ARMAGH — When Lydia Miller came from behind on the final lap to win the 1,600-meter relay on Friday night, she didn’t just win the race for Marion Center. She won the Appalachian Invitational for the Stingers.
Running the anchor leg, Miller received the relay with his 1,600 relay team in second place behind Conemaugh Township by about 10 yards. As Miller knows, the Stingers were also in second place in the team standings in the final event of the competition.
Miller closed the deficit in the first 200 yards and held off Conemaugh Township’s Ellie Speigle down the stretch, helping the Stingers win the relay with a time of 4 minutes, 30.38 seconds. In doing so, Marion Center won the tag team title with 75 points. Conemaugh Township was second with 73 points and Portage was third with 67.
The 1600m relay is the last event of every athletics competition. Portage entered the race with 67 points, two ahead of Marion Center and Conemaugh Township, who tied for second with 65 points. In other words, whoever wins the relay wins the competition.
“That was awesome,” Marion Center junior Reagan Ryen said of Miller’s anchor leg. “She’s our anchor for a reason.”
The Marion Center 1,600 relay team includes three newcomers this season in Miller, Mollie Shadle and Mikayla Gatskie, who ran together for the first time in an invite this season. The only holdover from last season is Ryen.
“In the (1600 relay) we have a group of new girls in the team, so it was good to test that in a bigger environment,” Ryen said.
Ryen also won the girls’ 800 meter race with a time of 2:26.32, and senior Lilly Ryer won the 3200 meter race in 12:47.75, which is the girls’ two individual victories in the Marion Center.
The Marion Center 3200 relay team of Ryer, Ryen, Miller and Gatskie also won with a time of 10:20.30, beating the field by over 36 seconds.
A total of seven athletes from the region won an individual event on Friday.
Homer-Center junior Justley Sharp was the only athlete from Indiana County to win multiple individual events on Friday. She won the women’s discus with a throw of 131-7 and the shot put with a throw of 40-0½.
Sara McConnell of River Valley won the 400 (1:02.28) and Ella Miller of Northern Cambria won the 1600 (5:34.51).
On the boys’ side, United’s Bridger Blankenbicker cleared 13ft 1in in the boys’ pole vault to equal his own school record and set a new competitive record.
Purchase Line’s Brady Syster won the 400 dash (53.44).
McConnell of River Valley and Miller of Northern Cambria both qualified for the state meet a year ago as rookies. Miller qualified in the 1600 and McConnell qualified in a 1600 stint in Saltsburg’s last season.
Returning to the state meet is what keeps them both going this season.
“I want to keep wasting this time and trying to get back to the United States is my main goal,” McConnell said. “Every time I run the 400 I just think about going back. I want so much.
“It really helps my confidence,” Miller said. “I started (the season) a little slower than where I would like to be. I haven’t reached my goal yet, but I hope to get there since it’s still the beginning of the season. Winning today really helped me gain confidence.