SHIPPENSBURG – He’s the catcher who threw a gem.
Wyoming Area’s Trent Grove went from backstop on a baseball team to a state medalist in the javelin in three weeks, capping the transformation with a fourth-place finish at the PIAA Track and Field Championships on Saturday.
“I came in here shooting for the top 10,” Grove said. “I’ve only been throwing the javelin for three weeks, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.”
Grove was in the first flight of throwers at the javelin, placing him among the lower half of the state qualifiers. Yet he won his flight with a toss of 180 feet, 6 inches, then got to watch the second flight of 15 throwers to see if his day would continue into the finals.
“Obviously, I was cheering on (teammate) Nick (O’Brien) and a couple of others from the district,” Grove said of watching the rest of the field take their turns. “But everytime someone let one go, yeah, I cringed. I was hoping to get through, but all I could do was wait.”
The Temple-bound senior earned the fourth seed in the finals, leaving him in strong position to medal. Grove was the only District 2 competitor among five qualifiers to reach the finals. Once there, he improved his distance by launching his final two attempts 180 feet, 8 inches.
“It felt good being in the finals,” Grove said. “I was hoping to get to 190 and maybe take second place, but I’m happy with my medal.”
In all, WVC boys claimed six medals. Two more fourth-place medals were earned by Pittston Area hurdler Ronnie D’Eliseo. The senior set a school record with a 14.31 time in the 110 hurdles.
He followed with a 38.83 in the 300.
“I was in Lane 6 (in the 300), D’Eliseo said. “I’ve never run from that far outside. It’s a bigger turn in the outside lane. And the wind blowing … I just couldn’t keep up. (State champion Wellington) Zaza (of Garnet Valley) blew right past me.”
D’Eliseo’s efforts left the Patriots as the top boys team from the area, placing 20th in Class 3A. He showed a marked improvement over last year’s pair of 12th-place finishes.
“I’m really disappointed,” D’Eliseo said. “I expected to do better.”
Tunkhannock’s Alex Nole and Stefan Schlachter medaled in consecutive events to close out the day.
Nole’s race was an adventure. Jostling at the gun by other competitors forced a restart. Then, near the final turn, the grandstand groaned and stood in unison as Alec Kuntzweiler of Cumberland Valley, the top seed and race leader, fell.
Nole kept his composure and earned sixth place in 1:59.08.
“The restart didn’t shake me much,” Nole said. “I think it was just inexperience. I didn’t make the state meet last year. This year, I only had one race I didn’t finish first, so there was a lack of competition.
“But I enjoyed it. I told my coach I was just happy to throw my hat in the ring.”
Schlachter came out of the blocks and hit a wall in his 200 final.
“That headwind killed me,” the senior said. “It was just in my face, standing me straight up. But I didn’t want to finish last.:
Once past the wind, he turned on the jets. Schlachter caught up to the field and finished seventh in 23.03.
“I didn’t feel like I was dying out there,” Schlachter said. “I gave everything I could to get through the wind. I can’t complain with the outcome … I got my medal.”
Northwest’s Tyler Burger capped a busy day by placing eighth in the Class 2A 110 hurdles in 15.87.
“I got to the first hurdle with the wrong leg, the right one instead of the left,” Burger said.
He righted his ship quickly, but the damage was done — he’d fallen behind in one of the shortest of races on the docket.
“I fixed it before the second hurdle, but I couldn’t catch them at that point,” he said.