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LaBarbera Take Silver In State Track Championships
Susquehanna freshman Amber Gaffey may have been just getting started.
Montrose's Joe LaBarbera was making the most of a last chance as a high school athlete.
Each left a mark on the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association track and field championships at Shippensburg University.
Gaffey and LaBarbera soared to second-place finishes in the Class AA pole vault to lead all county performers in the meet Friday and Saturday.
Four girls cleared 10 feet or higher in the pole vault, including two seniors and a junior. Gaffey fit into that group, finishing alone in second place with a vault of 10-3. Nicole Pitchford of Riverside in District 7 won by clearing 10-6.
LaBarbera cleared 14-6 to finish behind only Towanda's Sam Fairchild, who won with a height of 15-0.
Elk Lake 3200-meter runner Jessica Squier had the next-best finish among county athletes.
Squier, a junior, was third in 11:01.07. She took the lead at the midway point and held it for most of two laps before falling back to fifth place. She recovered to take third, one spot behind defending champion Lynn Morrelli of St. Basil Academy.
Squier finished the race in 11:01.07 to edge District 2 champion Lisa Giacometti of Dallas.
Montrose's Larry Lundy and Elk Lake's Robert Squier, Jessica's brother, were the other local place-winners.
Lundy took fourth out of 21 competitors in the discus with a throw of 149-0. The junior was also 12th out of 20 in the shot put at 49-4.
Robert Squier finished his high school career by taking seventh in the 3200 in 9:23.02.
Another Elk Lake distance runner, Ryan Place, took 11th in the 1600.
Place was fifth out of 14 in his Friday qualifying heat by finishing in 4:21.80. It was the sixth-best time out of 28 overall. He then finished 11th of 12 in the finals with a time of 4:25.02.
Kyle Adriance of Montrose tied for 14th out of 24 competitors in the high jump. He cleared 6-0 in an event that was won by Anthony Masi of Wilkes-Barre Meyers to help the District 2 champion Mohawks take the state championship.
The Montrose 3200-meter girls' relay team was eliminated in Friday's qualifying heat. The Lady Meteors finished eighth of 11 in their heat and 16th out of 22 overall with a time of 9:55.64.
There were several impressive efforts from District 2.
Meyers won the boys' team championship and finished second in the girls' team scoring.
Andre Broussard led the Mohawks by winning the 100 and 200 and running a leg of the winning 400-meter relay team.
Rose Morgans of Meyers won the long jump while Trina Carito of Lakeland won the high jump.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Blue Ridge allowed just one run in two wins while advancing to the District 2 Class A softball championship game.
The Lady Raiders shut out Forest City, 4-0, then rolled over Old Forge, 8-1.
The Blue Ridge girls are the last local team left playing in this high school sports year.
Old Forge eliminated Elk Lake, 1-0, in the quarterfinals.
Montrose also went out in the quarterfinals with a 3-2 loss to Dallas in Class AA.
In high school baseball, four of the six games in Class A resulted in upsets.
Bishop O'Hara, the sixth seed, went on the road to knock off both Blue Ridge, 4-1, and Elk Lake, 5-4, in eight innings.
Elk Lake, which reached the state final last season, opened the playoffs with a 6-3 victory over Northwest.
Montrose lost to Crestwood, 9-4, in the Class AA quarterfinals.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins' improbable playoff run continues.
Matt Murley's goal at 13:21 of overtime Saturday night lifted the Penguins into the Calder Cup finals with a 2-1 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference finals.
The win was the fourth by the Penguins when facing elimination and the second in a road Game Seven. Last year's Houston Aeros are the only other team in AHL history to win two Game Sevens on the road in the same year and the Aeros did not have to get either win in overtime.
"It is an unbelievable accomplishment what this team did, winning three games on the road against one of the top teams in the league," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.
Logical predictions have meant nothing as the Penguins have beaten the league's best defensive team, then the East Division and Eastern Conference champs in succession.
Up next? A chance to do something no other AHL team has even put itself in position to attempt. A victory over the Milwaukee Admirals would give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a title by completing a run of victories over the top four teams in the AHL regular season.
The Penguins have certainly gotten help from players sent down by the parent Pittsburgh Penguins, but they were just the 14th-best team in a 28-team league during the regular season. Before starting a comeback from 3-1 series deficit against Bridgeport, the Penguins had been 1-3-2-1 in the first seven games after the playoff lineup was put together by the end-of-season demotions.
None of that mattered in a series where the road teams won five of seven games and the losing team bounced back for a win four out of six times.
Eric Meloche set up the winning play by winning a face-off just outside the Hartford zone.
The Penguins sent the puck in deep and applied pressure.
Colby Armstrong knocked down a clearing attempt by former Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Jamie Pushor and controlled the puck along the right-wing boards.
Murley settled into a position between Armstrong and goalie Jason LaBarbera and redirected Armstrong's shot back through his own legs and into the net.
"I didn't even know that it went in," Murley said. "When it did, I still didn't know what to do."
It did not take long for Murley to join the growing pile of Penguins behind the net.
The celebration ended a tense night of hockey that was surprisingly fast-paced for a game that was scoreless for 48 minutes with so much at stake.
The Penguins took the series lead in Game Five, May 25 in Hartford, when they blew a three-goal lead then won, 4-3, on Shane Endicott's overtime goal.
Hartford stayed alive Friday by scoring three straight goals, including two in 50 seconds, to break a third-period tie and win, 4-1.
Lock Haven's Jacob Merrill, a senior from Montrose, won the 400 hurdles title at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Track and Field Championships May 15 at Slippery Rock University.
Merrill made it through qualifying heats seeded third with a time of 53.95 seconds. He then ran 53.28 in the finals to take the title.
Merrill also finished fourth in the triple jump at 45-2 1/2 and 14th in the long jump at 21-4.
Millersville's Jeff Rood, a senior from Susquehanna, was 22nd in the 5000 meters at 16:14.9.
Top-seeded Blue Ridge will play for the District 2 Class A softball title Wednesday at 4:30 against second-seeded Bishop O'Hara at Mid Valley.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins return home for games Friday, Sunday and Monday after opening the Calder Cup finals with two games in Milwaukee. The Penguins were scheduled to play in Milwaukee Tuesday and Wednesday.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
JOHNSON Gets Dominating Coca-Cola 600 Win
Jimmie Johnson led 501 miles on the way to his second consecutive Coca-Cola 600 victory at Lowe's Motor Speedway Sunday.
Johnson showed that his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet was the dominant car as he maneuvered his way through two pit stops, six cautions, and one red flag period, all within the last 72 laps of the 400-lap race.
During the third caution which came out on lap 338, Johnson, who was leading the race pitted for four fresh tires. On the restart, he pulled away from Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray, the second and third-place cars.
Another caution came out on lap 348 for a bag of ice on the track. Again, Johnson pulled away from the rest of the field
During lap 368, Ryan Newman got into the rear of Derrike Cope, bringing out another caution. This time all the lead lap cars pitted except Jamie McMurray.
Johnson took on four tires, and within 10-laps, he was back in the lead.
The race was red flagged on lap 393 after Ryan Newman's No. 12 Dodge lost an engine.
There were three laps remaining when the green flag was given. Johnson pulled away, but before the race reached lap 400, Bobby Labonte smacked the wall after being bumped by Kasey Kahne, and the race ended under caution.
"That car was so good," said Johnson. "There were times when other guys were better, but we stuck with our game plan, and made the changes we had talked about. How can you beat that?"
Michael Waltrip's second-place finish was his best of the season.
"We knew that we were a good team last fall, but we started off this year, and couldn't find our rear-end," said Waltrip. "We just kept working, changing the downforce, and 'bingo,' there we are."
Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kyle Busch won Saturday's CarQuest 300.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 2. Michael Waltrip, 3. Jamie McMurray, 4. Matt Kenseth, 5. Elliott Sadler, 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 7. Casey Mears, 8. Jeremy Mayfield, 9. Tony Stewart, 10. Rusty Wallace.
Chase For The NEXTEL CUP Championship Leaders - Earnhardt Jr.-1798, 2. Johnson-1793, 3. Kenseth-1682, 4. J. Gordon-1654, 5. Stewart-1587, 6. B. Labonte-1554, 7. Sadler-1537, 8. Busch-1518, 9. Newman-1500, 10. Harvick-1498, 11. Kahne-1423, 12. McMurray-1419.
Note: These 12 drivers are all within 400 points of the leader, the cut-off point after 26 races.
Should The War Of Words Continue? With so much attention being focused on NASCAR racing, it's hard to decide which news is most interesting to the fans.
There's always plenty to write about when it comes to drivers, but except for a couple of incidents, things in the garage area and on the track have been pretty quiet this season.
Tony Stewart has been the center of attention because of several bumping incidents. He has been involved in a series of bumps, rubs, and collisions in five different races.
Rusty Wallace and Jamie McMurray had said he was driving like "an idiot." Wallace even spoke out against Stewart in some radio and television interviews.
The only other attention-getting piece of action involved Greg Biffle and his teammate, Kurt Busch, after Busch rear-ended Biffle in the Winston Open.
But the newer and younger upcoming drivers seem to be able to hold their tempers in check and steer clear of controversy that has surrounded the sport in past years.
NASCAR has a new policy that says drivers cannot curse during radio and television interviews. This in itself has toned down the sport, and done away with many of the juicy interviews after a race.
But there is still a large fan base that doesn't like to see one driver give another one the thumbs up after he's moved over and let him go by on the track.
"The drivers are what made this sport," said Jimmy Spencer, driver of the Morgan/McClure No. 4. "No one wants to see another driver wreck or get hurt. But what I am saying is that sometimes a little war of words is good for the sport."
Gone are the days when drivers dominated. It is now a team sport, and while a driver is still an important piece of the puzzle, he by no means runs the show. Corporate sponsorship dictates what is expected from the driver.
J. D. Gibbs, owner of Tony Stewart's No. 20 said, "Fewer issues would be a good thing." But he went on to say that controversy is what makes the sport interesting. "If no one ever got upset, what would that tell you about the drivers and their passions."
NASCAR racing has always been emotional, whether it was fans rooting for their favorite driver, or drivers protesting what they perceived as driver interference.
Take for example this year's Indianapolis 500. It was once billed as the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." But on the day of this year's race there were thousands of tickets still available, and some were on the start/finish line.
Indy racing has lost its luster. Its television ratings are down, down, down. The audience was down in 2003 by fifty per cent from 1995.
What is there about Indy-car racing that excites you?
NASCAR on the other hand, used to be perceived by many as a redneck, southern-type sport that was only enjoyed by those who lived in the Deep South.
Now, it is the number one motor sport in the world. Only the National Football League draws a greater audience.
NASCAR will continue to expand but most of the current fans don't realize what they are missing. I'm just glad that I was a NASCAR fan when NASCAR wasn't so popular.
It will be sad if the sport becomes so regulated that drivers are no longer allowed to show or express their emotions.
KYLE BUSCH Wins CarQuest 300 - The top ten results of the Busch Series CarQuest Auto Parts 300 run Saturday at Lowe's Motor Speedway; 1. Kyle Busch, 2. Jamie McMurray, 3. Kevin Harvick, 4. Jason Leffler, 5. Tony Stewart, 6. Greg Biffle, 7. Ron Hornaday, 8. David Stremme, 9. Kenny Wallace, 10. Ashton Lewis, Jr.
Top-10 points leaders; 1. Busch-1962, 2. Truex-1924, 3. Waltrip-1807, 4. D. Green-1795, 5. Hamilton Jr.-1724, 6. Keller-1712, 7. Hornaday-1667, 8. Biffle-1615, 9. Leffler-1589, 10. K. Wallace-1504.
The NASCAR Nextel Cup, Busch Series, and Craftsman Trucks are at Dover, DE, the weekend of June 4-6.
Friday, June 4, Craftsman Trucks MBNA America 200, race 6 of 25, 200 laps/200 miles, 4 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, June 5, Busch Series MBNA America 200, race 14 of 34, 200 laps/200 miles, 12:30 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Sunday, June 6, Nextel Cup MBNA 400 "Salute To Heroes," race 13 of 36, 400 laps/400 miles, 1 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Racing Trivia Question: What is the nickname of Dover International Speedway?
Last Week's Question: Which NASCAR Winston Cup driver has won the most races at Charlotte? Answer. Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip have each won six races at Charlotte. Waltrip has won the Coca-Cola 600 five times.
If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to www.race500.com.
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