Abbey Wheeler and Jessica Thatcher had record-setting runs for the girls and the top backfield tandem in Section 4 football helped deliver a championship for the boys as the host Elmira Express swept the team titles Saturday at the annual Waite-Molnar Invitational at Elmira Free Academy.
Wheeler’s winning time of 4 minutes, 46.03 seconds in the 1,500 meters broke the meet record of 4:46.34 set in 1989 by Sidney’s Jennifer Finnegan.
Thatcher won the 3,000 in 10:36.37 to eclipse the meet mark of 10:40.24, also set in 1989 and held by Williamsport’s Cherie Muckel. As she crossed the finish line, a smiling Thatcher received a high-five from Express head coach Ben Cardamone.
Elmira’s girls finished with 153.5 points to win the title for the second straight year, followed by Corning with 121. There were seven complete teams.
The Express boys had 163 points to edge out defending champion Corning, which had 140. Vestal placed third.
McPeak won the 200 dash and Thomas captured the 100, with the duo also joining Cabin Seymour and Ricky Houghtelling for a win in the 400 relay. Thomas, new to the track team as a senior, added a second-place finish in the 110 hurdles and McPeak was runner-up to indoor state champion Mike Egotanda of Vestal in the long jump. Egotanda also won the triple jump.
“It’s just like the football season,” McPeak said of teaming with Thomas. “We’re back together doing the same thing we did, trying to win and get some points for our team.”
Elmira Notre Dame’s Jenny Smithers also had a big day, winning both girls hurdles and teaming with Deborah Diarra, Cassie Ellis and Megan O’Dell for a win in the 400 relay. Out of the four girls who ran to a Division II state title in that event last year, Smithers was the only one who competed Saturday.
Corning’s John McCarthy broke his own meet record in the steeplechase with a time of 9:54.05, which shattered last year’s effort of 10:01.87.
The records came despite a steady wind that was often in the face of the runners.
“Oh my goodness, it was really tough,” McPeak said. “It’s like running in slow motion out there.”
Wheeler and Corning freshman Jessica Lawson, a state champion in cross country and indoor track in the 3,000, squared off only in the 1,600 relay that was won by Elmira after teammates Khiere Ashley, Cathi Mewes and Ava Pellor gave Wheeler a big lead. Lawson and Wheeler both expect to compete in the 3,000 during the postseason.
Wheeler dominated the field by more than 12 seconds but was still able to push herself to the record.
“For the (1,500), I think I just knocked off some rust that was there because I haven’t run that in awhile,” said Wheeler, coming off a fifth-place finish in the 3,000 at the indoor state meet. “I think I can go a lot faster than that. I was expecting 4:45 or under today and it was 4:45.”
Lawson’s winning 800 time of 2:18.63 was more than a second off the meet record, though it still was her career best. Notre Dame’s Chase Yoder was second in 2:23.17, followed by Elmira’s Ashley and Mewes.
“It was hard with the wind. But it was nice to have Elmira in the 800,” Lawson said. “They were very competitive and it pushed me to have a good time. … I ran a good race.”
Smithers was easily the class of the field in the hurdles, winning the 100 in 17.15 seconds and the 400 in 1:07.73. Lansing’s Lyndsey Lehr was second in each.
“I ran my trials in the (100) and I came back and (Ed) Shelling, our coach, is telling me what I did and what I need to work on,” Smithers said. “That helped me to work harder into the finals because I knew what I had to work on.”
Smithers was excited about the team’s effort, with the Crusaders also getting a victory from Diarra in the 400 dash along with the relay triumph.
“As a team we’re really improving, especially this early,” she said. “It’s our third meet this year. I think we’re doing really well. He’s got us working hard in practice and it’s really paying off.”
Other winners for Elmira’s girls were the 3,200 relay, Deja Robinson in the shot put and Amari Hadlock in the triple jump. For the Express boys, Brendan Collins added a win in the 800 and Pat Soper took the discus.
Corning’s other winners were Katie Butler in the steeplechase, Michaela Burrell in the 100 dash, Emily Stiker in the 200 dash, Taylor Jubilee in the long jump, Peter Kane in the 1,600, Sam Chauvin in the 3,200, and the boys 1,600 relay.
Vestal’s Kari Stromhaug joined Egotanda as a double-winner in the field events, taking the high jump and pole vault. She won the indoor state title in the pole vault this year.