SHIPPENSBURG — Deep in her heart, Payden Montana knew she could hit a new distance.
Abby Norwillo had no idea she’d reach such heights.
Yet, both Wyoming Valley Conference athletes pulled off major surprises during the field events portion on the opening day of the PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University.
Berwick’s Montana moved into the top three in the state Friday, throwing the shot put 42-01 1/2 feet to finish with a bronze medal, just before Norwillo of Pittston Area cleared 12-feet to make the medal stand in the pole vault.
Both marks were personal bests for each sophomore state medalist.
“I was aiming for it,” said Montana, who moved up five spots from her No. 8 seeding in the girls Class 3A shot put. “Competition day, it’s always more adrenaline, more energy. At districts (where state seeding is obtained), I didn’t throw as far as I did earlier in the season. I knew I had more in me.
“Third place is all I was asking for. “
Norwillo wasn’t even asking for that much.
An 18th seed coming in, the Pittston Area sophomore wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the girls Class 3A pole vault finals. But Norwillo kept clearing each height while watching 27 other competitors in the event fall out.
She cleared 12 feet faster than Spring Grove’s Nathalie Elliott, who finished sixth, and Hempfield’s Molly DeBone, who wound up seventh, before Norwillo got hung up on the 12-6 height to wind up the fifth-best pole vaulter among Class 3A girls at states.
“It’s such a shock, honestly,” said Norwillo, who was almost speechless after making the state medal stand. “I wanted to PR (set a personal record) today. That was the goal, to clear 12 feet. I’ve been working so hard for it, ever since I made it (the state meet) in districts. “
Hard work produced big dividends for a few other WVC athletes who were rewarded with state medals.
Holy Redeemer senior Caroline Banas cleared 5-4 to win her second state medal in the girls Class 2A high jump, finishing in a fourth-place tie with Lydia Bottelier of Palisades.
And the boys Class 2A long jump produced a pair of WVC medalists, as Hanover Area’s Brandon Chafin took fifth place and Mark Robinson of Meyers finished sixth.
Banas easily jumped the 5-4 height, but seemed to run out of steam when the bar moved to 5-6 on an especially hot and humid day at Shippensburg’s Seth Grove Stadium.
“I wish I cleared 5-6,” said Banas, who jumped 5-7 earlier this season. “I’m still happy I medaling and placing fourth. I hit 5-6 and I couldn’t clear it. I don’t know, I guess I didn’t have as much energy in my legs. But I’m walking away happy. That was my goal, to medal. I did.”
So did Chafin, although he fell a couple spots from his third-place seeding and dropped more than a foot from his District 2 championship jump.
“I got fifth — not really what I wanted,” said Chafin, a junior who wound up with a fifth-place jump of 22-1. “That really wasn’t what I was looking for. But I have to live with that.”
He’ll live with taking home his first state medal after bowing out early in the same state event last season.
“I’ll take it,” Chafin said. “I’m so happy I got one.”
So is Robinson, whose leap of 21-11 set a personal best by three inches and gave him a long-sought long jump medal in his final state meet at his future home. The Mohawks senior is headed to play football at Shippensburg in the fall, but he won’t join the track team.
“This is the last track event of my life,” Robinson said. “I’ll never do track again. I could, but I don’t want to. So it was do-or-die. First long jump medal at states, feels great.
“I’m going to end it on a good note.”
They’re far from finished.
Meyers standout Raheem Twyman qualified first for Saturday’s 110 meter and 300-meter boys Class 2A finals after finishing the 300 hurdles with a state silver medal last year.
In Class 2A, Meyers sprinter Nalasjia Harris-Johnson will run the girls Class 2A 100 dash semifinals, while Nanticoke Area freshman Amiah Lukowski and Wyoming Area senior Bree Bednarski qualified for the girls Class 2A 200 dash semis. Hanover Area’s Mohammad Chesson will join them in the semifinals of the boys Class 2A 200.
Holy Redeemer hurdler Autumn Kaminski made the girls 100 hurdles field along with Northwest’s Tanner Kennedy in the 100 boys sprints after qualifying Friday for the final day’s semifinals and finals. And Wyoming Valley West’s Ray Richard will join them in the boys Class 3A 400 field.
That intense action will begin at 9 a.m., when Lake-Lehman’s Syracuse-bound star Dominic Hockenbury trying to win his third straight state gold medal in the boys Class 2A 3,200-meter run. He’ll be followed by Dallas’ second-seeded girls Class 3A high jumper Katie Kravitsky, Hazleton Area’s fourth-seeded girls Class 3A javelin thrower Kayla Merkel and Berwick’s Montana, seeded fourth in the girls Class 3A discus throw, favored to win more state medals.
“I got to be here for two years, got comfortable with the situation,” Montana said. “I’m definitely looking for another podium.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski