*This story has been updated to note a correction
SHIPPENSBURG — The pain shooting from her right knee seemed to be telling Nalasjia Harris-Johnson her string of state medals was pretty much over.
Her incredible will wouldn’t listen to it.
Not without one more honor to add to her illustrious high school collection.
Harris-Johnson overcame an aching meniscus injury suffered at states to win her fourth PIAA medal in as many years Saturday, finishing in eighth place in the girls Class 2A 100-meter dash during the Pennsylvania Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University’s chilly and rain-spattered Seth Grove Stadium.
“I was shocked,” the speedy Meyers senior said. “So shocked. Incredibly shocked. Massively shocked.”
That’s because, during Saturday’s preliminaries, Harris-Johnson felt her meniscus flare while running the preliminaries of the girls Class 2A 400 relays — where her Meyers team finished 10th and out of Saturday’s finals.
That left Harris-Johnson needing to surge into the top eight of her signature event, the 100 dash, during Saturday morning’s semifinals. And the night before, she wasn’t even sure she’d be able to make it onto the track.
“There was doubt, but I had some stim (stimulation) and I feel a lot better,” Harris-Johnson said. “You never think bad. Think positive. Even when you’re doing bad, you have to think positive thoughts.”
Speaking of showing some inner strength, plenty of competitors from the Wyoming Valley Conference put it on display Saturday.
Meyers sophomore Nazir Dunell, talked into taking up track and field by his cousin Harris-Johnson, bagged a bronze medal in the boys Class 2A 110 hurdles. In his first and only trip to states, Pittston Area senior Paul Moska earned a bronze medal by clearing 6-4 and tying with four other competitors for third place in the boys Class 3A high jump.
Hanover Area’s Brandon Brueckner finally earned a state medal by finishing seventh in the boys Class 2A 300 hurdles, while Pittston Area’s Taryn Ashby took a fifth-place medal in the girls Class 3A javelin, just ahead of sixth-place state medalist Kayla Merkel of Hazleton Area.
And the Holy Redeemer boys and Lake-Lehman girls both finished with fourth-place state medals in the Class 2A 3,200 relays, where neither was supposed to be anywhere near the finals.
Dunell’s dynamic performance came with a personal-best time of 15.13 and kept a Meyers streak of strong finishes at states going.
Former Meyers great Raheem Twyman earned a state gold medal in the 300 hurdles last year and took a silver in that event during the 2015 PIAA Championships.
“He told me a lot about lifting my trail leg and helped me with my form,” Dunell said. “I was seeded third, that’s what I was hoping to get. It feels amazing. The moment I started hurdling, I wanted to go to states and get a medal. Now I’m hoping to get a first-place medal next year.”
Neither Class 2A relay team from the WVC ended up in first, but completed finishes that seemed golden.
The Lehman girls roared from a No. 15 seed to place fourth, with Jace Garnick, Jade Fry, Olivia Vasey and Hailey Kubiski completing the first run to the state medal stand for the two-time District 2 championship 3,200 group. Kubiski, the team’s only senior, finished off the team’s best time in two years, a 9:36.70 mark that easily put the Black Knights among the top four Class 2A two-mile relay teams in Pennsylvania.
“To me, it’s the last time I’ll run with these girls,” Kubiski said. “I said before the race, ‘Let’s go out and have fun.’ It was awesome to do this with the girls.”
Holy Redeemer’s run to the podium was even more astounding.
The Royals were seeded 19th entering the boys 3,200 relay, only to earn a spot in the finals. That’s where the foursome of Nick Brown, Lukas Volpetti, Jonathan Weybrecht and Dominic Capaci really shined, finishing with a season-best run of 8:02.81 to take fourth.
“Nobody really saw us coming,” Brown said.
Brueckner saw a prime opportunity to reach the medal stand, after finishing back in the pack as a junior in the state triple jump last year.
“That was my best shot at doing something here at states,” Brueckner said. “Last year, I didn’t make an impact whatsoever. It feels good, senior year, going out with a bang. It feels good to finally come back and make a name for myself.”
Ashby knows the feeling.
After years of trying, the senior stalwart finally made the state medal stand — one year after just missing out on a PIAA award by finishing ninth as a junior.
“It feels awesome,” said Ashby, who threw a distance of 137-11 to accomplish the fifth-best girls Class 3A throw. “I was pretty consistent today. I really wanted to medal badly, after my past three years. I was definitely happy to get a medal this year.”
Her classmate Moska also collected his first, and only, state prize. He did it with a high jump of 6-4, just shy of his career best of 6-5 he accomplished while winning the District 2 Class 3A title.
“It feels good,” Moska said. “I just wanted to get on the medal stand. It was raining every now and then, everybody was slipping. I was glad I didn’t have trouble.”