L-L League track and field at PTFCA meet

Lancaster-Lebanon League athetes (clockwise from top left) Jane Livingston, Ezra Mellinger, Tyler Shue, Sydney Horn, Kate Dickow, Lily Palacio-Lewis, Meghan Quinn, Leah Graybill and Cassidy Kline won state championships at Sunday's PTFCA meet at Penn State.

STATE COLLEGE — It didn't take long for Lampeter-Strasburg's Ezra Mellinger to make an impact on Saturday's Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association indoor championships Sunday at Penn State University.

The Pioneers senior landed a long jump of 24 feet, 11.5 inches on his first attempt, winning the event, shattering a 30-year-old meet record and setting the tone for a Lancaster-Lebanon League contingent that authored six state-championship performances.

Joining Mellinger in the gold rush were Manheim Township's Sydney Horn (pole vault), Conestoga Valley's Jane Livingston (60-meter hurdles), Ephrata's Tyler Shue (800-meter run), Warwick's Kate DIckow (3,000-meter run) and the Warwick team of Leah Graybill, Lily Palacio-Lewis, Meghan Quinn and Cassidy Kline (4x200-meter relay).

Mellinger makes history

"I can always tell it's a good jump," Mellinger said, "when I can see my feet in the air. I remamber seeing them and being like, 'Ah, that's going to be a good jump.'"

The jump broke the PTFCA meet record last set in 1989 by State College's Ron Dickerson. It put Mellinger, a Duke University recruit, beyond the reach of Hickory's Brian Phillips, who finished second (22-8.25).

"My goal," Mellinger said of his start, "was just to get out, put a good 23 out, stay relaxed and go from there. When it turned out to be a 24, I was really happy."

The gold-medal jump helped fuel Mellinger's run to the 60-meter dash finals, where he finished third at 6.92 seconds in a tight race with Lower Merion's Devon Tate (6.87) and Central Dauphin East's Shawn Brown (6.92).

"I was pretty pumped up about the long jump," Mellinger said, "but I still knew I needed to focus on the 60. I just went out and ran my hardest, and I had fun with it."

Family fuels Horn to pole vault title

While Mellinger surged from the start, Horn needed time to find her bearings at the pole vault pit.

"My warm-ups were bad," she said, "and I wasn't feeling so good."

But the Manheim Township junior found her rhythm, clearing 12 feet, 6 inches to claim the title that her sister, Mackenzie, won the previous year as a senior.

"It feels good," Sydney said, "to defend my sister's title."

Scranton Prep's Victoria Atkinson also cleared 12-6, but Horn, who tied for seventh place as a sophomore, won the title with fewer attempts.

Horn and several of the other pole vaulters Sunday, including Penn Manor's Matt Julian, who cleared 15-6 to mine silver in the boys event, trained together at the VaultWorX facility in Camp Hill throughout the season.

"We're all a big family," Horn said. "We always pump each other up."

Livingston savors the moment

Livingston felt a surge of emotion after she shot out of the blocks in the 60-meter hurdles final and rushed to a win in 8.38 seconds, a personal-record time.

"As soon as I crossed the line," she said, "my eyes just filled with tears. It's such a good feeling to finally do something that you've wanted to do for so long."

Bound for Villanova in the fall, Livingston felt rattled in the preliminary round Sunday.

"It got in my head," she said, "all the pressures of this meet. I nine-stepped to the first hurdle. I really had to be mentally strong and push past that."

But a talk with her coach and the chance to watch teammate Sarah Castronova run the 400-meter dash helped Livingston gather her focus before the final and run a clean start that helped her finish ahead of Perkiomen Valley's Christina Warren (8.45).

"I just knew I hit the hurdles first," Livingston said, "and from there, I just focused on my lane."

Shue's redemption

Shue focused on the lane beside him in an aggressive make-or-break attempt to take the lead with two laps to go in the 1-mile run.

"The first half mile," he said, "we went through in 2:09, so I was feeling really confident going into that because I knew I had the most leg speed in the group. And so with two laps left, I figured I might as well make my move now."

But Shue caught the legs of another runner and stumbled, turning his push for first place into a 12th-place finish in the mile at 4:27.65.

After going for a long cool-down run, Shue turned his focus to the 800-meter race, where he found himself in the lead after the first two laps.

"Going into the race," he said, "I wasn't really planning on leading. I was just going to try to sit and kick. Halfway through, I ended up in front and knew I couldn't slow down."

After some jockeying with Central Bucks East's David Endres (1:54.92) and Seneca Valley's Seth Ketler (1:55.92), Shue pulled ahead for good in the final turn, extending his arms as he claimed the title at 1:54.28.

"When I saw the finish line," he said, "and there was no one in front of me, it just gave me that motivation to go all out with whatever I had left."

Dickow goes the distance

Dickow didn't know how much she would have left at the end of the 3,000-meter run, but she pushed ahead of the field at the bell lap. 

"I was kind of itching to go," she said, "and the last lap, I just went for it."

Seeded 10th in the race, the senior stuck with a lead pack of five runners through most of the race. She picked them off, one by one, and took the lead heading into the final 300 meters.

"It was so exhilarating and amazing," she said of winning in 9:56.44. "I was just coming around that turn, knowing that the finish line was right there, and I could do it. It was really a great experience."

Bethel Park's Emily Carter and Brownsville's Gionna Quarzo chased her though the final minutes, but settled for second (9:58.74) and third (9:57.87), respectively. Cedar Crest's Gwyneth Young (10th, 10:17.16) and Elizabethtown's Madeline Quinn (12th, 10:32.56) also ran the race.

"I felt like there was someone right on my back," Dickow said, "but that kept me more motivated."

A rush for the Warriors

Dickow's teammates — Graybill, Palacio-Lewis, Quinn and Kline — watched her triumph as they prepared for a win of their own in the 4x200-meter relay. The quartet out-dueled Coatesville in a tight race throughout all four segments.

"That was thrilling," said Kline, who closed out the win in 1:41.70. "There was just a ton of energy just going through me the entire lap."

Earlier in the day, Kline had run in the 60-meter hurdles prelims (24th, 9.73) and the 400-meter dash (18th, 1:00.59). Graybill, Palacio-Lewis and Quinn had all advanced to the the 60-meter dash final, finishing fourth (7.62), fifth (7.84) and eighth (7.86). Graybill added a fifth-place finish in the 200-meter dash. The quartet ended the day with an eighth-place finish in the 4x400-meter relay (1:41.70), helping Warwick finish second in the team standings with 35 points.

"Our coaches are happy," Graybill said. "We're happy. It was a good way to end the indoor season."

Other local medalists

Conestoga Valley's Joe Cardina cleared 6-6 to finish fourth in the high jump. Manheim Township's Ian Miller took sixth place in the 3,000-meter run (8:52.67). Warwick's Connor Shields finished eighth in the boys 1-mile run (4:24.87), and Elizabethtown's Katie Locker earned a pair of eighth-place medals in the 800-meter run (2:15.18) and 1-mile run (5:06.20).