PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsy girls' track and field team's strength in numbers in the distance events will be a key at Thursday's District IX Class AAA Track and Field Championship meet in Brookville.
Punxsy senior Milea Schall, a two-time cross country district champion, is the top seed in the 3,200-meter run. She is Punxsy's best shot at sending a competitor to next weekend's state championships.
Schall's seeded time of 11:39.48 is more than a half-minute better than Bradford senior Myriah Wiseman (12:13.90). Not too far behind is another Punxsy senior — Shannon Byerly (12:22.74).
"In the distance events, we came out pretty well. (Milea's) well above the other girls in there, which is expected," Punxsy head coach Barry Young said. "You know what she's going to do. She's just a great competitor. She was great in cross country and continued it into track and field."
Last year, Schall lost to St. Marys' Adair Gennecro by nine seconds. This year, St. Marys' girls will compete in the Class AA Championships, meaning Schall's chances of winning have increased.
"If she runs her race, which she always does, she'll be fine," Young said.
Punxsy sophomore Alexis Young is another distance runner seeded in the top three. She's No. 3 in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:35.24 — 23 seconds by DuBois junior Catherine Sheffo (5:13.07).
Young is also seeded fourth in the 800-meter run — 10 seconds behind Sheffo (2:34.54 to 2:24.88).
"She's capable of better, so she can be a surprise at districts, which makes it interesting," Young said about Young.
Punxsy has three more athletes seeded in the top three. Senior Nickita Martz, in search of a fourth and final district title in the javelin, is seeded second in the event. At 111-4, she is 4 1/2-feet behind Bradford's Emily Marshall (115-11).
Last year, Martz threw 124-7 to win her third consecutive district crown and state berth.
"I know she's ranked No. 2 right now, but she's beaten (Marshall) a couple times this year," Young said. "There's not much of a difference there."
Martz is also seeded third in the shot put — five feet behind DuBois' Alexis DeNapoli.
Timi Shiock, another Punxsy senior, is seeded in a tie for third in the high jump at 4-10. That's four inches behind the leader — DuBois' Amber Hryn (5-2). Young said that Shiock is capable of jumping 5-1 or 5-2.
Punxsy sprinter Karah Hollis is seeded third in the 100-meter dash (13.24) and eighth in the 200-meter dash (28.64).
"She's capable of better. She can be a surprise, Young said. "She works hard, and she's going to give it everything she has."
Young also expects a lot out of his 4x800 squad, which is seeded second to DuBois. Punxsy's more than 20 seconds behind the Lady Beavers, but Young feels good about his team's chances of competing in the event.
"We're pretty good in the 4x8. If we run better than our time and get the place we're supposed to, we'll be happy with that," Young said. "They've been consistent all year with their times."
The top five places in individual events score a team point.
In line to place for Punxsy are Shaina Reddinger (100 hurdles, fifth), Lauren McGarvey (400 run, fifth), Keaton Mohney (300 hurdles, fifth), Aly Dickey and Hollis (high jump, tied for fifth), Shannon Carpenter (pole vault, fifth), Kirsten Dean (triple jump, fifth), Alexis Minich (shot put, fourth) and Santana Smith (discus, fifth).
DuBois leads the way with 10 first-place seedings. It is followed by Bradford, which has five.
The Lady Chucks may not be in the running for the district team title, but Young expects his girls to give their best.
"You'd love to win a team title, but being a realist, it's going to be very difficult to do. So we want to score as many points as we can," he said. "We're going to compete as hard as we can. We're going to give 100 percent. These girls will, and that's what's so great about this bunch of girls."
The field events begin at 3 p.m. and will be followed at 4 p.m. by the track events.