The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

March 27, 2014

Boys track: HAC season gets underway amid cold weather

SUNBURY — Races for division titles in the Heartland Athletic Conference will soon heat up, with some key dual meets on the schedule next week.

Coaches and athletes hope that the weather will do the same.

Even the teams with access to all-weather facilities have struggled to work out because of the cold, as well as the ice and snow.

“This is the worst (spring weather) since I moved to this area,” said Selinsgrove coach Ryan McGuire.

Joked Southern Columbia’s Lanny Connor, “I never knew that track was a winter sport.”

Things are so bad that McGuire hopes his stadium will be ready for the HAC-I home opener versus Shikellamy on Tuesday.

The sub-zero temperatures did more than dampen spirits. It resulted in frozen pipes and, as of mid-week, no running water was available in the restrooms and shower rooms at Harold L. Bolig Memorial Field.

But once things get back to normal for this time of year, track fans should be treated to some competitive meets.

The defending division (and District 4 Class AAA) champion Seals, despite losing several prospective returners for a variety of reasons, should be in good position to defend the title.

Then there is the big dog: Williamsport. With its advantage in attracting large numbers of talented athletes, is always one of the first teams mentioned by the division coaches as a top threat to win

Also expected to challenge is Lewisburg, which, despite being Class AA, seems to be able to match Selinsgrove in numbers, which translates into depth.

The Green Dragons and Seals will meet in Selinsgrove on April 22.

McGuire said he lost a lot of talent to graduation but is pleased with the athletes he has. “Our division is very challenging, very competitive, and I am anxious to see what we can do with them,” he said.

“Williamsport is always reloading; they seem to always have talent there. Lewisburg has some big numbers, and you can’t count other teams in the division out; there’s a lot of talent out there,” McGuire added.

Lewisburg coach Mark Sundberg needs to replace 20 graduates, but has 59 athletes on his roster.

Sundberg said in his preseason outlook that many of the younger athletes are hungry and, he hopes, will feed off the strong leadership of the returning veterans. If that happens, he believes the athletes will quickly gain the kind of experience needed to do well in the competitive HAC-I.

“Williamsport and Selinsgrove have to be considered the favorites,” he said. “We will have to be on our A-game for every meet, but I think we’ve shown we are capable of rising to that expectation.”

Sundberg added, “It is definitely going to be another exciting year for track and field in PHAC Division I and we fully expect to be right in the middle of all that excitement.”

Shikellamy coach Jim Bell, as always, said the team has a hopeful outlook for the season. He agreed that Williamsport, loaded with new and old talent, and Selinsgrove, with a solid nucleus and a great tradition, are again the teams to beat.

The Braves will be led by talented senior sprinter and hurdler Ryan Wary and should see improvement in the jumps with the return of senior Garrett Kemberling, who missed last season because of a football injury.

Shamokin was already inexperienced coming into the season, then lost standout sprinter and senior leader Danny Delbaugh for the season to knee surgery from a basketball injury.

“When Danny Delbaugh went down, that took away a big part of what we were going to do. Our focus was going to be all relays,” Indians coach Mike Rogers said. “Danny runs two relays, and we had some guys who didn’t come out for the team this year and that also hurts our relays.”

He said, “We’re taking guys who should have been running and learning and now have to be put to the forefront and that’s going to be a downfall for us. But, on the positive side, the guys who are here are working. We’re going to take our lumps but I think in the long run we’re going to be OK.”

Of the division, Rogers said all of the teams in the division have athletes, and even last-place Mifflinburg always comes up with guys who can score points.

“It’s not going to be easy for us. My expectations is that we grow one week to the next and get into districts and run our best times there,” he said.  

Jersey Shore, once a perennial contender, fell off the pace the past two seasons.

But the Bulldogs have a solid group of returnees, led by talented three-sport athlete senior jumper Utoah Agae-Naipo.

Coach Sam Belle’s Millionaires are often an enigma, but more often than not, they have enough top-caliber athletes to win duals.

Top point-scores Weston Cuozzo (hurdles) and Chet Schwoyer (distance), both seniors, return.

As Rogers alluded to, Mifflinburg, although winless, also has potential to score enough points to make things interesting.

The Wildcats have three underclassmen that had outstanding 2013 seasons, led by junior Easton Plummer, the Valley’s top pole vaulter last year. Also returning are mid-distance, distance runner, junior Levi Ebersole, and sophomore distance standout Quincy Amabile.

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