As the sweltering temperatures started to soar, Payden Montana sought shelter under a tree.
Katie Kravitsky hid under and umbrella.
And Nalasjia Harris-Johnson tried to find a level playing field with extra liquids.
The PIAA Track and Field Championships weren’t just made uncomfortable by the searing 90-degree sun that had humidity constantly on the rise.
They were downright strength-sapping.
“I guess I can say the heat played an issue, but everybody else ran in it, too,” said Wyoming Valley West speedster Ray Richard, who finished eighth in the boys Class 3A 400-meter dash. “I felt fine. I guess it hit me during the race. It was about the second curve when I started to feel it. I could see everybody pick up. I didn’t have any more strength to give.”
The oppressive conditions probably cost Lake-Lehman’s Dominic Hockenbury a state record run, may have cost Dallas’ Katie Kravitsky a gold medal and may have kept many others from executing their best performances.
It didn’t stop Dallas senior distance standout Ally Rome from winning her first state track medal —a bronze in the girls Class 3A 3,200 run — but it did leave her feeling queasy.
“A mile in, I felt really chilled, which is obviously not good,” Rome said. “It was a really tough race with the heat.”
That meant some tough luck for Hockenbury, who ran a terrific boys Class 2A 3,200 run while winning his third consecutive PIAA gold medal in the event. The Syracuse-bound senior completed the first six laps in just over 6:30, but his lightning pace slowed a step over the final two times around the track.
“I definitely started to feel the heat there,” Hockenbury said.
He wound up winning in 9:13.70, just short of the state-record time of 9:04.09 he was gunning for.
“Under the right conditions, I know I can run that,” Hockenbury said. “I’m just happy with the pace I’m running. I got on that pace. If I had people right around me or in front of me, I would have been pushing it.”
Meyers sprinter Harris-Johnson pushed herself to a third straight PIAA medal in the girls Class 2A 100 dash with a sixth-place finish, but not without a little extra help. She said she drank extra fluids, but they didn’t do much to cool her as she roared down the track.
“It was really hot,” Harris-Johnson said. “I felt like passing out. I got in the shade.”
That’s where Montana stayed between throws while she was winning a bronze medal in the shot put during Friday’s girls Class 3A finals.
Despite competing at last year’s state championships, held under much cooler conditions, Montana was caught off-guard by the rising heat and humidity. So she headed for the nearest shady tree she could find, then came back better equipped for her sixth-place finish in the girls discus throw.
“I was more prepared for it because of (Friday’s) heat,” Montana said. “I drank more, I brought an umbrella.”
That was Kravitsky’s idea.
The Dallas senior sat under an umbrella between her tries as she earned her third straight state medal in the high jump with a career-best silver medal finish Saturday. But Kravitsky still felt burned in the end, as she felt the sun’s strong rays melting away the energy she needed to hit the state-winning height of 5-9 — which she’d cleared previously for a career best.
“It was really hot out and I don’t really like the heat,” Kravitsky said. “I don’t do well in the heat. I tried to give it the best I could.”
That’s about all any of the competitors could do, as the soaring temperatures sunk the potential for spectacular performances and left many athletes feeling especially drained.
“I didn’t feel quite right,” Rome said. “Just kind of fighting, I was able to hold on.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski