All the offseason workouts, practices and regular season meets and invitationals have led to this moment. At long last, the chance to compete against the best that District 10 Class AAA has to offer and advance to the PIAA meet is here.
A total of 36 Warren Area High School track & field athletes will be looking to lock up a berth to the PIAA Championships at Shippensburg University at the D-10 Class AAA Track & Field Championships Wednesday at Harbor Creek High School.
Field events will begin at 3 p.m. with track events starting at 4 p.m. Only the District 10 champion and those meeting state qualifying times and distances will advance to next weekend's PIAA meet in Shippensburg.
Ellis Beardsley, left
A season ago, Warren sophomore Summer Walter was the D-10 champion in both the 100 and 300 hurdles events. Walter transferred at the end of last school year and no longer competes for the Dragons. The boys' 4X400 relay team of Luke Wortman, Jordan Willetts, Allen Burnett and Matt Stapleford also advanced to states last season with a D-10 title victory in the event. Burnett and Stapleford graduated, but Willetts and Wortman are back in the event alongside teammates Brad Simmons and Caleb Hultman.
Warren girls coach Mark Sweet has one of the largest groups he has ever taken to districts competing on Wednesday. In all, 22 Lady Dragons athletes will compete in at least one event with all three relay teams and six individuals listed among the top five seeds.
"I don't think we could've had a better scenario to end the season," said Sweet. "All of our girls appear to be peaking at the right time and that's really what we're most excited about. The times and distances were getting better every time out and that's really all you can ask for at the end of the season."
A pair of second seeds will lead Warren's charge into districts. Junior Sabrina Anderson is seeded second in the 400 and classmate Ellis Beardsley is seeded second in the 800 just ahead of teammate and third-seed Paige Rimer. Freshman Anna Falvo makes it three Lady Dragons in the 800 with a 16th seed.
Anderson is also listed among the top four seeds in two additional events - the high jump and the 200. After tying the school record of five feet, five inches as well as matching the Warren County Track Meet record of five feet, two inches last week, Anderson is seeded third in the long jump. She boasts a fourth seed in the 200-meter dash. Tori Paris will join Anderson in the high jump as a sixth seed and Casey Kulka and Kaitlyn Levesque will also compete in the 200.
"We have high hopes in a lot of different areas," said Sweet. "We'd love to send a couple of girls to states. All we can do is go out there and try to run, jump or throw a personal best and let the chips fall where they may. Our girls have the talent to do it."
All three of the Dragons' relay squads will enter Wednesday as three seeds. The 4X800 team will include Amy Castagnino, Sydney Paris, Falvo and Rimer, the 4X400 team has Beardsley, Kulka, Falvo and Rimer and the 4X100 team will feature Anderson, Brooke Armanini, Levesque and Kulka.
Rounding out the team's athletes seeded among the top five will Beardsley who is fifth in the 1600. Castagnino will also compete in the mile as a 10th seed.
While the top five seeds make up an impressive list, those aren't the only Lady Dragons representing the school at districts.
Also qualifying for districts and competing on Wednesday are Lindsay Onuffer (6th-110 hurdles, 8th-300 hurdles), Rachel Lasecki (9th-110 hurdles, 12th-300 hurdles), Kulka (7th-100), Levesque (10th-100), Castagnino (7th-3200), Armanini (6th-long jump, 13th-triple jump), Ashley Barker (16th-long jump), McKenzie Merenick (17th-long jump, 15th-triple jump), Amy Castagnino (16th-triple jump), Nikki Atkins (10th-shot), Emily Sherman (11th-shot), Reid Yarzabek (8th-discus), Amanda Pinkerton (10th-discus), Justine Fox (9th-javelin), Teah Bines (11th-javelin) and Izzy Owen (12th-javelin).
Like the girls side of things, Warren boys coach Steve Norris is also excited about the chances of his 14 athletes competing on Wednesday. Qualifying athletes for the PIAA competition would be the icing on the cake for a season that included a Region 3 championship for the Warren boys.
"Everybody's healthy. At this point in the season, that's one of the biggest things," said Norris. "It's been such a special season and we're very excited about the opportunities we have tomorrow. There are no losers at this point. All these kids have worked so hard to get here and now they just have to go out there and do what they've done all season."
Warren's boys team also features some of the event's lower seeds. Two of the three relay teams - including the defending D-10 champion 4X400 team - are seeded among the top five as are individuals in the 400, 300 hurdles and javelin.
The 4X400 relay team will be looking to win its second straight D-10 title and will feature Simmons, Wortman, Willetts and Hultman this time around. The team is seeded second for Wednesday and the 4X800 team of Simmons, Rob Bablak, Hultman and Tanner Rosenberg is seeded third. Also competing from the 10th seed will be the 4X100 team of Bablak, Austin Jerman, Dakota Matson and Kyle Kulka.
"We thought we may be the top seed in the 4X400 relay, but we came in second and that's okay," said Norris. "Anything can happen on any given day. We haven't really been pushed yet this season and I think we can run a 3:26 if everything goes right. We're right there. We just have to see what happens."
Jerman and Rosenberg hold the team's best individual spots as second seeds. Jerman is seeded second in the javelin and Rosenberg is second in the 400. Both will be the only Dragon team members to compete in those events.
The team's final two top-five seeds are featured in the same event with Wortman the fourth seed and Nathan Zigler the fifth seed in the 300 hurdles.
Competing for the Dragons in additional events will be Zigler (6th-110 hurdles), Willetts (12th-100), Simmons (8th-1600, 9th-3200), Christian Harrington (13th-1600, 14th-3200), Mark Davis (6th-high jump, 16th-long jump, 12th-triple jump), Kulka (21st-long jump), Chris McNeal (8th-shot, 17th-discus) and Geoff Stewart (13th-discus).