Source: Paul Sokoloski | Times LeaderRaheem Twyman of Meyers wins the 300 hurles at the PIAA championships.
SHIPPENSBURG —His eyes scanned Seth Grove Stadium one final time as Dominic Hockenbury delighted in another golden moment.
Hours later, Raheem Twyman looked to the skies in thanks for his first.
From the Wyoming Valley Conference’s first state title to its last, both winners sure had a way of capturing attention.
Lake-Lehman’s Hockenbury breezed to his third straight state championship in the boys Class 2A 3,200 run Saturday, while Twyman of Meyers finally found that elusive state gold he’s spent his whole high school career chasing by making a mad dash at the fnish to win the boys Class 2A 300 hurdles in the PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University.
“Lsst year, I didn’t have enough in me to give that little push at the end,” said Twyman, who was nosed out for the 2015 300 hurdles state championship. “This year, I just knew I needed to pull energy out of somewhere.”
Hockenbury was hardly pushed at all, winning his race in 9:13.70 — more than seven seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
Then the finality of one of the most dominant high school distance careers in PIAA history hit him.
“I won’t be here again next year,” Hockenbury said. “This is one of the last runs in awhile where I’ll be able to lap the field.”
He has that method down to a science.
Hockenbury beat the final finishers around the track while challenging the state record for three-quarters of the way. He fell just short of setting a new mark, but no matter.
With two cross country gold medals and a run of three consecutive state track titles, the Syracuse-bound senior leaves Lehman as one of the most decorated runners in PIAA championship history.
“I’m either tied, close to or have the most state titles of anybody in history,” Hockenbury said he was told. “That’s not something many people get to do.
“I’m really cherishing that.”
A handful of other competitors from the Wyoming Valley Conference joined him in holding state medals dear.
Dallas high jumper Katie Kravitsky hit a height of 5-8 to earn a silver medal in the girls Class 3A high jump, Hazleton Area’s Kayla Merkel fired the javelin 147-07 feet to also take second place, while Twyman also added a silver medal to his collection in the boys Class 2A 110 hurdles.
After two years of state heartache, Dallas distance runner Ally Rome ran through a case of the chills on a steamy, hot day to earn a bronze medal in the girls Class 3A 3,200 run. The performance was a testament to an unbreakable will that refused to let her body deny her a trip to the medal stand again.
Wyoming Valley West junior Ray Richard collected his second straight state medal when he placed eighth in the boys Class 3A 400 dash, while Northwest’s Tanner Kennedy grabbed a seventh-place medal in the boys Class 2A 200.
Berwick’s Payden Montana had a dashing finish, taking sixth in the girls Class 3A discus throw to earn her second state medal of the weekend after her bronze medal shot put performance Friday. Meanwhile, Meyers junior sprinter Nalasjia Harris-Johnson finished sixth in the girls Class 2A 100-meter dash to earn her third consecutive state medal in that event.
That Hockenbury breezed to a third straight state track title surprised nobody.
He was challenged for barely a lap, broke free from the lead runners by the end of the second lap and was on pace to set the state record of 9:04.09 with two laps left. But the strength-sapping weather took a step off his pace over the last two laps.
His time didn’t make him a state record-holder, but it did give Hockenbury a comfortable victory over state silver medalist Zach Skolnekovich of Quaker Valley, who finished in 9:21.14.
“I fell off pace a little coming into the (final) mile,” Hockenbury said. “I definitely started to feel the heat out there. I’m just happy with the pace I ran.
“It feels kind of special.”
It felt like a huge relief to Twyman.
After qualifying first in both the 110 and 300 hurdles in the state’s preliminary runs, Twyman was edged out by Milton’s Ian Nieves for first place in the 110 finals.
“The 110, I just got out of the blocks a little too slow,” Twyman said. “If I could have had one more hurdle, we would have been neck and neck.”
In the 300 hurdles, he stuck his neck out.
A late push following the final hurdle led Twyman to a finishing time of 38.34, propelling him past Freeport’s Dylan Hochbein, who finished in 38.60.
It was a complete reversal of last year’s state finish, where Northwest’s Tyler Burger overcame Twyman by a nose at the finish in a thrilling 300 final.
“I didn’t want that to happen again to me,” Twyman said. “I’ve been in the second-place position. If that happened to me two years in a row, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself, especially being the favorite in two hurdles.
“My last year down here, I had to get gold.”
Kravitsky nearly grabbed one herself.
She made the height of 5-8 on her second attempt and watched two other high jumpers get hung up on that height. But on her final try, Valerie Przekop of Central Bucks South made 5-8, then cleared 5-9 to rally for the gold medal.
“Yeah, I was hoping to come in and win,” Kravitsky said. “I go in with that mentality for every meet. I gave it the best that I could. The other girl gave it a little bit more, I guess.”
Still, the second-place finish was Kravitsky’s highest of her three career state medals.
“It’s awesome,” said Kravitsky, a senior who will jump for Cincinnati next season. “I’m really thankful to have medaled again. Not really the outcome I wanted, but leaving here with second is not too bad.”
Her Mountaineers teammate Rome would have been happy with any medal.
After two years of going home without one while competing through illness and injury, Rome finally broke through. She finished the girls 3,200 in 10:44.81 to earn bronze.
“I’m really happy with my pace and how I ran,” Rome said. “It was a really tough race with the heat. A mile in, I felt really chilled, which is obviously not good. With the last two years not going well, I got a bad feeling.
“I said, ‘I just want to finish with that medal.’”
Montana got her second of the weekend to take home, hitting a personal best of 122-09 in the discus.
“I was hoping to come here and get two medals,” Montana said.
And Harris-Johnson ran a time of 12.33 to keep her streak of sprint medals running through her three-year high school career.
“I didn’t even think I’d make it to the finals,” Harris-Johnson said. “I’m excited I medaled.”
For some, securing a medal was a given.
For others, just getting one was a reason to give thanks.
“After three years of trying to get the gold,” Twyman said, “getting so close, it really means a lot to me.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski