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The smile was clearly visible on Amber Gaffey's face when the Susquehanna sophomore bounced off the mat after clearing 11 feet, 3 inches in the pole vault during Friday's Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association meet.
Gaffey did not yet know that her jump would combine with a miss by Hickory's Mandy Carine minutes later to clinch a state Class AA championship.
"I was happy that I cleared 11-3, which was my goal for the year," Gaffey said.
It turned out to be a well-placed goal. It was a height that no other small school pole vaulter in Pennsylvania could reach.
Gaffey continued what Jim Corse and Teresa Covert started.
When Gaffey won her state title, she added to the remarkable total of track and field state gold medals captured by Susquehanna athletes.
Corse, Covert and Gaffey have combined to give the Sabers six of the eight PIAA state gold medals ever captured by Susquehanna County competitors in track and field. Counting a wrestling title by Montrose's Mike Cole in 1984, county athletes have a total of nine state gold medals in individual sports.
Gaffey said she heard about Corse's accomplishment from her first pole vault coach, Jeff Rhone, who had learned from Corse. She did not know about Covert's efforts until reaching high school.
Corse won the 1989 state title by clearing 14-8, which at the time was a record for the state meet.
Covert won four gold medals. She won three straight in the 100-meter hurdles and added the 300 hurdles as a senior in 1998.
It was in the 1998 meet that Covert produced one of the most impressive efforts in state track history. She came within one point of a state team title by herself, scoring 29 points for the Lady Sabers while Merion Mercy Academy was winning the state title with 30.
Covert won the 100 hurdles in 14.77 seconds and the 300 hurdles in 45.10. She finished third in the long jump in 16-10 1/2 and sixth in the triple jump in 36-1 1/2.
Gaffey is starting her own list of impressive achievements. Like Covert in the 100 hurdles, Gaffey finished second in the state in her best event as a freshman.
Gaffey then arrived at Shippensburg as the top seed and the favorite to win a gold medal.
"It was a little nerve-wracking when the meet first started," Gaffey said.
Of the 60 individual gold medals given out to boys and girls in two classifications Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg, 49 were claimed by juniors and seniors. Gaffey was among the group of six sophomores and five freshmen to win titles.
As the newest event in girls' track, the pole vault has many young competitors among its most successful athletes.
Carine is a junior.
Kimberly Preston of Reynolds and Amanda Carpin of Harbor Creek, who cleared 10-6 to finish third and fourth, are both sophomores.
Six of the seven girls who cleared 10 feet will be back next year. The list of 14 girls who made it over at least 9-6 has 12 underclassmen, including two freshmen.
Gaffey, who travels to the Lehigh Valley for training every week, will keep trying to improve in the off-season.
"I think I might be going to Junior Olympics next," said Gaffey, who will look to her coaches at Vertical Assault in Bath for advice on where her next competitions should be.
Gaffey was the only county athlete to finish higher than 14th in the state.
Matt Pfahl of Mountain View was 14th among the 23 state qualifiers in the long jump at 20-6 1/4.
Larry Lundy of Montrose was 15th in two events. He had a shot put distance of 49-4 1/2 to place 15th out of 24 and a discus throw of 139-2 to finish 15th out of 25.
Teammate Kyle Adriance was 20th out of 25 in the 100 hurdles with a time of 15.96. He was one of three high jumpers in a field of 28 who failed to clear any height.
Blue Ridge's Carly Devine, the only other county girl at the meet, was 22nd out of 30 in the 1600 meters with a time of 5:27.9.
WEEK IN REVIEW
The Elk Lake softball team is undefeated. The Blue Ridge softball team is a defending state champion.
Their survival in the first week of District 2 competition could be expected.
Montrose's three wins in District 2 baseball, however, rank as the biggest surprises on the diamond last week.
One win might have been a reasonable goal for the Meteors when they opened play in the Class AA tournament as the 17th seed out of 18 teams.
The Meteors, however, were among the four teams left in Class AA when the week was over.
Montrose won all three games on the road.
The Meteors opened the week with an 8-6 victory at Hanover Area. They ended the week with a 5-4 quarterfinal win at ninth-seeded Dallas.
The shocker came in between.
Sean Brewer threw a three-hitter as Montrose upset top-seeded Riverside, 10-1, to disrupt the bracket and leave the title open for a new group of contenders.
Brewer walked five and struck out six. He also had three hits.
Winning pitchers helped themselves throughout the week for Montrose.
Justin Huff pitched the complete game against Dallas and also had two hits.
Brewer homered in that win. He joined Huff, Justin Lavo and Collin Musa with two hits each.
The Meteors got off to a strong start in the tournament with a seven-run second inning against Hanover Area. They took an 8-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh then hung on.
Huff went 4-for-4 and scored a run against Hanover Area. Winning pitcher Bill Overfield drove in two runs. Jeff Snyder scored two runs.
Mountain View was also among the four lowest-seeded teams in Class AA that had to start the tournament early while the other 14 had byes. The Eagles fell to Scranton Prep, 6-3, and were eliminated.
Elk Lake followed a first-round bye with a 4-1 loss to Mid Valley.
Susquehanna and Blue Ridge each made it through the first round of the Class A tournament.
Ryan Lee tossed a five-hit shutout and hit a home run as the Sabers blanked Bishop O'Reilly, 7-0, on the road.
Blue Ridge edged Forest City, 8-6.
Susquehanna then fell to top seeded Bishop Hannan, 9-3, in the semifinals. Blue Ridge was shut out by second-seeded Pittston Seton Catholic, 3-0.
Dan Glezen had the only hit for Blue Ridge in the semifinal loss.
In softball, Elk Lake eliminated three-time defending champion Nanticoke, 3-2, in Friday's semifinals to take a perfect record into the Class AA final.
The Lady Warriors shut out Lackawanna Trail, 7-0, in the quarterfinals.
Tara Dymond's three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning rallied Elk Lake past Nanticoke.
Blue Ridge handled Wyoming Seminary, 12-1, in the Class A quarterfinals in its only game of the week.
Forest City shut out Carbondale Sacred Heart, 10-0, then gave second-seeded Bishop O'Hara a scare in a 4-3 quarterfinal loss.
Mountain View fell in its first Class AA game, 11-1, to Lake-Lehman, which got a no-hitter and 10 strikeouts from Sheree Horvath.
In boys' volleyball, Mountain View handled Forest City, 25-10, 25-9, 25-19, in the District 2 quarterfinals.
The Eagles then fell to Bishop Hoban, 21-25, 25-16, 25-13, 25-11, in the semifinals.
Seth Button, a sophomore first baseman from Elk Lake, was named Most Valuable Player of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III World Series after leading Gloucester County College of New Jersey to the national title.
Button went 5-for-5 with a double, three runs scored and four runs batted in Thursday when Gloucester defeated Ridgewater College (Minn.), 14-5, in the championship game at Glens Falls, NY.
The Roadrunners destroyed the competition on the way to their fifth national title, winning four games by a combined margin of 42-7.
"It's just a great feeling because we thought we were the best team last year and fell short," Button told the Glens Falls Post-Star. "We played a tough schedule and it really paid off for us here."
Gloucester started the eight-team, double-elimination tournament May 21 with an 8-2 victory over Westmoreland Community College (PA). Button was 2-for-6 with a double, a run and two RBIs in the win.
In its first meeting with Ridgewater, Gloucester rolled to a 10-0 win. Button doubled twice and drove in two runs in that win.
Ridgewater eventually won three straight in the losers' bracket to put itself in position where it would have to beat Gloucester twice to win the title.
Gloucester kept cruising along in the winners' bracket final with a 10-0 rout of Massasoit Community College (Mass.) in five innings. Button was 1-for-3 with a homer.
For the tournament, Button finished 10-for-19 (.526) with four doubles and nine RBIs.
Button was a second-team NJCAA Division III All-American first baseman for his play throughout the season. He was second in the nation with 61 RBIs and fifth with 11 home runs.
At Elk Lake, Button led the Warriors to the state final and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2003. He is committed to continue his college career next season at the University of Pittsburgh.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Elk Lake will meet Lakeland at a neutral site Wednesday to determine the District 2 Class AA softball championship.
Blue Ridge was scheduled to play at Old Forge Tuesday for a chance to reach the District 2 Class A softball final against either Northwest or Bishop O'Hara.
In high school baseball, Montrose was scheduled to play at Nanticoke Tuesday for a shot at the District 2 Class AA final Thursday at Lackawanna County Stadium against Lakeland, Wilkes-Barre GAR or Bishop Hoban.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
JOHNSON Gets Close Win In Coca-Cola 600, Concord, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet became the first driver to win three consecutive Coca-Cola 600s as he caught and passed Bobby Labonte just yards from the finish line.
“I lost one to Carl Edwards this year at Atlanta, and I wasn’t going to let it happen again,” said Johnson. “I knew if I could get outside I would have the momentum to the start-finish line.”
Johnson’s victory over Labonte’s No. 18 Fed-Ex Chevrolet was 0.027-seconds.
What made his win even more remarkable is that on lap 362, Johnson, along with several other big name drivers went a lap down while in the pits when a caution came out.
When green flag racing resumed, Johnson’s No. 48 was 16th. He started his move towards the front. The leader at the time was Joe Nemechek.
Nemechek appeared to have the race in hand, but during lap 391 of the 400 lap race, he blew a tire on his No. 01 Army Chevrolet and hit the outside wall. One lap later, NASCAR brought out the red flag so crews could clean up the track.
Green flag racing resumed on lap 396 with Bobby Labonte, Carl Edwards, and Ryan Newman leading the field.
With fresher tires than the four cars in front of him, Johnson was able to get by Newman and Edwards within two laps. But it took him nearly two more laps to reel in Labonte.
Johnson tried once to go under Labonte in Turn-2 on the white flag lap, but failed. But as the cars headed to the checkered flag, Johnson used the high groove to get around Labonte for the win.
“I got a little impatient when we took the white,” continued Johnson. “I made a pass under him and got a little sideways, and lost a lot of momentum. But I went into Turn-3 a little mad and determined.”
Labonte’s second-place finish was his best of the season.
“I thought I had him, but he slid up and got behind me, and unless I had wanted to run him into the outside wall, there wasn’t much I could do,” said Labonte. “I got on the gas and ran my line, but he just made the outside work better.”
There was a Cup record of 22 cautions and the race did not end until after 11 p.m. (EST), more than five hours after it began.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 2. Bobby Labonte, 3. Carl Edwards, 4. Jeremy Mayfield, 5. Ryan Newman, 6. Greg Biffle, 7. Martin Truex Jr., 8. Dale Jarrett, 9. Ken Schrader, 10. Rusty Wallace.
JOHNSON Leads All Cup Drivers – The top-10 Nextel Cup Series leaders: 1. Johnson-1747, 2. Biffle-1676, 3. Sadler-1542, 4. Newman-1530, 5. J. Gordon-1516, 6. Stewart-1488, 7. Harvick-1485, 8. Edwards-1459, 9. McMurray-1451, 10. Busch-1441.
EDWARDS Continues As Busch Leader – the top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Edwards-1855, 2. Bowyer-1684, 3. Sorenson-1681, 4. Truex-1625, 5. A. lewis-1577, 6. K. Wallace-1562, 7. Biffle-1544, 8. Stremme-1528, 9. Hamlin-1527, 10. Harvick-1411.
FROM THE PITS
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s former crew chief Pete Rondeau said he signed a three-year contract when he agreed to be crew chief on The No. 8 driven by Junior before the Nextel Cup season, but that contract was never signed by owner Teresa Earnhardt.
According to Rondeau, there was a clause that stated he was to be given six weeks notice if performance was in question.
“I just show up on Monday, and I’m out of a job,” he said on Saturday.
Rondeau, who was replaced on an interim basis by Steve Hmiel, said that wasn’t the only promise the company failed to keep. He said Earnhardt’s former team, which is now with Michael Waltrip, never shared information.
“There was probably a little bit of a sore spot between the old eight team and us,” said Rondeau, who was Waltrip’s crew chief last season. “Tony Eury, Sr. (Earnhardt’s former crew chief), was supposed to be working amongst the two teams. I probably saw him once at Daytona and never saw him again after that.
“When you’re a single-car team in a multi-car organization, that’s not going to work.”
Rondeau said he wasn’t aware of the communication problem between him and Junior.
“What he got during the race was what he asked for,” continued Rondeau, “During the first two races I was giving too much, but he didn’t want to know the changes (to the car). He just wanted to be the driver and let me be the crew chief, so I backed off.
“The latest thing I heard was he wasn’t getting enough. I’m not sure he knew what he wanted. Maybe he just wanted somebody to argue with on the radio, and I wasn’t interested.”
Where there is NASCAR, there are big bucks.
A good example of this is happening in the Charlotte, NC area.
Race track mogul Bruton Smith suggested last week that a monorail be built to connect a proposed NASCAR Hall of Fame to Lowe's Motor Speedway, and pledged $50 million of his personal funds to jump-start the effort.
In pledging his own money, Smith said he was proving his commitment.
"I am not interested in looking down the road to 2010 or something stupid like that," said Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc. "I want to get this done now."
Meanwhile Charlotte’s bid for the NASCAR Hall of Fame is not a done deal. While the State Legislature has approved an increase in the state’s lodging tax, there is still the need for another $20 million. That’s on top of the already projected $139 million.
All three of the major NASCAR touring series will be at Dover, Delaware this weekend.
Friday, June 3, Craftsman Trucks MBNA 200, race 8 of 25, 200 laps/200 miles, 4:30 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, June 4, Busch Series MBNA 200, race 14 of 35, 200 laps/200 miles, 1 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Sunday, June 5, Nextel Cup MBNA 400, race 13 of 36, 400 laps/400 miles, 12:30 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Racing Trivia Question: How old is Ken Schrader, driver of the No. 49 Schwan’s Dodge?
Last Week’s Question: What is Tony Stewart’s real name? Answer. It is Anthony Wayne Stewart.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com. You may write him at P. O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL 36616.
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