It's where each and every track & field athlete wants to end their respective seasons - Shippensburg University.
The "Ship" will again host the PIAA Class AA and AAA Track & Field Championships Friday and Saturday and, again, Warren County will be very well represented.
One year after 14 athletes made the trip, a total of 13 from Warren County School District teams will compete when events get underway at 9 a.m. Friday. That includes five athletes from the Warren boys track team, four from the Sheffield boys team, two from the Warren girls team and one each from the Youngsville boys and girls track teams.
Sheffield’s Kalil Slaughter, left
Warren’s Caleb Hultman, left, and Luke Wortman
Youngsville's Cassi Swartzbaugh
Perhaps the county's best shot at a medal comes from Sheffield senior sprinter Kalil Slaughter. That's because, last year, Slaughter won a pair of PIAA medals, finishing second in the 100-meter dash and eighth in the 200. Slaughter will compete in both events again this season as well in the 4X100 relay with teammates Kwante Johnson, Deonte Clay and Dylan Reynolds. Marc Nadal is the team's alternate and will also make the trip to states.
Slaughter is seeded third in the 100 and first in the 200, and the 4X100 team has earned a 20th seed.
"There are only two-tenths of a second separating the top seven seeds in the 100," said Sheffield coach Bryan Gould. "If all those horses make the finals, it will be anybody's race and will be over in a flash. Kalil is the top seed in the 200 and there aren't many people running his times. He knows what he's up against. Last year, he lost the 100 by four one-thousandths of a second, and he's used that as motivation all season. I think he'll be at the top of his game this weekend."
In addition to D-9 titles in the 100, 200 and 4X100 relay, Slaughter also qualified for states in the long jump, but will not compete in the event in order to focus on his track activities.
The senior was a standout as a sophomore as well, advancing to states, so he's basically a seasoned veteran.
"I just want to thank everyone that's been behind me since the beginning and are still there now," said Slaughter, "and I'm doing this not just for me, but for them, too... They will know Warren County's name by the time we are all finished."
The Warren boys track team will send the most athletes to Shippensburg with five making the trip. Austin Jerman, the District 10 champion in the javelin, will be the lone Dragon to compete in the field and will enter the meet as the 26th seed in the Class AAA boys field.
Also competing for Warren will be the team's D-10 champion 4X400 team of Caleb Hultman, Luke Wortman, Tanner Rosenberg and Jordan Willetts. The team secured its second straight D-10 title at the D-10 Class AAA meet last week and is seeded 25th with a time of 3:25.74 - a school record. Wortman and Willetts were on this state relay team last year as well.
"We're kind of at the lower end of the seeding, but we're very happy with our placement in Lane 1 for our heat," said Warren boys coach Steve Norris. "That position puts us in a situation where we can chase and I think you need to chase to get better.
"As far as Austin goes, I still don't think he's thrown his best of the year," said Norris. "He and coach (Mark) Sweet have been working on technique this week and we'd love to see him throw his best of the year at states."
The Warren girls will send two-time District 10 champion Ellis Beardsley and two-time PIAA qualifier Sabrina Anderson to the PIAA meet. At the D-10 meet, Beardsley, a junior, shaved 11 seconds off her personal-best time in the 1600 and four seconds off her personal-best in the 800, winning both titles. She is seeded 26th in the 800 and 29th in the mile.
Anderson was third at the D-10 Class AAA meet, but soared over the five-foot, three-inch mark in the high jump to secure her second career trip to states (the first was as a freshman). Anderson, a junior, is seeded 16th in the event at Shippensburg, but has a chance to do much better. Earlier this season, Anderson cleared five feet, five inches to tie the school record in the event. That height would've secured her a four seed; the top seed in the event has cleared five feet, seven inches.
"Our realistic goals are to go and have a good time - no expectations," said Warren girls coach Mark Sweet. "I know that sounds cliche, but honestly this is all icing on the cake. Hopefully, the girls put together a performance they are happy with, and we'll let the chips fall where they may."
Youngsville's record-holder and District 10 Class AA champion in the 300 hurdles, senior Cassi Swartzbaugh, will make her first PIAA appearance. With her time of 45.86 seconds secured at districts, Swartzbaugh is seeded amongst the top ten at the PIAA meet in 10th.
With the top eight in each event winning PIAA medals, a placewinning performance from Swartzbaugh certainly isn't out of the question.
"If she can improve on her times the way she has all season, she can be right in the mix for the entire thing," said Youngsville girls coach John Victor. "We've been working on getting her mentally and physically prepared during this week. She's just got to run that perfect race. She's got one in her and she hasn't had it yet this season, so we're excited to see what happens."
Rocco Gatta will make his second consecutive trip to the PIAA meet, but first as an individual. Gatta was part of the sixth-place finishing 4X400 relay team at last year's PIAA Championships and will compete in the 400 individually this time around.
Gatta was second at last weekend's D-10 meet with a 51.12 second run. That time was good enough to earn him an 18th seed at states.
"Rocco's had a great week of practice and, though he's not really a high seed, he's within a half-second of many of those in front of him," said Youngsville boys coach Jeff Manelick. "He's in a fast heat and that's good for him because he's the type of runner that really prefers to chase down the competition."
Anderson will be the first county athlete to compete with the girls long jump scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday. Slaughter's preliminary race in the 100 will be at 11:30 a.m. Friday with the 4X100 relay prelims at 2 p.m. Friday and the 200 prelims at 4 p.m. Friday.
Also competing on Friday will be Gatta in the 400 prelims at 1 p.m., Swartzbaugh in the 300 hurdles prelims at 3 p.m., and Warren's 4X400 boys relay team in the prelims at 4:30 p.m.
The 100-meter dash semifinals are slated for 10:30 a.m. Saturday with the 200-meter dash semifinals at 11:30 a.m. The 100 finals are scheduled for 12:15 p.m., the 1600-meter run will take place at 12:30 p.m., and the 400 dash finals are at 1 p.m.
Rounding out the county's involvement will be the 4X100 relay finals at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, the 300-meter hurdles finals at 1:30 p.m., the 800-meter run at 1:45 p.m., the 200-meter finals at 2 p.m., and the 4X400 relay finals at 2:30 p.m. Jerman will throw the javelin at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.