Freeport senior shakes off rough start, claims PIAA discus medal

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Friday, May 26, 2023 | 9:30 PM


SHIPPENSBURG — After her first couple of discus throws produced a foul and a 104-footer, Reese Skiba’s state championship was off to a lackluster start.

She could’ve panicked, but she didn’t.

“They give us three throws for a reason,” said Skiba, a Freeport senior. “I always tell myself, ‘It’s not over until it’s over.’ I had to fight my way through it. … This is my last high school meet. I said, ‘I have to do this for myself.’”

Skiba shook off the nerves, regrouped and qualified for the finals with a 113-foot toss. In the finals, she unleashed a 118-feet, 3-inch throw and celebrated a Class 2A fifth-place finish at the PIAA track championships.

Her best throw was her last.

“It was unreal,” Skiba said. “I knew after I threw that I was on the awards stand.”

Not every athlete bounces back from a rough start at the state championships.

The pressure of the situation builds. The crowds around Seth Grove Stadium are bigger than for any other meet. Sometimes a bad start just becomes a bad meet.

“You see that every year up here,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “You can’t predict how a kid is going to react to something like that. There are so many people here. They’ve never been in this atmosphere before. For her to respond the way that she did, she should be proud.”

Riverview runner Amberson Bauer also found himself on the medal stand Friday. The senior placed fourth in the boys 1,600 meters for Class 2A, earning Bauer his first PIAA medal in the distance event.

He finished in a personal-best 4 minutes, 17 seconds, or more than four seconds faster than his winning WPIAL effort from a week ago.

The early pace suited him.

“The race went out super slow,” Bauer said. “Knowing that, I knew I was in this race. I have a better kick than a lot of runners here, so the slower the better for me through 800 meters. I pursued the third lap and kicked that fourth lap.”

Bauer’s strongest event is the 800 meters, a race he’ll run Saturday. He placed third in the state a year ago in the 800 and enters this meet seeded third.

“I want to win it,” Bauer said. “I want to win that gold. That’s been on my mindset since last year when I finished third and the two guys ahead of me graduated. It’s been in my head all year.”

The only track finals on Friday’s schedule were the 1,600 meters. Kiski Area junior Eliza Miller finished 12th in Class 3A girls, Burrell senior Kadi Bauer was 19th in 2A girls, and Plum senior Connor Pivirotto was 24th in 3A boys.

Apollo-Ridge junior Sophia Yard tied for 17th in the 2A girls high jump. Riverview senior Alexandria Bibza was 18th in the 2A girls discus. Half of the field events were finalized Friday, but the track was mostly occupied by preliminary heats.

Freeport senior Isaac Wetzel ran two prelims and qualified for the finals in both hurdle events.

A year ago, Wetzel’s state championship experience ended on Friday, but this spring he’ll be busy into the weekend. He’s seeded first in the 300 hurdles and fourth in the 110s for Class 2A.

“I feel more confidence and less nervous (at the state finals) because I have a year here under my belt,” he said.

Wetzel posted a 38.74-second time in the 300s, bettering his personal-best from the WPIAL meet by more than a tenth.

He won his heat in both events.

“He came back (to the state meet) more possessed about finishing strong,” Gaillot said. “This whole season he’s been getting stronger every day. It’s all paying off now.”

This was a busy week for both Wetzel and Skiba, who attended Freeport’s graduation Thursday and didn’t arrive in Shippensburg until after midnight.

“It’s been a hectic 24 hours,” said Skiba, who’ll compete Saturday in the shot put. “I got here at 12 o’clock last night and woke up at six. It’s been pretty busy, but I’m proud I was able to bounce back and everything I’ve accomplished.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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