By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
SHIPPENSBURG -- The 2013 PIAA track and field championship meet will long be remembered for its near wintry conditions. But for six Valley male athletes and 15 Valley athletes, the memories will be about their trips to the medals podium at Shippensburg University.
Six individuals and three relay teams returned with medals on the second and final day of the meet at windy Seth Grove Stadium.
Leading the way were a pair of fourth-place individual finishers — Southern Columbia's Joey Kleman in the Class AA 100 and Lewisburg's Sean Walker in the AA 1,600 -- and the Milton 400 relay team of Tyrel Kling, Brandon Rogers, Trevor Zimmerman and Chris Reuss in Class AAA.
Kleman was a double medalist, also placing fifth in the 200.
The other Valley medalists were: Southern's Luke Rarig, sixth in the AA 110 high hurdles; Danville's Tyler Vella, eighth in the AA 1,600; Southern's Cody Pavlick, fifth in the AA discus; the Lewisburg 1,600 relay team of Will Sumfest, Walker, Nick Scullin and Udoka Eze, seventh in 3:31.92; and Southern 3,200 relay team of Dylan Swank, Jansen Ring, Tony Chiviaroli and Andrew Steely, eighth in 8:16.39.
Southern, now the two-time defending district champion, scored 15 points to finish tied with North Schuylkill for 14th in the team standings.
Kleman, a senior who will compete in track and possibly football at Bloomsburg University, said, "I felt pretty strong coming out in the 100, but I got lucky. I thought I might have jumped (the start) a little bit in the semifinals."
He said he felt like he had a good start in the finals and finished strong.
In the 200, he said, "The wind played a major factor, but I thought I did decently going into the final.
Kleman ran an 11.07 in both the semis and the final in the 100, and a 22.72 in the 200 semis, and a 23.04 in the final.
Walker, who was part of a strong District 4 class which sent a strong contingent (eight qualifiers, six in the finals) to the state meet in the 1,600, said the strong wind meant he had to run a tactical race, follow the leaders' moves and try to match them, then finish strong.
"My plan from the start was to get out hard, get out quick and don't get caught in the pack," said Walker, who finished in 4:30.29.
Although he got passed by the second-and third-place runners on the final lap. Walker said "I'm happy with fourth. I tried to match their moves and get a final kick, but it wasn't enough."
Walker will continue his track and cross country career at Division I Furman University in South Carolina.
Vella said, "I thought the race started out like a perfect race, but the wind, no one ran well. It was really rough.
"That turn over here (the fourth), it was a complete wall," the junior said. "I tried my hardest but I couldn't do anything. I'm glad I slipped through and got eighth (in 4:35.96)."
He added that his main goal was to get on the podium and now he is excited about next year.
Milton's relay team was the surprise of the meet, at least among the Valley's entries.
In its first year in AAA, Milton took a 22nd-seeded relay team and finished fourth.
Anchor Reuss said, "Honestly we were just thrilled to be here. We thought we could do well, but we weren't 100 percent sure. We figured we had nothing to lose, so we went for it and we ended up getting fourth."
Reuss added, "We definitely came out of nowhere."
Zimmerman, who returned to track this year after a season off, opened the season on the injury list and said he battled injuries all year. The 400 relay team was assembled less than a month ago.
Zimmerman, who ran the third leg, said, "I basically had to push through it. In reality, we probably wouldn't have made it to states. I had to suck it up for the team. It was my senior year and I didn't want to sit out."
Leadoff runner Kling said, "We had to battle through districts with Williamsport and then to win districts and now come to states being 22nd out of 24, to beat out so many teams ahead of us in the conditions (Friday), when it was rainy, cold and windy, it's amazing to be here."
"From 22nd to fourth, not too bad," second leg Brandon Rogers was heard saying after the medals presentation.
Eze, who won his own 7th-place medal Friday in the triple jump, took the relay baton in eight place and battled to get that one extra place for the Green Dragons in the final event of his career.
"I didn't have to worry about anybody passing me," he said with a smile. "I took the lead at about the 300-meter mark and I just went for it. My teammates on the sideline were cheering me on so that helped a lot."
Eze said, "It feels good. It's my first-ever state meet, so to come home with two medals and have every single boy on our team who competed come home with a medal, that's pretty amazing."