---- — By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
ELYSBURG -- Last season was one Lanny Conner will never forget.
He guided his Southern Columbia Tigers to a perfect track and field season, winning the Heartland Athletic Conference-Division III and District 4 Class AA championships.
Despite a move up to the more challenging HAC-II and some key graduation losses, the Tigers were primed to at least be among the division contenders.
The Tigers will have to do it without their head coach. Three weeks ago, Conner was hospitalized for a serious medical condition. The 13-year head coach is recovering at home, but has passed the baton to assistant coach Tom Donlan.
The latter, who was the girls head coach last season, is serving as interim coach in Conner's stead.
Donlan admitted he is scrambling after getting the job so late, but the good news is that Conner is recovering well.
As for his team, Donlan said, the Tigers should be competitive in the mid-distance and distance events with junior Andrew Steely and seniors Dylan Swank and Anthony Chivaroli; the sprints with seniors Bryce Parry and Joe Kleman; and the hurdles with junior Luke Rarig. Despite the lost of state shot put medalist Tom Schetroma, Donlan expects to do well in the throws with junior returnees Cody Pavlick and Josh Tripp.
"We are looking forward to the new challenge of going into Division II," he said.
Donlan added that the competition level will be a challenge, the Tigers are looking forward to the season. The Tigers will open up by competing in the Selinsgrove High School Classic on Saturday, then begin their HAC-II schedule at home versus defending HAC-II champion Mount Carmel on Tuesday. Neither team has lost a meet in more than three years.