfortable and scenic racing facilities on the NASCAR circuit.
But it had tremendous growing pains.
Back in 1946, speedway founder H. Clay Earles attended a dirt track race in Salisbury, NC.
"Man, it looked like a million people there, although I realize it probably was something like 1,500," Earles laughed. "I thought racing, which was then in its infancy, just might be a pretty good hobby for me and maybe I could make a little money."
Earles bought a 30-acre cornfield just outside of Martinsville and it proved to be the right spot. Even though the brush was so thick they had to crawl to the back part, Earles had a picture in his mind.
When the first race dawned on September 7, 1947, only 750 of the planned 5,000 seats had been built and only 10 acres was left for parking. The current facility now covers over 200 acres and seats nearly 100,000 fans.
"We put oil on the track and advertised it as dust free, but it turned out to be the most embarrassing moment of my life," said Earles. "Many of the people came straight from church wearing their Sunday best. After the race was about 15 minutes old, it looked like an atomic bomb had been dropped.
"We had a cloud of dust over the track 500 feet high. When the race was over, I climbed up to an old ticket office that offered a vantage point. When I looked down on the crowd, you couldn't tell one from the other, they all looked like Indians."
There were no fences and over 3,000 people were able to watch without paying, yet the first venture was a financial success.
"We had a paying crowd of 6,013 and Red Byron of Atlanta bumped and skidded his way to victory followed by Bob Flock, Ed Samples, Jack Etheridge and Fred Mahon."
Earles immediately launched an improvement program that still continues today.
The track was paved in 1955 and Earles brought in some ducks and geese to inhabit the large lake on the property. To beautify the facility, shrubs and flowers (even around the turns) were planted.
Richard Petty has the most wins at Martinsville with 15, followed by Darrell Waltrip (11, Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace (6).
All three of NASCAR's major series' see action this weekend. The Craftsman Trucks and Winston Cup series' are at Martinsville, VA, the smallest track on the circuit. The Busch boys are at Lebanon, TN, not far from Nashville.
Saturday, April 12: Craftsman Truck Series, Advance Auto Parts 250, race 4 of 25,250 laps/131.5 miles, 1 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Busch Series, Pepsi 300, race 8 of 34, 225 laps/300 miles, 3:30 p.m. TV: FX.
Sunday, April 13: Winston Cup Virginia 500, race 9 of 36, 500 laps/263 miles, 12:30 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: What is Winston Cup driver, Kurt Busch's home state?
Answer To Last Week's Question: Tina Gordon is the only woman running a full Craftsman Truck season.
Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. If you have a racing question that you would like answered send it to The Racing Reporter, P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL, 36616, or e-mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like Father, Like Uncle
Winston Cup driver Casey Mears is carrying on a long, family tradition.
When it was announced in December that Mears would drive the No. 41 Target Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing, many people wanted to know who this driver was and where he came from.
Mears, who was born in Bakersfield, California and now resides in Huntersville, NC is the nephew of four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears and the son of two-time Indy 500 starter and off-road racing legend Roger Mears.
Because he was such an unknown driver, the announcement that he would be in a Cup car during the 2003 season caught many racing fans by surprise. He was called up to NASCAR's big league after only one year of competition in the Busch Series.
"Being asked to drive the No. 41 Dodge was a total surprise," said Mears. "Most guys have two or three years of stock car racing before they make it. It's just a gold mine that I didn't expect so soon."
He finished 21st in his rookie Busch season, scoring one top-five at Talladega and two top-10s. His highest start was an outside pole at Atlanta.
While he was not a familiar name among NASCAR garage areas, he does have a long and successful career in other series.
In 2001, he scored two top-10 finishes in CART in four starts after replacing Alex Zanardi, who was involved in a career ending crash.
He finished ninth at Talladega in his lone ARCA start.
In 2000, he finished third in the Indy Lights Series, scoring his first win at the Gran Prix of Houston.
He has also won three off-road races as well as the 1995 Jim Russell USAC Triple Crown Championship at the age of only 17.
His actual racing career began at the age of four on BMX bicycles.
"It certainly helped my career by being from a racing family," continued Mears. "It helped me develop my skills in a natural way.
"Several times my dad after observing me would come to me and offer his advice. And then the next time I would do it a little better. He saved me from making some of the same mistakes over and over.
"Every good driver has his own strong and weak points. Mine is engines. I grew up working on cars and chassis, but I never got into building a lot of engines."
The 2002 season in the Busch Series did give Mears experience in full-bodied stock car.
"It is so much hotter in a stock car," said Mears. "It doesn't turn as fast, run as fast, but the margin for error is much greater. It's a ton of fun to drive and more enjoyable.
"An Indy-car keeps you on pins and needles. Nine out of 10 times if you slip, that's it, you're into the wall. In Indy races, you're spread out, whereas in stock cars, you're bunched up most of the time."
Mears joined Sterling Marlin and Jamie McMurray, the other two drivers with Ganassi Racing.
"I think one of the biggest things I had to learn or overcome is to drive easier into the corners," continued Mears. "You have to finesse them going in, then power down, coming out.
"I've had a big problem slowing down, and then gathering myself up.
"We keep improving every weekend. I've got so much to learn. How we're running now isn't a direct result of how we're going to run at the end of the year. We're going to improve throughout the year."
Great American Heroes: Rex White
This is the second in a series of what we consider to be the best NASCAR racers of all times. Our list of drivers probably won't line up with the 50-Greatest Drivers selected by NASCAR, but as in the movie, "Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil, much of life is subjective. An article on a different driver will appear about every other week.
By most racing standards he did not always have the fastest car, but from 1959 through 1963, Rex White won more races than any other driver.
He captured 36 poles and 28 victories in 233 starts in only nine years.
His competition included the best racers-Fireball Roberts, Lee Petty, Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett, Curtis Turner, Buck Baker and Joe Weatherly.
A look at his accomplishments reveals that he was Chevrolet's best driver in the early 60's and one of the most consistent drivers in the history of NASCAR.
Rex was a member of the original Chevrolet racing team and both he and his crew chief, Louie Clements worked at the legendary Southern Engineering Development Company (SEDCO), which built Chevrolet race cars for many teams.
In winning the 1960 NASCAR Winston Cup championship, White had six victories. But his entire racing was done on a shoestring budget.
"I don't have any idea what it cost to run a season, but it was more than I had," said White. "Remembering all those figures 40-something years ago is kind of tough for me. I probably didn't keep up with the costs even back then.
"I kept books in my left, rear pocket. When there wasn't any money there, I wasn't taking in enough.
"We didn't write down anything. We had no bookkeeping system. But it got the job done.
"I never dreamed I would see the sport where it is today. But I did see that when television got into it, there would be no end to where it could go. With television you could get into everybody's house. People that had never been to a race could see it on television, and then after they went to a race, they're hooked."
When asked to compare past champions against last year's winner, Tony Stewart, he replied:
"Tony Stewart finished dead last in last year's Daytona 500 and took in $218,000 for last spot. The only catch to that is he did win the 125-lap Qualifying Race.
"I never took in anywhere near that much money in my entire racing career. When I won the championship, I got almost $13,000. You can see what a big difference there is between then and now.
"I don't think racing itself is so much different. There was things back then that irritated you just like they have today. There's a lot more rush and lot more coverage because it's so much bigger, but I don't think it's any different."
White's career was not as long as many drivers, since he only raced nine seasons.
"I may have quit too soon," said White. "I might could have won some more races, but I had a couple bad deals with Chevrolet.
"They walked into the garage in East Point, Georgia one morning and said, 'the racing team is dissolved.' One week before Daytona, they said 'Chevrolet is out of racing.'
"We had a lot of hopes to go racing. We had built on to my shop and built another racecar with good horsepower. We had made a lot of plans for that year, but we just had to cancel them.
"Then I went with Mercury, but they weren't really competitive, and I had a hard time adapting to leaf springs they had in Mercurys. It never was a real winning race car. And all I got was a car and parts. At the end of the year, Mercury said, they were going to cut that off, so that was another one that shut me out.
"Then I drove four races for Bud Moore in 1963 and they cut back on Bud, and he had Darel Dieringer as his number one driver, so I lost out there, and decided to go find a different pasture to play in.
" I got a job working for the Chrysler-Plymouth dealer in Forrest Park, Georgia and never got back in it. I made more money selling cars than I ever made racing them."
The No. 4 Chevrolet was perhaps the best car White ever drove.
"I got the car from Harold Doharty," continued White. "He came to the 1962 Atlanta race, which I won, and it was his first race, ever. I never met him until after he had built the car.
"I spent a lot of time in racing, and I could tell you a lot of funny stories. When I got out of racing in 1965, I went to Mexico and built some Chevelles to race there.
"I went off a cliff down there. On one side of the road they don't even come get you. They just put a candle out where you went off. On the right side of the road, it's about 90 feet down.
"I was riding with the owner of the Chevelles. He was trying to play a little bit of race car driving and maybe trying to impress me a little bit.
"We came up on two cows in the middle of the road. In trying to miss the cows, he lost control, and I knew it. So I got over and was trying to get control of the steering wheel when we went off.
"I broke my back, was pinned in the car and it was about 24 hours before I got to the hospital. It happened about one in the evening and at five o-clock the next day I got to the hospital.
"But I healed up and won Sportsman Races after that. About 10 weeks later, I won a race in Harris, North Carolina with the brace still on.
"My best finish was over Marvin Panch in the 4 car right here in Atlanta in the 1962 Dixie 400. The last fuel stop was out of sequence and my crew chief put on the pit board that he questioned my gas.
"So I knew we weren't going to make it to the end without fueling. I hung on to Marvin and just drafted. He ran out of gas with two laps to go, and I went all the way to the bank."
White says one of his funniest and scariest moments happened on the old Daytona Beach Course.
"We were testing the car and I kept telling the owner it was missing," said White. "So he said, you go back around and come by me wide open. I didn't think about it at the time where he was going to be sitting.
"So I came by him wide open, and just as I got by him, I realized I was hitting the diamonds in the road where they tell you to shut off going into the south turn.
"So, when I went into that sand in the corner, I was all out of shape, and sliding sideways. There was a car parked right in the middle of the turn, with two elderly people next to it.
"The lady was on the other side of the car going to the bathroom. As I slid by them, I seen her pulling her britches up. I thought I was going to run over them. It scared me as much as them, because I was afraid I was going to hit them.
"That's a true story. We all laughed about it, and I even talked with the couple afterwards."
In 1974, White was inducted into the National Motorsports Hall of fame at Darlington, South Carolina.
On May 10, he will be inducted into the Georgia Motorsports Hall of Fame at Thunder Road in Dawsonville, Georgia.
Lauren Pantzar made her first varsity basketball start for Forest City in the heat of the playoffs as a freshman.
By the time she finished her high school career in March, Pantzar was quite comfortable in the playoffs.
"Pantzar has played great in the playoffs for three years," Forest City coach Carl Urbas said.
Pantzar opened the state Class A tournament with a 15-point, eight-assist, four-steal effort that led the Lady Foresters past Mount Calvary, 68-31.
That effort, combined with the three 3-pointers Pantzar made in the Lackawanna League All-Star Game helped her earn the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month Award.
"I think that's the most 3-pointers I shot all year," Pantzar said of the all-star game, which was played at Forest City. "It was so much fun playing with all the girls I've played against for all four years."
The Lady Foresters lost a tough game to Marian in the second round of state play. They made the first round look easy.
"We had a great shooting percentage," Pantzar said. "We were hitting everything."
Pantzar was a key contributor to Forest City's fifth straight District 2 Class A title.
"She's one of the best guards in the area," Urbas said.
Lauren, the daughter of Fran and Mary Pantzar, will finish her high school athletic career on the softball team where she is a four-year starter at shortstop. She also played two seasons of soccer at Forest City, but both her sophomore and junior seasons were ended by broken ankle.
Concord, NC - On March 14, Steve Post made his national debut for MRN (Motor Racing Network) Radio at the Craftsman 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Darlington (SC) Raceway. It was the first of nearly 20 races he will work as a pit reporter for the network.
"This is a dream that Ive had for many years," said Post, a native of Hallstead, PA. "Ive been waiting for the right opportunity, and the chance to work with MRN is what I consider the perfect place to continue broadcasting."
Posts work with the network will be covering NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and NASCAR Busch Series events this season. Also, at selected events he will be working in the Winston Cup garage getting audio for the wide-range of programming MRN produces.
Post spent the last eight years in North Carolina where hes enjoyed media relations stints with Great Clips for Hair, Havoline, IWX Motor Freight and Square D Company. While working on these projects, he also has worked in the broadcast and public speaking field.
Post is the track announcer at Lowes Motor Speedway and also the Dirt Track at Lowes Motor Speedway. He hosts a popular motorsports program, "Short Track Racing" on radio-station WEGO (1410 am) covering racing around his Concord home. Also, he works with Time-Warner Cable television crew on its "Around the Track" production of racing from Concord Motorsport Park.
Post has enjoyed success in hosting many events for the top drivers and sponsors in racing. He has hosted events for DuPont Motorsports, Harrahs Casinos, Ford Racing, Ricky Rudd Fan Club, Rusty Wallace Fan Club and the Kenny Wallace Fan Club. Post also served as Master of Ceremonies for the recent Racing Promotions Monthly Daytona Awards Ceremony.
For a number of years, Post has been a columnist for Gater Racing Photo News. His award-winning column, "What A Ride This Is" will continue this season.
Prior to his work in North Carolina, Post worked in the short track racing industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier for New York. From 1990 to 1994 he was track announcer and public relations director at Penn Can Speedway in Susquehanna, PA. He also served in similar roles at Moc-A-Tek Speedway (Lakeville, PA) in 1992 and 1993. He was a co-owner of Speed Sport Showcase - a pre-season motorsports expo in Scranton, PA - in 1993 and 1994. In 1990, Post also worked for radio station WHWK in Binghamton, NY.
Along with his duties with MRN, Post has formed Steve Post Motorsports Communications - a communications agency in the motorsports industry.
Post, his wife, Julie and daughters, Sierra and Summer reside in Concord.
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