By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- By his own admission, Ryan Wary struggled through what he expected to be an outstanding dual meet season.
"Dual meet season was tough on me. Mentally I wasn't where I needed to be," he said. "Luckily, I had a day off (Friday) and I talked to the coaches."
Still, he said he was nervous before Saturday's District 4 Class AAA championship meet at Susquehanna University's Nicholas A. Lopardo Stadium.
It didn't show.
The Shikellamy junior made up for all of that and more with a day worthy of a Most Valuable Performer Award, if there was such a thing.
Wary opened the day with a blistering 11.06-second win in the 100 meters, a school record.
While receiving congratulations on the field by his fellow competitors, little did he know that there would be two more celebrations to come.
Wary beat his closest rivals, Williamsport's Weston Cuozzo and Selinsgrove's Mike Ede with a 39.63 in the 300 intermediate hurdles, taking the other two along for the ride to the PIAA championships next week in Shippensburg.
Wary fell short of a medal with the Braves' 400 relay team, but he bounced back and won the 200 in 22.54. It was his first time running the 200 in a big weekend meet.
In the Class AAA meet, the winners and any place-winner who met the state qualifying standard advanced to the state meet. In AA, the top two and other state qualifiers moved on.
The other Valley winners in AAA were Milton's Norman Whaley, 44 feet in the triple jump; Selinsgrove's Billy Parks, 156-0 in the shot put; Shamokin's Matt Gass, 50.78 in the 400; Milton's 400 relay team of Tyrel Kling, Brandon Rogers, Trevor Zimmerman and Chris Reuss, in 43.00; Selinsgrove's Ede, 14.97 in the 110 high hurdles; Milton's Joshua Brown, 189-6 in the javelin; and Shamokin's Chris Petraskie, 6-1 high jump.
In AA, the winners were Lewisburg's Ben Frankel, 21-1 in the long jump; Southern Columbia's Luke Rarig, 15.00 in the 110 high hurdles; Southern's Joey Kleman, 11.26 in the 100 and 22.85 in the 200; Lewisburg's Udoka Eze, 44-4 in the triple jump; East Juniata's David Brantley, 40.17 in the 300 hurdles; Mount Carmel's Eric Joraskie, 49-8 ¼ in the shot put; Southern's Cody Pavlick, 150-10 in the discus; and Mount Carmel's 400 relay team of Nick Troutman, Joraskie, Elijah Duran and Christian Kelly, in 43.85.
Several other athletes advanced by meeting the standards.
In AA, Lewisburg's Brandon Smith qualified in the javelin (second in 197-1); Rarig in the 300 hurdles (second in 40.22); Mount Carmel's Rob Varano in the pole vault (third in 13-6); Lewisburg's Sean Walker in the 1,600 (second in 4:24.14); Danville's Tyler Vella, also in the 1,600 (fourth in 4:25.92); and the third- and fourth-place teams in the 1,600 relay (Lewisburg in 3:29.29 and Mount Carmel in 3:29.45 seconds, respectively).
In AAA, Milton's J.T. Fogelman in the javelin (second in 180-2) and the aforementioned Cuozzo and Ede (second and third, respectively, at 39.60 and 39.63).
Southern Columbia won the AA team title with 83 points, and Williamsport edged out Milton for the AAA crown.
Wary's previous best in the 100 had been 11.34, but he ran an 11.31 in the preliminaries. Of the final, he said, "It was the best start I had all season. It was very aggressive, the whole race was aggressive."
At the end, he said, "I didn't want to slow up, just in case someone came by; I just tried to be aggressive all the way."
He said he had not been running the 200 because they were trying to get the 1,600 relay ready for the big meets. "We figured (the 200) would be a good chance for me (Saturday)," he said.
He was surprised by his performances, but said it was something he had dreamed about. "I think about it every single day, even in the summer, I've thought about it, and for it to actually happen like this …"
Whaley was the top seed in the triple jump, but, he said, "Although I was the top seed, there were plenty of chances for somebody else to come to the front."
His winning jump came on the final one and it was 10 inches longer than his previous best.
He said the coaches told him to move back three inches because he has a tendency to land past the board, and "they told me to give it my all because I was already in first place, and to go all out."
Parks topped his own personal record by 11 feet to win the discus after finishing second but not advancing in the shot put. The senior said the disappointment of the shot put gave him incentive for the disc.
"I felt real good coming in, practice was clean and I felt like every day I got better," Parks said.
Eze's winning triple jump also came on the final attempt and he jumped a foot further than his previous best. He was also leading at the time.
"My goal for this competition was to hit the state qualifying mark in prelims (which he did), and that took a big weight off my shoulders and I could enjoy myself in the last three jumps," Eze said.
The senior said the triple jump is his first love and has been since he was a freshman.
Brantley was running out of time and events. He missed qualifying for states early in the afternoon in 110 hurdles by seven-hundredths of a second, and had a personal best in the triple jump, but failed to qualify.
He got it done by winning the 300 hurdles. "The 110s did get me a little down, but I got some good pep talks from the coaches and I realized I could come back and punch my ticket to states. I was really gunning for it in the 300s," the senior said.
He gave special credit to former EJ standout Sarah Brotzman, coach Mark Brotzman's daughter. He said the recent Shippensburg University graduate was a big help in preparing him for the race.
Noting that his highest finish in any district event last year was sixth, Brantley said, "This year, I really had my eye on the gold.''
Admitting the win was a relief, he said, "This is the biggest accomplishment I've had in sports and it's a goal I've had for a year-and-a-half now; it's the biggest goal I set for myself and it's my biggest accomplishment (until) now."