BROOKVILLE — For junior Sam Hetrick, it’s back for more and with senior Keaton Kahle, it couldn’t feel any better to get back to Shippensburg University.
The Redbank Valley Bulldogs duo punched tickets to states last Friday at the District 9 Class 2A Track and Field Championships. Hetrick won his second straight high jump title while Kahle earned a spot in the 100-meter dash, running a state-qualifying time despite finishing fifth.
Hetrick cleared 6 feet, 5 inches last Friday. He’ll try to win a second state medal. Last year, he tied for seventh and earned a medal at the PIAA Championships.
“It’s nice winning districts for a second time, but I’m going to states and hoping to finish higher and maybe win it,” said Hetrick, the only jumper in Class 2A to clear 6 feet, 7 inches this year. He was one of seven jumpers to get over 6-2 with tiebreakers sorting out the placings. The winning jump was 6-7.
Of the medalists last year, only Hetrick, fifth-place Kolt Byers of Bermudian Springs and Montoursville’s Dominick Caputo, who was sixth, are back. Five jumpers overall have gotten over 6-6 or better, so it’ll be a very competitive run for the title and top-eight medals once again.
“We couldn’t ask more from Samuel this season,” Bulldogs head coach Andy Rex said. “He went big in every big meet and invitational and we are expecting the same on Friday. He thrives in the moment and feeds well off the crowd and the competition. He has the experience from last year to take him smoothly into the state competition again this year.
“He is great at preparing himself for the next level and we expect great things to come. If he can match that 6 foot, 7 inch-personal best another time this Friday, he puts himself in great contention for a high place medal at states.”
Hetrick hopes a year of experience on the hot surface at Shippensburg — it’ll likely be warm again Friday afternoon — will help give him an edge.
“Over the winter, I went right into the weight room and worked and got strong and it’s shown,” he said. “Obviously, another year and you get better knowing what went wrong, but it’s mostly about gaining vertical leap.”
The new jumping surface on the renovated home track gave him a longer approach on the surface, but he’s moved back anyway and he’s still starting on the grass.
“I’m trying to get more speed and carry more momentum to get up better,” Hetrick said.
At states, Hetrick said he’ll likely start at 5-10 and with it being even numbers, it’ll be 6-6 and then 6-8 when it comes to potential winning time.
“I haven’t jumped 6-7 since the Butler Invitational and we’re most likely going to have the same heat as last year. I just have to make sure I stay consistent. I’m definitely excited and nervous. I’ll have to do my best, that’s for sure, if I want to medal or win it.”
For Kahle, his track season a year ago came to an excruciating end as he missed making the finals of the 100 dash by 1/10,000 of a second, winding up with a very disappointing seventh.
A hard-working offseason led him back to Brookville once again and after running state-qualifying times throughout the spring, he came up big in the prelims with an 11.24.
While that was safely under the 11.3 needed for an automatic state berth, the time has to be run in the finals. And in perhaps the fastest 100 dash finals run in district history, Kahle’s 11.29 — the pre-rounded up time was actually 11.2869 seconds — earned a state berth behind Brookville’s Ian Thrush (10.81) and Bryan Dworek (11.06), Elk County Catholic’s Jacob Koss (11.18) and Brookville’s Cabe Park (11.23).
“I wouldn’t have picked it to be any other way, to be honest,” Kahle said. “To go to states as a sophomore and then not even place last year, it broke my heart. I put in a lot of work and it paid off. Even if I took fifth, hey, we’re all going.
“It’s very hard, especially to get in by .1, it’s crazy.”
Rex saw Kahle’s consistent season continue at districts.
“Keaton has been looking strong all season and has run that sub-11.3 state-qualification time a few times this year,” Rex said. “He knew prior to the season that he would be required to run sub 11.3 to have any chance for a return to the state championships. He had an outstanding preliminary race, which clearly set the tone for the rest of the day.
“Keaton was able to back that time up and run an 11.29 to squeeze into that automatic qualifier time and punch his ticket to the big show. As is the case for any track event, when you can make the state qualification time or distance, that gives you a much better chance at medaling at states.”
Kahle thought he was too good out of the blocks in the final.
“In the finals, I’m not going to lie, I thought I did false-start again,” Kahle smiled. “I was surprised with how I came out of the blocks with Ian, Bryan and Cabe, I was right with them. That’s how well I guess I started. That’s what got me to states and that’s been my struggle the whole way up.”
The Bulldogs wound up scoring 27.5 points to finish 10th. At the top of the standings, Brookville cruised to its third straight title with 130 points.
Freshman Joe Mansfield was the next highest individual finisher, taking third in the triple jump with a season-best leap of 42 feet, 6 inches. He was eighth in the long jump, going a season-best 19 feet, 8 3/4 inches.
“Joe Mansfield had a great district meet in the long and triple jump and just missing out on a trip to states,” Rex said. “Any time you have a freshman qualify for districts is great, but when they can perform under that pressure and get on the medal stand, obviously that will set the tone for next season.”
Also scoring was the fourth-place 4x100 relay of Hetrick, Kahle, Mansfield and Javin Brentzel. They crossed the line with a season-best 45.05.
Junior Declan Fricko was fourth in the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 11 inches. Trenten Rupp was sixth in the pole vault, clearing 11 feet, 6 inches. Junior Anthony Baileys scored with a sixth in the discus with a throw of 118 feet, 11 inches with Tanner Kerle just missing scoring with a seventh-place finish.
Austin Rupp was eighth in the javelin while the 4x800 relay of Kyle Watkins, Owen Fricko, Declan Fricko and Nick Smith finished ninth.
“Declan also had a great day in the high jump, Anthony Baileys got on the medal stand in the discus and the 4x100 relay had a great day, but was knocked out of that state bid spot by a very narrow margin,” Rex said. “Overall we are very proud of these boys on the great season and strong D9 performances in multiple events.