TRACK & FIELD: Going after it: Slew of Dragons going after District 10 titles, state berths

Wednesday has a chance to become a very special day for both the Warren girls and Warren boys track & field teams.

A total of 40 Dragon athletes – 21 girls and 19 boys – will fight for the opportunity to participate in Shippensburg at the District 10 Class AAA Track & Field Championships scheduled for Wednesday at Harbor Creek High School.

Field events will begin at 3 p.m. with track competition getting underway at 4 p.m. Only the District 10 champion and those meeting state qualifying times or distances will advance to next weekend’s PIAA Class AAA Championships at Shippensburg University.

The 2012 season proved to be a special one for the Warren teams and head coaches Steve Norris (boys) and Mark Sweet (girls) hope that 2013 will provide equal – if not greater – success.

A year ago, The Lady Dragons pushed two athletes through to states with the boys sending five of their own. Ellis Beardsley, then a junior, was the D-10 champ in both the 800 and 1600 while classmate Sabrina Anderson finished third in the high jump, but met the state qualifying standard.

For the boys, Austin Jerman claimed the D-10 title in the javelin and the 4X400 relay team of Luke Wortman, Jordan Willetts, Tanner Rosenberg and Caleb Hultman also struck gold.

Sweet’s team will send 21 competitors to Harbor Creek on Wednesday, one short of last year’s total of 22. Of those athletes, Sweet says any number of them could step up and provide a state qualifying performance against the best that D-10 has to offer.

“We have a great number of girls that are going to be right there with a chance to advance and honestly I think we have a legit chance at competing for the D-10 team title as well,” said Sweet. “I’m looking forward to it. A lot of these kids have worked very hard and we have high expectations. It should be an exciting day.”

Last season, the Lady Dragons entered districts without a single top seed. That won’t be a problem this time around. Senior Brooke Armanini is seeded first in a pair of events on Wednesday. Individually she is seeded first in the girls long jump with a leap of 17 feet and one inch. Armanini is also on the top seeded 4X100 relay team (52.05) with Amy Castagnino, Casey Kulka and Anderson.

Armanini has never made it to the state level, but has an excellent opportunity to end her senior season at Ship.

“One thing I’ve learned in my years of coaching at districts is that you have to expect the unexpected,” said Sweet. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

Anderson is seeded third or better in all three of her other events as well as she looks for a third trip to states. She is seeded second in both the 100 and 300 hurdles and is ranked third in the girls high jump. Joining Anderson in the 100 hurdles will be Lindsay Onuffer (9th) and Rachel Lasecki (12th). Lasecki and Onuffer are also seeded 12th and 16th respectively in the 300 hurdles. Other high jump competitors include Tori Paris, a fifth seed and 11th-seeded Kaitlyn Adams.

Rounding out Warren’s athletes seeded in the top four or better are Kulka who is seeded second in the 200 and fourth in the 400, freshman D.J. Hahn who is seeded third in the javelin, Valerie Latimer who is seeded fourth in the 400 and the fourth-seeded 4X800 relay team of Sydney Paris, Anna Falvo, Beardsley and Paige Rimer.

Beardsley, the defending D-10 champion in both the 800 and 1600, is seeded fifth in the mile and sixth in the half-mile.

Also qualifying for districts and competing on Wednesday for the Lady Dragons are Falvo (11th-1600), Rimer (12th-400, 7th-800), Sydney Paris (11th-800), Latimer (14th-200), Adams (19th-200), Amanda Castagnino (12th-3200), Ashley Barker (10th-long jump), McKenzie Merenick (11th-long jump, 13th-triple jump), Armanini (5th-triple jump), Nikki Atkins (8th-shot put), Reid Yarzabek (15th-shot put, 16th-discus), Claudia Olson (9th-discus, 15th-javelin) and Izzy Owen (16th-javelin). The 4X400 relay team of Beardsley, Tori Paris, Rimer and Latimer is seeded fifth.

Norris, the Warren boys coach, is sending his largest contingent of male athletes yet to districts. 19 Warren boys will compete Wednesday – an increase of five from last year’s crop of 14.

Warren has eight individuals or relay teams seeded among the top four. That’s a number that has the veteran coach very excited. The last time Warren failed to send a male athlete to states was 2009.

“We’ve got several athletes sitting real pretty,” said Norris. “Mark (Davis) is obviously the top seed in the long jump, Chris (McNeal) is near the top in the shot and Caleb has a real shot in the 800. We also think that we have a chance to go 1-2 in the 400 (with Wortman and Willetts). Anything can happen and I’m excited about our chances to go out there and perform like I know our guys can.”

Warren’s high seedings includes a 1-2 sweep in the boys 400. Wortman is the top seeded runner in the event with a 50.84, but is just six-tenths a second ahead of senior teammate Willetts who is seeded second. Despite returning to the team just last week, Rosenberg is seeded sixth in the 400.

Mark Davis has Warren’s lone top seed in the field, grabbing the number one spot in the long jump by covering 21 feet and nine inches. Davis’ best long jump is just one inch shy of state qualifying distance. Ryan Gorgacz (8th) and Jacoby Passmore (14th) are also entered in the event.

The third top seed held by the Dragons is that of the two-time defending D-10 champion 4X400 relay team. In 2011, Wortman, Willetts, Allen Burnett and Matt Stapleford grabbed the title. A year ago, it was Wortman, Willetts, Rosenberg and Hultman. That 2012 team returns in full to this year’s field.

Rounding out Warren’s athletes seeded in the top four or better are Hultman who is second in the 800, Davis who is second in the high jump, defending D-10 javelin champ Jerman who is second in that event and senior shot put standout Chris McNeal, third in the event.

Also qualifying for districts and competing on Wednesday for the Dragons are Justin Wright (8th-110 hurdles, 7th-300 hurdles, 5th-high jump), Ryan Shattuck (9th-110 hurdles, 6th-300 hurdles), Willetts (9th-100), Gorgacz (14th-100), Davis (10th-triple jump), Anthony Gedz (13th-triple jump), Devin Nowacki (14th-triple jump), McNeal (9th-discus) and Jerman (13th-discus).

The 4X800 relay team of Nic Allen, Alec Colosimo, Brandan Nielson and Seth Johnson is seeded fifth and the 4X100 team of Kyle Kulka, Gedz, Dakota Marson and Gorgacz is ranked seventh.

Here is a list of Warren’s rankings and performance times/distances for Wednesday’s D-10 Class AAA Track & Field Championships in Harbor Creek: