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Local Sports Scene

Dan Downton Is April Athlete of the Month

Poepperling, Hall Break League Meet Records
By Tom Robinson

Montrose pole vaulter Cory Poepperling broke a former teammate's meet record while winning a gold medal at the Lackawanna Track Conference's Bob Spagna Championships last week at Scranton Memorial Stadium.

Poepperling cleared 13 feet, a foot higher than the previous record set by Montrose's Nick Staats in 2005.

The record in the pole vault was part of a strong overall performance by Poepperling, who also finished second in the 100 hurdles in 16.41 seconds and fourth in the high jump at 5-8.

Montrose teammate Cody DeBoer was second in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet.

Several girls had strong efforts to help Blue Ridge place third in the Class AA team points race while Montrose was fifth.

Blue Ridge's Allison Hall won the most exciting race of the night, finishing the 800 in 2:23.11 to beat Nicole Smith of Abington Heights by .02 seconds and take more than a second off the previous record held by Kim Meyer, also of Abington Heights.

Montrose's Sarah Kimsey tied the high jump record by winning with a height of 5-4.

Carmen Van Ness and Christy DeMichele of Montrose and Kaitchen Dearborn of Blue Ridge also won events.

Van Ness won the discus with a throw of 109-0.

DeMichele gave Montrose a sweep of the pole vault by clearing 9-6.

Dearborn won the javelin with a throw 110-2.

Blue Ridge's Meagan Lewis finished second in both the 1600 (5:28.65) and 3200 (12:06.49).

The Lady Raiders took third in the 3200 relay in 10:13.40.

Western Wayne won the Class AA team title, beating out Scranton Prep, 63-60. Blue Ridge had 57 1/2 points, Montrose had 37 and Susquehanna had 6 1/2 while taking 10th.

Lakeland won the Class AA boys' championship over Scranton Prep, 75-73. Montrose was fifth with 37 and Blue Ridge was 10th with 10.

Abington Heights, coached by Susquehanna native Frank Passetti, ran away with both Class AAA championships. The Lady Comets outscored second-place Honesdale, 136-58, while the Comets easily defeated North Pocono, 112-54.

Justin Passetti, the coach's son, tied his own record in the high jump at 6-4. Passetti also won the long jump at 40-8 3/4 and finished fourth in the 100 hurdles in 16.55 seconds.


Chris Minard scored his third game-winner and eighth total goal of the postseason Friday night to lead the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a series-clinching, 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phantoms.

After losing the first game and falling behind, 4-1, in the second, the Penguins rallied to win the Calder Cup playoff quarterfinal series four games to one. The Penguins took the American Hockey League East Division playoff title with the win and advanced to the Calder Cup semifinals.

The Penguins won Game Two, 5-4, in overtime, scoring four straight goals to start an 18-7 dominance in the final three-plus games of the series.

Dustin Jeffrey and Tim Wallace also scored in Game Five while John Curry made 22 saves.

In boys' tennis, all four Susquehanna County entries were knocked out in the second round of the District 2 Class AA singles tournament after receiving first-round byes.

Aaron Boner of Elk Lake battled Sean Hanahue of Holy Cross before falling, 6-4, 6-4. Teammate Matt Walters opened against sixth-seeded Nick Strzeletz of Wyoming Seminary and lost, 6-1, 6-1.

Montrose's Davis Harris lost to Tunkhannock's Kyle Christy, 6-1, 6-4, while teammate Zach Warriner was beaten, 6-0, 6-2, by North Pocono's Jared Brown.

Montrose finished the Lackawanna League season in a three-way tie for 11th while Elk Lake was last in the 15-team league.

The final standings were: Scranton Prep 14-0, Abington Heights 13-1, Wallenpaupack 12-2, Honesdale and Delaware Valley 10-4, Valley View and Western Wayne 9-5, Scranton 7-7, Dunmore 6-8, Holy Cross 5-9, North Pocono, Montrose and West Scranton 3-11, Riverside 1-13 and Elk Lake 0-14.

In boys' volleyball, Mountain View improved to 9-1 to hold on to the Lackawanna League lead.

In softball, Blue Ridge moved into a tie with Carbondale for the Lackawanna League Division 3 lead at 11-1 heading into a game that was scheduled to be made up Tuesday.

In AAU basketball, three of the four 21 Hoops teams ended their seasons at the Backcourt Hoops Classic in Scranton.

The 16U team, coached by Lawrence Tompkins, finished 1-2 in the event.

The 14U team, coached by John Smith, went winless in three games.

The 13U team, coached by Jeff Evans, went 1-2 while playing three games that were decided by a total of 10 points.

The 17U team still has upcoming competition.


Kat Lucenti, a sophomore pitcher from Elk Lake, was a first-team Pennsylvania Athletic Conference softball all-star for Misericordia University.

Lucenti went 17-3 with a 2.05 earned run average and three shutouts while helping Misericordia finish second in the PAC. She pitched 22 games, including 19 starts and 14 complete games. In 130 innings, she allowed 111 hits and 40 walks while striking out 95.

Misericordia is 32-12 overall.


The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins open the Calder Cup semifinals at home with games Wednesday and Thursday against the Portland Pirates. The series continues Sunday and Tuesday in Maine.

In boys' tennis, the District 2 doubles tournament is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

In boys' volleyball, the quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, May 19-20.

In high school baseball, the District 2 Class A quarterfinals are scheduled for Tuesday, May 20.

TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached at

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By Gerald Hodges

The Racing Reporter

Busch’s Darlington Win Greeted By Boos, Darlington, SC – Although he and "The Track Too Tough To Tame" exchanged blows, Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&Ms Indiana Jones Toyota triumphed Saturday night, winning the Dodge Challenger 500 before a sellout crowd at historic Darlington Raceway.

Kyle Busch celebrates his Saturday night win at Darlington.

As the Victory Lane interview was broadcast over the public address system, a chorus of boos rained down from the grandstands at Darlington Raceway.

“These guys love it. They love the noise that the fans make,” Busch said in retort. “So keep it up, everybody.”

Busch earned his third win and eighth top-10 finish of 2008. He also led seven times for a race-high 169 laps, capturing his first Darlington victory and his ninth in 125 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. He remains the series' standings leader for the second consecutive week.

Carl Edwards finished second, followed by Jeff Gordon in third, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in fourth and David Ragan in fifth. Saturday's event was the first on Darlington's newly-paved surface, which yielded a new track-record average speed of 140.350 mph.

“First of all, my hat’s off to Kyle,” said Edwards. “Man, I wanted to beat him bad. I wanted to beat him so bad. Now we’re tied for wins. I wanted to keep him down a little bit, but he did a great job. I tore it up just a little bit on the left-front, but I definitely had a good time – a lot better time than last night. The new surface is growing on me. It’s alright.

“Anytime you see somebody running that well, that Gibbs bunch is running really well and you want to beat ‘em. A lot of times this year we’ve had some good battles and they do a great job, so my hat’s off to ‘em. They earned this win, that’s for sure.”

Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Dave Blaney, and Jeff Burton rounded out the top 10 finishers.

Polesitter Greg Biffle, who appeared to have the dominant car, retired with engine problems after 234 laps. He finished 43rd despite leading seven times for 95 laps. Jeff Gordon led three times for 24 laps; Dale Earnhardt, Jr. four times for 35 laps.

Top 10 Chase Contenders after 11 of 36: 1. Kyle Busch-1690, 2. Burton-1611, 3. Earnhardt-1556, 4. Hamlin-1500, 5. Bowyer-1490, 6. Johnson-1442, 7. Edwards-1400, 8. Stewart-1397, 9. Harvick-1396, 10. J. Gordon-1326.

Top 10 Nationwide Series drivers after 12 of 35: 1. Bowyer-1740, 2. Kyle Busch-1628, 3. Edwards-1590, 4. Reutimann-1572, 5. Bliss-1546, 6. Ragan-1521, 7. Keselowski-1500, 8. Leffler-1480, 9. M. Wallace-1385, 10. Stremme-1327.

Who Will Fill Their Shoes? Many of the older NASCAR drivers are gone.

We lost Dale Earnhardt in 2001. Rusty Wallace no longer races. He turned in his driving helmet for a television commentator’s suit. Ricky Rudd is out. Bill Elliott and Mark Martin are running only a handful of races this season.

Morgan Shepherd is still trying to run a few Nationwide races, but his competitive Cup career is over. Jimmy Spencer said he has no plans to return to racing.

Sterling Marlin is still trying to hang on after being released at the end of last season. Dale Jarrett has one more race to run, and it’s out to pasture for him. Terry Labonte has retired, and his brother, Bobby, probably doesn’t have many years left.

Kyle Petty and Ken Schrader have almost reached the finish line.

There aren’t many full-time drivers left that are over 40. Jeff Burton is right on the border, and he is “old,” when you consider the age of the youngsters that are now behind the wheel of a Cup car.

So where does that leave all their fans?

It’s a dilemma. Most of their followers are middle aged or older, and some of the new crop of drivers have barely reached the age where they can drink alcohol legally.

Beginning in the mid-90s, NASCAR set out to bring in a new and younger fan base. They actually wanted to get rid of Earnhardt, Elliott, and Martin. By doing so, a new and younger group of fans would be brought into the sport.

That’s exactly what is happening. NASCAR has succeeded in bringing in lots of younger drivers; Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt and Kyle Busch, Juan Montoya, David Ragan, Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola, and several others.

Not many of these young drivers have gained a widespread fan support. With the exception of Johnson, Kahne, and Earnhardt, Jr., the fans aren’t with them. Now of course, I don’t mean to imply they have no fans. I mean they don’t have the large fan following most of the older drivers enjoyed.

I’ve had many fans tell me they don’t really have a favorite driver any more. Most fans I talked with aren’t able to identify with the young drivers, because they didn’t work their way through up through the ranks.

They may have loads of talent, but they lack the personality most fans want.

Steven Wallace is one example. His father Rusty has spent millions of dollars grooming him for a Cup career. Does this make him acceptable to racing fans?

To me it shows he is the son of a rich father and spoiled brat.

The older race fans watch the new kids and squirm. How can a fan that spends a week’s salary going to a race relate to the new 21-year-old who is picked up after the race by a helicopter and then flies home in a private jet?

A long time ago, drivers had to interact with fans. Now they distance themselves from the fans and go out of their way to avoid them.

Who’s going to fill the old time drivers’ shoes? Young drivers have slid into their driving seats, but they aren’t cutting it with the fans that remember Richard, Dale, Rusty, Sterling, Jimmy, and the many other racing legends.

To develop a large fan following, a driver has to develop a personality that the fans can relate to.

Right now, I don’t see any young driver, with the exception of Dale, Jr. standing out. What has happened reflects the overall change in NASCAR. It’s gone from a driver-oriented sport to a team sport.

I don’t think there will ever be another driver with a fan following like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Bill Elliott, or Rusty Wallace. I think that we, as fans are going to have to be content to rooting for the entire team, not just an individual driver.

Next Week: Can Jon Wood Revive the Wood Brothers?


Both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Craftsman Truck teams will be at the 1.6-mile Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. The Nationwide Series has an off week.

Friday, May 16: Craftsman Trucks N. C. Education Lottery 200, 8 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.

Saturday, May 17: Sprint All-Star (non-points) Race, 7 p.m. TV: Speed Channel. Format: There will be two, 20-lap segments called the Sprint Showdown, then the All-Star race will consist of four, 25-lap segments. The winner of the Sprint Showdown will transfer to the All-Star race.

Racing Trivia Question: Which is NASCAR’s longest distance race of the season?

Last Week’s Question: Jimmy Spencer hasn’t raced since 2006. What are his future plans? Answer: Spencer has no plans to return to the racing. He says he is very content as a television analyst.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at:

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Dan Downton Is April Athlete of the Month
By Tom Robinson


Dan Downton hit just one home run this season but no Lackawanna League Division 3 baseball player has done a better job than the Susquehanna senior catcher when it comes to driving in runs.

"I've always been an RBI type of guy," Downton said. "I don't have a lot of power, but I'll adjust to the situation.

"If there are runners on second and third, I'll take the ball the opposite way. I'm always looking to see if the fielders are cheating one way."

Downton's run-producing ability – he  drove in 19 runs and scored 15 – helped  the Sabers climb through the standings this season. Susquehanna came into the final week of the season with a 9-4 record and tied for second in the division with Elk Lake.

For his efforts, Downton has been selected as the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month.

As a three-year starter at catcher and the team's clean-up hitter, Downton takes his role as a team leader seriously.

"If the team gets down, I try to bring everybody up," Downton said. "I don't want us to be a team that brings itself down."

Downton's hitting often provides that boost. He is batting .418 with seven doubles and has struck out just twice.

The catcher, who began playing baseball as an 8-year-old Little Leaguer, has traveled about as far as possible without leaving the United States in order to improve his game. Last summer, Downton was one of 12 Pennsylvania players accepted to play in Hawaii as part of the Elite Sports International program.

Dan is the son of Pete and Vickie Downton of Starrucca.

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