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Former Lackawanna League wrestlers made an impact on the national level in the recently completed winter college sports season.
The biggest impact came from just outside Lackawanna County as Lackawanna Trail graduate Keith Gavin won a national championship for the University of Pittsburgh.
Two graduates of county high schools – Blue Ridge's Justin Herbert at Franklin & Marshall and Mountain View's Matt Panasevich at Cornell – were also prominent on the national scene.
Gavin, who never won a state title in high school, finished a perfect season by beating Steve Luke of Michigan, 3-2, in the 174-pound final at the NCAA Division I championships.
Gavin, a fifth-year senior, moved up a step after going 28-4 and finishing second a year ago.
Herbert made his way into the national rankings and the national statistical leaders in pins before settling for sixth place at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championship Tournament and falling short of a national tournament berth.
Herbert, a captain and Franklin & Marshall's top finisher, went 27-5. The junior had 17 pins, including 14 in the first period.
Panasevich opened the season in the starting lineup for nationally ranked Cornell. He finished his sophomore season 5-13.
The Lackawanna League's presence in college wrestling extended beyond the Division I level. Dave Morgan of West Scranton repeated as Division III national champion at 133 pounds for King's College.
Amanda Vitzakovitch, a 5-foot-8 guard from Forest City, completed her career with a successful NCAA Division II women's basketball team.
Vitzakovitch played in all 28 games, making 11 starts, while helping West Chester finish 19-9, including 9-3 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Division.
Vitzakovitch averaged 4.7 points and 1.6 rebounds while adding 17 assists and 17 steals. She shot 53-for-139 (38.1 percent) from the floor; 17-for-58 (29.3 percent) on 3-pointers and 8-for-10 (80.0 percent) from the line.
Several players, particularly those from the successful Montrose girls' and Mountain View boys' programs, were effective on the local Division III level.
Amanda Lass, a 6-foot-1 sophomore center from Montrose, was an honorable mention all Pennsylvania Athletic Conference selection for the second straight year.
Lass helped Marywood University to a 13-12 record by leading the team in scoring (11.4 per game) and rebounding (7.2 per game) as well as blocked shots (28). She shot 69-for-86 (80.2 percent) from the line while starting in 21 of the 25 games.
Caitlin Ely, a 5-foot-6 freshman guard, also played all 25 games for Marywood, averaging 3.2 points and 2.1 assists.
Brittany Ely played in 16 games and started 14 at Wilkes University, which struggled through a 2-23 season. Ely, a 5-foot-7 freshman guard/forward, averaged 5.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists.
Leah Simko, a 5-foot-6 sophomore guard/forward from Mountain View, had the top 3-point shooting percentage on Keystone College's 15-12 team. Simko hit 40.7 percent on 11-for-27 shooting while averaging 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds.
Matt Hornak of Montrose and Robbie Johnson of Mountain View helped Misericordia University to a 19-10 men's basketball season.
Hornak, a 6-foot-5 forward, completed his career by leading the team in rebounds (6.6 per game) and blocked shots (25) while scoring 9.4 points per game.
Johnson, a 6-foot freshman guard, was the first player off the bench. He averaged 5.6 points and 1.5 assists while playing 22 minutes per game.
L.B. Feduchak and Nick Stoud, both former Mountain View guards, played at Marywood.
Feduchak started all nine games that he played. The 5-foot-11 sophomore averaged 4.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Stoud, a 5-foot-9 freshman, appeared in 23 games and averaged 2.5 points. He made one start.
Nicole Chaszar, who played at Montrose and Temple University, guided the Western New England College women's basketball team to an 18-11 record in her third season as head coach. The team shook off a 4-6 start to win 12 of 14 games at one point and reach the ECAC Division III New England Tournament.
During the indoor track and field season, Amber Gaffey and Nick Staats established themselves as their teams' top pole vaulters.
Gaffey, a former state champion from Susquehanna, is a freshman at Division I Towson University.
Staats, a sophomore from Montrose, is at DeSales University.
Tim Robinson from Blue Ridge set Keystone College records in the 55-meter hurdles and high jump.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
Hamlin And Toyota Win At Martinsville, Martinsville, VA – Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Fed-Ex Toyota took the lead in Sunday’s Goody’s Cool Orange 500 from Jeff Burton on lap 424 and led the remaining 76 laps. It was Hamlin’s first win of the season and the second for Toyota.
Denny Hamlin, winner of Sunday's Martinsville race.
“This was the first Virginia win for me,” said Hamlin of Chesterfield, VA. “Hopefully, the curse of (not) winning in my home state is over.
“We’ve had a lot of bad luck these past few weeks, and it feels good to come here and get a win in front of the hometown fans.”
Jeff Gordon led 90 laps and appeared to have a shot at winning, but ran out of laps, and had to settle for second.
“It was an awesome race,” said Gordon. “There was a lot of swapping of the lead, but it came down to pit strategy, and Denny and his guys did an awesome job.
“My car just never would go on the last two sets of tires. It was a handful.”
Jeff Burton followed up last week’s win at Bristol with a third at Martinsville.
“I ran the 11-car (Hamlin) back down, and I thought it was going to be a pretty good chase, but that kid in the 00 car (Michael McDowell), he better learn some manners, or he’s going to get taught.”
Jimmie Johnson, who was going for his fourth Martinsville victory, had a good and bad day. He was bumped from behind midway of the race and wound up in the back of the field. He was able to work his way forward to finish fourth.
“I feel like we had a shot to win today, and we did get up in the top-5,” said Johnson. “I’m not exactly sure what went on, but losing track position cost us a better finish.
“It was just short track racing.”
Kyle Busch had mechanical problems and finished 38th, 67 laps down. He dropped from leading the points to fourth.
Top ten order of finish: 1. Denny Hamlin, 2. Jeff Gordon, 3. Jeff Burton, 4. Jimmie Johnson, 5. Tony Stewart, 6. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 7. Casey Mears, 8. Jamie McMurray, 9. Carl Edwards, 10. Clint Bowyer.
Top ten Chase Contenders after 6 of 36: 1. Burton-915, 2. Harvick-876, 3. Biffle-855, 4. Earnhardt-846, 5. Kyle Busch-831, 6. Stewart-811, 7. Kahne-786, 8. Hamlin-758, 9. J. Gordon-749, 10. Johnson-746.
NOTE: The Nationwide Series did not race this past weekend.
Should Craftsman Trucks Race More? NASCAR is on a campaign to recapture its core fans. Most of the fans I hear from say the racing action in the Craftsman Truck Series is often better than the Sunday show put on by the Cup teams.
Maybe NASCAR should put some additional effort into extending the series schedule.
The Truck teams have a 25-race schedule, whereas the Cup season goes 36 races, plus two exhibition races.
“They need to even the Craftsman Trucks out,” said Pam W. of Camden, South Carolina. “They start in February, but have several weekends off. Then as they near the end of the season, they have back-to-back races.
“It seems like they just fit the trucks in any time or place they can. They really have the best racing of any series.
“I would like to see them run a 32-35 race schedule. I know the purses aren’t what they need, but maybe a few added races would help get better sponsors.”
So why not add some more race dates to their schedule?
What is worrisome for the truck series is the declining number of trucks.
The Martinsville race was the first time since the season opener at Daytona that the truck series had a full field. The San Bernardino County 200 at California Speedway had a field of 35, just one short of a full field, but the American Commercial Lines 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway saw a field of only 32.
The truck series was originally known as the NASCAR SuperTruck Series. In 1995, some road racers in California approached NASCAR about adding truck racing to oval tracks.
The first race was February 15, 1995 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mike Skinner won the race.
For the first few years the series only ran at small venues like Bakersfield, California, Nashville Fairgrounds, and even at some quarter-mile tracks. It wasn’t until 2000 the series moved to Daytona.
What started out as a low budget series soon turned into a big budget operation.
Trucks aren’t big money teams. Kyle Busch is the current points leader. After two races into the season, he had won $120,900 in the Truck series. After racing at the same two tracks (Daytona and California) in a Cup car, he had total earnings of $806,988.
It’s hard to expect the trucks to run a Cup schedule on Truck money.
Truck teams don’t have a crew of a hundred like the Cup teams. Most have only 10-15 employees, while some make do on much less.
Right now, there are no younger drivers being hired to work their way into the series, and no older Cup drivers who want to retire to the Trucks.
The excitement is there. I hope NASCAR can come up with a fix that will put more money into the team bank accounts. They also need to spread the races out more evenly. I think adding a couple races would be better than having the teams out of action for two weeks at the time.
I think there needs to be more Truck events, but they do not need to be run in conjunction with the Cup or Nationwide weekends.
But trucks, just like cars, run on money. Until more money can be found for the truck teams, I don’t think we can expect to see any additional race dates.
Top ten Craftsman Truck Series leaders after 4 of 25: 1. Kyle Busch-645, 2. Bodine-610, 3. Hornaday-580, 4. Setzer-578, 5. Crawford-576, 6. Crafton-539, 7. Starr-534, 8. Darnell-527, 9. Benson-501, 10. Cook-499.
Next Week: Career Highlights of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
If you have a story about Dale Sr. that you would like to share, send it to us. If we use it, we will send you an 8X10 photo of him. E-mail: email@example.com, or The Racing Reporter, P O Box 160711, Mobile, AL 36616.
The Cup and Nationwide teams are at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway near Ft. Worth, TX. The Craftsman Trucks do not race again until April 26.
Saturday, April 5: Nationwide Series O’Reilly 300, 2:30 p.m. TV: ESPN2.
Sunday, April 6: Sprint Cup Samsung 500, 334 laps, 1:30 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: How did Dale, Sr. come to be tagged with the name, “Intimidator?”
Last Week’s Question: Cup driver Paul Menard hasn’t exactly been racing with the leaders. Which team does he drive for? Answer: He drives the No. 15 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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