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Susquehanna's Amber Gaffey, who finished second in the state in the pole vault last season as a freshman, leads the list of top individuals who returned to action when the Lackawanna Track Conference season got underway Thursday.
Gaffey cleared 10-3 in the pole vault at last season's Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association championships to take the silver medal in Class AA. A week earlier, she set a District 2 record by clearing 10-0 to win the title.
Among the other top returnees are Elk Lake distance runner Jessica Squier, Montrose thrower Larry Lundy and Montrose high jumper Kyle Adriance.
Squier won a state bronze medal last season by running the 3200 meters in 11:01.07 after leading for a portion of the state final.
Larry Lundy set a district record of 165-1 in the discus before finishing fourth in the state in that event. He was also 12th in the state in the shot put.
Adriance also qualified for the state meet last season after jumping 6-4 in the district championships.
While Lundy and Adriance should help strengthen Montrose's team, Blue Ridge also appears to have a strong lineup on both the boys' and girls' side.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Jason Spezza picked the right night to reach a scoring milestone.
Spezza, the American Hockey League's leading scorer, hit the 100-point mark March 30 when he had a goal and two assists as the Binghamton Senators moved into the East Division lead with a 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phantoms.
Binghamton won two more games and improved to 13-1-1-3 in an 18-game stretch until it lost to Bridgeport, 5-2, Sunday to fall back out of the division lead. The Senators clinched a playoff berth during the streak.
Chris Neal scored two goals and Anton Volchenkov had four assists in the win over Philadelphia.
Ray Emery made 33 saves.
While the Senators were surging into the division lead, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were barely clinging to playoff position. The Penguins dropped six straight, including one game in the last two seconds of regulation and another against the last-place Albany River Rats.
Philadelphia used a 4-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Sunday to return to first place.
In professional baseball, Montrose graduate Rich Thompson will start the season with the Indianapolis Indians of the International League. Thompson will be spending his second straight season with the Pittsburgh Pirates' top farm team.
Thompson finished last season with Nashville, which was then Pittsburgh's top team. He batted .287 with 13 triples and 41 stolen bases in 112 games for the Sounds.
LeeAnna Roberts lettered last season as a freshman for the Moravian College softball team that advanced all the way to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III championship game.
Early in her sophomore season, the Elk Lake graduate has significantly increased her offensive production.
Roberts, who plays in the infield and outfield for Moravian, also made her college debut as a pitcher with two scoreless innings.
At the plate, Roberts leads Moravian (14-3) with five walks. She has played in all 17 games and started 15.
Roberts is batting .342 with seven runs, a home run, six RBIs and three sacrifices.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Binghamton Senators and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins continue their respective battles for a division title and a playoff berth in the AHL East.
The teams meet for the final two times this regular season when they play Wednesday at the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre and Saturday at the Broome County Arena in Binghamton.
In professional baseball, the Binghamton Mets open their Eastern League season on the road with a series in Akron, beginning Thursday.
Outfielder Wayne Lydon, a graduate of Valley View in Lackawanna County, returns to Binghamton after stealing 65 bases last season for the Mets. By the end of the season, he could be playing even closer to home as an opponent of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons when they host the Norfolk Tides.
Lydon will be back at Class AA, however, when the Red Barons open International League play at home against Norfolk Thursday.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
HARVICK Wins At Bristol, Bristol
TN – Kevin Harvick went from the back to the front in Sunday’s Food City 500 for his first Nextel Cup win since the 2003 Brickyard 400.
Kevin Harvick Celebrates Sunday's Bristol win.
The Childress Racing team was able to win without their regular crew chief Todd Berrier, who was serving the second race of a four-race suspension at home after losing an appeal for a rules infraction at Las Vegas.
Sitting atop the No. 29 team’s pit box was the owner, Richard Childress.
What made the win even more spectacular was the fact that after qualifying, NASCAR inspectors found some power steering fluid under the 29. The team was told to make repairs, and then had to take up tail end of the 43-car field for the start of the race.
But Harvick and the Goodwrench Chevrolet were good enough to work their way forward. During lap 435 of the 500 –lap race, he passed leader Greg Biffle, and was never seriously challenged all the rest of the way to the checkered flag.
“It’s pretty awesome what we did today,” said Harvick. “We’ve fought a lot of adversity. I told them last night that if something didn’t go wrong we were going to win this race.
“We’ve had a good test up here, and the car was good. It’s been a long way, but we’re back.”
It had been 55 races since Harvick last visited victory lane.
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Roush Ford appeared to have the race in hand, but he failed to pit for fresh tires under a caution during lap 413. All the other drivers behind him took on four new tires, and Biffle quickly lost ground.
Polesitter Elliott finished several seconds behind Harvick.
“I’m going to have to give it to the 29 bunch today,” said Sadler. “They had a great car. It seems like every time Kevin got in trouble, he was able to come back up through the pack.
“Any time you come to Bristol, sit on the pole, finish second, and not have a scratch on the car, it’s been great.”
Rusty Wallace led the most laps, but he was caught up in one of the typical Bristol wrecks, involving 14 cars on lap 334. He went a lap down, but NASCAR penalized him an additional lap for pulling into his pits under the red flag.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Kevin Harvick, 2. Elliott Sadler, 3. Tony Stewart, 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 5. Dale Jarrett, 6. Jimmie Johnson, 7. Travis Kvapil, 8. Kyle Petty, 9. Greg Biffle, 10. Scott Riggs.
Top-10 Nextel Cup leaders: 1. Johnson-835, 2. Biffle-741, 3. Stewart-679, 4. Edwards-678, 5. E. Sadler-657, 6. Harvick-654, 7. Busch-635, 8. Jarrett-611, 9. R. Wallace-611, 10. Martin-609.
Should NASCAR Have Set Penalties? Nextel Cup team owner Richard Childress called on NASCAR to revise its penalty system, saying its use of deducting driver points for infractions that do not involve the driver is unfair.
Childress maintains NASCAR's use of stripping driver points – which it has typically used instead of, or in addition to, monetary fines – has taken on a greater impact in light of NASCAR's new Chase for the Nextel Cup format used to determine its champion.
"With the new points system, it's based on the driver being in the top 10,” said Childress. “Penalize us owners. Take money away from us. Penalize our crews.
"Don't penalize the drivers that don't have anything to do with it. It's time for NASCAR to revisit their penalty system based on our new points system."
NASCAR President Mike Helton said the penalties are supposed to have an impact on teams so they will all share the responsibility to operate within the rules.
But what most team owners and drivers are concerned about is the uneven manner NASCAR dishes out the penalties.
According to NASCAR, the infractions dealing with Childress’ No. 29 Goodwrench Chevrolet concerned Section 12-4-A of the NASCAR Rule Book “Actions detrimental to stock car racing” and Section 12-4-Q “Any determination by NASCAR Officials that the car, car parts, components, and/or equipment used in the Event do not conform to NASCAR rules”
That’s all the written rules state, and that’s what the penalty was based upon.
Pretty subjective is it?
A good example of this is when NASCAR penalized Dale Earnhardt Jr. 25 points last year for uttering a profane word on television.
Does this mean NASCAR equates using a dirty word with cheating?
Jimmy Fennig is crew chief on the No. 97 IRWIN/Sharpie Taurus, driven by Kurt Busch.
"The suspension wasn't the right way to fine the guys to start with, in my opinion,” said Fennig. “They always do it after the fact, because NASCAR can do what they want. It's their game.”
Michael “Fatback” McSwain is crew on the No. 21 Ford driven by Ricky Rudd.
“We just need to lay out the rules, man,” said McSwain. “It should be a set deal, but it's like we need a menu because there's no consistency on what the reaction is."
What do you think? Give us your opinion. If we use your statements, we will send you an 8X10 photograph of your favorite driver. E-mail your comments to: email@example.com, or mail them to The Racing Reporter, P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL 36616.
The Nextel Cup and Craftsman Trucks are at Martinsville Speedway, the circuit’s smallest track. The Busch Series has the weekend off.
Saturday, April 9, Craftsman Trucks Kroger 250, race 4 of 25, 250 laps/131 miles, 1 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Sunday, April 10, Nextel Cup Advance Auto Parts 500, race 6 of 36, 500 laps/263 miles, 12:30 p.m. TV: Fox Channel.
Racing Trivia Question: How many Daytona 500 victories does Michael Waltrip have?
Last Week’s Question: Who is Mike Wallace driving for this season? Answer. He is driving the McClure Motorsports No. 4 in the Nextel Cup series.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com. Any NASCAR-related questions may be addressed to him at P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL 36616.
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