Competing at the State Track and Field Championships held last weekend at Shippensburg University were Upper Perk runners, left to right, Ronnie Gillespie, Amanda Long and Avery Scripture.
The State Track and Field Championships did not have the storybook ending that Upper Perk was hoping for last weekend at scorching hot Shippensburg University. But Ronnie Gillespie did come away with a silver medal in the 200-meter dash and a fifth-place medal in the 100 meter.
Gillespie failed to defend the gold medal he captured in the 200-meter last year, finishing three-tenths of a second behind Penn Wood uber-athlete Eric Futch, who captured two other gold medals in the 100 and the hurdles.
Gillespie ran a 22 flat in the 200, which was .09 faster than his 2011 gold medal time, and 11.18 in the 100. In the District 1 championships, Gillespie clocked in at 21.24 and 10.61, respectively.
“It was pretty darn hot,” noted Upper Perk assistant coach Ken Eicheldinger. “Whether it was a factor or not, it very well could have been with the runners. Ronnie didn’t run the times that he had run in the past. If he had run just somewhat close to the times he had run, he would easily have won the 100, and his time he ran at Districts would have won the 200 as well.”
Gillespie refused to use the heat as an excuse. “It got to all athletes. You could see everyone was tired. Heat just sucks the energy right out of you.”
Of course, if the PIAA had stuck to its disciplinary guns, Futch would not have been in the picture at all. He was escorted out of the District meet at Coatesville because of a couple of alleged incidents of disrespect toward meet officials.
But the usually intractable PIAA reversed itself on Thursday after a committee hearing in a Chambersburg hotel and allowed Futch to compete.
Eicheldinger was okay with the decision. “I feel Futch needed to run. He was probably one of our top athletes in Pennsylvania. To be eliminated from [the State meet] would have been a tragedy.”
Gillespie also did not have a problem with Futch’s presence.
“I didn’t want to win it easily. I wanted to have him there for competition. I wanted to get first, but you can’t really win them all. I was happy with the silver. I went all that way, I didn’t go for nothing. I can’t really be disappointed about anything.”
Upper Perk’s other two participants at States, Avery Scripture and Amanda Long, did not make it to the finals.
For Scripture it was a case of being unlucky. The junior was in a great position to qualify for the 800 finals when he was spiked and tripped up by another runner and lost his momentum, finishing in 1:58.83, over three seconds slower than his personal record set at the District 1 championships.
“Apparently I was on my personal record pace, and coming up the last 100 meters I felt real good,” Scripture recounted, “but then I started accelerating to get my kick, and I went around a whole group of kids to get in the placing position, and I just got tripped up. It wasn’t my race, I guess.”
Amanda Long also did not approach her best time and did not qualify for the 800, finishing the prelim in 2:19.55.
“I wasn’t happy with my race,” said the Millersville-bound senior. “I’m not sure really what happened or what went wrong. The race went out really fast, and I just tried to hang on as long as I could.”
While Gillespie and Long will be moving on, Scripture is looking forward to his senior year.
“At first, I was pretty mad about [getting tripped], but I know there’s nothing I can do about it except go back and train harder for next year’s cross-country season and indoor and outdoor States," he noted.