Fischer leads Hampton track team’s strong finish

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Thursday, May 30, 2019 | 10:08 PM


If you would have told Derek Brinkley at the beginning of track season he would take four kids to states, he might have thought you were talking about one relay team.

Instead, Hampton sent four individuals to PIAAs after an excellent showing at the WPIAL championship meet. Seniors Valerie Fischer (first place, 400 meters), Cambell France (third place, 800), Colton Trush (fourth place, 300 hurdles) and sophomore Gage Galuska (fourth place, 400) made the trip to Shippensburg.

“We had a lot of all that uncertainty coming into the beginning of the year,” Brinkley said. “If you’d have told me we’d have four kids go to states, we’d have been as happy as can be. We had a great day at WPIALs.”

That started with Fischer, who became the first Hampton athlete to win gold at WPIALs since Jason Goodman (triple jump) in 2017.

The Bucknell commit quickly fell behind Belle Vernon’s Hannah Seitzinger in the first 100 meters but recovered at the end, finishing with a time of 57.51 seconds and edging Seitzinger (57.74). It seemed Fischer, who dropped from the No. 1 seed late in the season, enjoyed playing catch-up.

“I wasn’t mad about it,” she said. “I was hoping I could catch number one. I knew I was a couple hundredths of a second behind the girl ahead of me.”

Fischer’s instincts — and the feeling time was running out on a shot at gold — pushed her through. She finished fourth in the same event last year.

“The last 100 I was like, ‘Valerie, you have to catch her. Senior year, last race of (WPIALs).’ And the last 15, I just pulled ahead. I was kind of in disbelief. I was really excited. I got to congratulate my competitors and got to watch my other teammates and share my success with everyone else.”

Galuska will go into next year as Hampton’s top underclassman after showing major speed in the 400. He finished fourth in 50.47, not far off Baldwin’s Brendan O’Malley (48.74). While he couldn’t crack the finals in states, Brinkley is excited about the future.

Trush, who competed at WPIALs for the first time last season, exceeded expectations in the second heat, running 40.03 in the 300 hurdles among slower competition. Though he didn’t make the finals at Shippensburg, Brinkley said the experience will last a lifetime.

“Colton, for me, was such a long shot. I knew he had he ability,” Brinkley said. “I was hoping he’d get the time, but he was in that second heat. He needed to win his heat to even give himself a shot, and he did … once you make that trip, it’s going to be something you never forget. He was just smiling ear to ear.”

Hampton’s state qualifiers competed within a tight time frame at WPIALs, something Brinkley found uniquely exciting from the coaching perspective.

“It was one of the best one-and-a-half to two-hour stretches I’ve been a part of,” Brinkley said. “It was exhilarating. To have it on a Thursday, we barely had our voices back by Monday at school. It was all worth it.”

Plenty of others achieved, including senior Matt Gust, who qualified in the 800 in his last race of the regular season and achieved his goal of under 2 minutes in the WPIAL finals, finishing 11th with a time of 1:58.

Sophomore Hannah Schepner nearly made states in the high jump, finishing seventh with a jump of 5 feet, 1 inch.

The story at Shippensburg, however, was France. The senior seemingly is scratching the surface of what she can do. After finishing third in the 800 with a time of 2:16.15 at WPIALs, she ran the race of her life at the states, finishing with a time of 2:15.40 for eighth place.

“She’s just becoming a confident runner and unfortunately is done at the high school level,” said Brinkley, who is hoping France, who will attend Pitt in the fall, will consider walking on to the track team.

“I really hope she gets involved, because I think her potential as a college runner is really going to surprise her. When she runs with confidence, it’s amazing. And she hasn’t been doing that very long.”

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