SHIPPENSBURG — The heavy iron ball flew out of Payden Montana’s hand and took off like a bird.
It started soaring and soaring, way up high through the comfortably warm air outside Seth Grove Stadium, flying further than even Montana expected.
By the time it finally landed, her endless wait was over.
She had her long-sought state shot put record.
With a hearty heave of 51 feet, Montana knocked down the mark for girls shot put in any class Friday and won her second straight Triple-A gold medal in the event at the PIAA Track and Field Championships.
“I’ve been thinking about it all season,” Montana, a Berwick senior who will throw for Penn State next season, said. “It’s been my goal since freshman year.
Pittston Area’s Abby Norwillo was somewhat satisfied.
For the second straight year, Norwillo came down from the pole vault with a PIAA Class 3A girls state silver medal after she cleared 12-6 to finish behind state record-breaker Mackenzie Horn of Manheim Twp.
“I really did want that gold,” said Norwillo, who also finished second in the state’s indoor pole vault season this winter. “I woke up every morning working, determined, training for that gold. It didn’t happen. But it’s my third state silver, I can’t be unhappy about that.”
Horn cleared 13 feet on her first attempt, then went on to set a new Class 3A standard by clearing 13-3. Norwillo, meanwhile, struggled with the wind — it actually blew the bar off the poles prior to her first attempt at 13 feet — and messed with her tries throughout three misses at that height.
“In the beginning of the meet, it was just a matter of waiting for the wind to die down,” said Norwillo, who will jump for the University of Pennsylvania next season. “At the end of the meet, you really need everything to be perfect.”
Still, it was a near-perfect finish for Norwillo, a senior who earned a bronze and two consecutive silvers during her three straight trips to the state medal stand.
“I am very happy,” Norwillo said of her final vaults at Pittston Area. “This is a nice way to end it, back in the medal stand at Shippensburg. I really wouldn’t have changed anything with my attempts today.
“Which is a great feeling.”
The feeling of setting a new state standard left Montana feeling on top of the world.
Her winning throw, which came on her final attempt in qualifying, broke the 38-year-old girls Class 3A state mark of 50-1.25 set by Trinity’s Elaine Sobansky in 1980 and bettered the Class 2A record of 50-10.75 set by Center’s Allyn Laughlin in 2006.
It was the third time this year Montana threw a shot put over 50 feet and re-broke her own Berwick record for the fifth time in her senior season.
“You hate to say you expect it,” Berwick coach Bob Calarco said. “But she just seems to get better with all of these meets.
“She rises to the occasion.”
Funny thing is, she didn’t think her winning throw was going to quite make it.
“I thought it hit a couple inches beyond the 50-foot line,” Montana said. “I almost didn’t think it was the record. I was a little surprised. The fact that they brought out the second tape, I knew it was close. When they measured it, I was really excited.”
She may not be done.
Montana is favored to win the Class 3A discus throw when the state finals wrap up today. She joins Tunkhannock Class 3A boys high jumper Trejon Turner and Wyoming Area Class 3A boys javelin thrower Marc Minichello as favorites from the Wyoming Valley Conference to win events.
Also, Meyers junior Nazir Dunell made Saturday’s finals in the Class 2A boys 110 hurdles and Wyoming Valley West’s Mitchell Forgash came from a 27th seed to qualify first with best time of the preliminaries of 1:54.77 in the Class 3A boys 800 runs. Dunell is guaranteed a state medal in the 110 hurdles, as long as they crosses the finish line, and Forgash now has a great shot in a field of 15 finalists to join the awards ceremony as well. And the Lake-Lehman Class 3A girls 3,200 relay team, which includes returners Jace Garnick, Jade Fry and Oliva Vasey from last year’s state medal team, also qualified for Saturday’s finals.
Others WVC competitors with a strong chance to medal Saturday include Hanover Area’s Tyler Thomas, who is second in the Class 2A boys high jump; Wyoming Area’s Shelby Stackhouse, who is tied for fifth in the Class 3A girls triple jump; and Hazleton Area’s Joey Grula, who comes in seeded eighth in the Class 3A boys javelin after just missing the medal stand with a ninth-place finish in the triple jump Friday.
“It’s going to be a tough competition. They all are,” Montana said. “I know people are rooting for me, there are a lot of people who are looking for a big throw. But I don’t have any pressure on me. I just came here to do what I always do. Once I step up to the line, it is pretty natural.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski