The higher that Gus Yahner rose, the faster a conference record fell.
Yahner, Northern Cambria’s ace pole vaulter, topped his own Heritage Conference championship meet record in the pole vault and helped the Colts slide past Ligonier Valley to take the boys conference title Tuesday at United High School.
Yahner cleared 15 feet and a half-inch to rewrite his own record, set last year when he soared over the bar at 14-6.
“This meet is where I’ve PRed every year,” Yahner said. “So I hope to carry it on in districts and states.”
Northern Cambria’s 124 points placed them ahead of the Rams’ mark of 114. Homer-Center (83 points), Saltsburg (53) and Purchas Line (52) rounded out the top five while United and Penns Manor tied for sixth with 46 points. Marion Center finished eighth with 39 points.
Ligonier Valley claimed the girls conference crown by a wide margin over second-place Saltsburg, outpointing the Trojans by a 153-111 tally. Marion Center followed with 70 points while Homer-Center (59), Northern Cambria (49), United (45), Penns Manor (42) and Purchase Line (29) filled the remainder of the eight-team field.
“We only had four first-place finishes, but we had two people in just about every event we were in,” Ligonier Valley coach Al Fiorina said. “That made a big difference and that got us through.”
While the Colts had only three other winners aside from Yahner – Seth Bearer in the 400-meter dash, Nolan Paronish in the javelin toss and Desmond Phillips in the triple jump – in the boys competition, their depth and ability to consistently snag mid-range points pushed them to the top.
“We’re very pleased,” Northern Cambria coach Fred Montanaro said. “We talked to the boys before the meet that we had a strong chance of showing well and that they had to come out and do their best tonight.”
Montanero added: “We have a lot of guys that haven’t placed first for us all year, but were coming up strong with seconds, thirds and fourths. That helps an awful lot.”
The Rams, who Montanero said handed Northern Cambria its only loss in dual-meet competition, left Thomas Madill Field with top billing in five events – all on the track – as they notched themselves comfortably in second place.
Anthony Thomas (100 and 200), Chris Huber (110 and 300) along with Ligonier Valley’s 400-meter relay team of Josh Grundling, Mitchell Brown, Michael Keller and Thomas) stacked up victory points for the Rams. The relay unit’s time of 44.9 seconds felled the previous record of 45.1 set in 2012 by Ligonier Valley.
Then again, the Rams showed depth too by piling up points in the middle of the scoring.
“We’re putting people in, getting two out of each event and getting depth out of it,” Rams boys coach Dale Show said. “We’ve got a lot of seconds, thirds and fourths that we can place two people where someone else was only getting one.”
On the girls’ end, the Rams’ depth pushed them far ahead of the remaining squads, but they did have a double winner in Jasmine Connor, who took the 300 hurdles and the 200 while also starting off Ligonier Valley’s victory in the 1600 relay. Stephanie Heming conquered the field in the 400 while also joining Connor, Madi McLaughlin and Gina McKlveen on the winning relay quartet.
Connor’s victory by almost 4 seconds in the 300 hurdles over teammate Ashley Smith almost seemed to provide the visual for the Rams’ day. It was also the visual of a transformation for the junior through her work at the craft.
“It’s paying off, all this work I’m putting in,” Connor said. “I started lifting weights, changed the way I eat, starting running with this club team and they instantly became like a family. I came onto this track ready to go, ready to win.”
United’s Kennedy Fletcher took home wins in the shot put and discus, while Laken Pudliner pulled away from the field in the 100 hurdles.
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/shawncurtis430.