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Three Falcons earn D-11 medals

Three Salisbury athletes earned medals last week at the District 11 Class 2A Track and Field Championships. Two of them also qualified for this weekend’s state championship meet.

Jacob Gibbons finished second in the 200-meter run for a silver medal and an automatic berth into the state meet, which go to the top two finishers in each event. Jairo Suarez took third place in the 110-meter hurdles, but his time was fast enough to advance to the state meet. And Gabriella Pena picked up a fourth-place medal after throwing a career-best distance in discus for the second week in a row.

Gibbons ran the 200 in 22.89 last week after running the preliminary in 23.04. He finished less than half a second behind winner Nate Frankenfield (Pine Grove), who won event in 22.49.

“It felt good,” Gibbons said after the race. “It was a [personal record] by a tenth of a second.”

Gibbons, a senior, has been a four-year varsity athlete at Salisbury. He competed in football all four years and when he gave up baseball after his sophomore season, he decided to join the Falcon track and field team.

“I just did it to get better at football and I found that I loved it,” he said.

While he endured some tough losses as part of the Salisbury football team, Gibbons is happy to finish his high school athletic career with league and district medals, along with a trip to states.

“It feels good to go out with a bang, doing a lot better in the final stage,” said the future Penn State University engineering major.

Suarez, a junior, will also make his first trip to states. He ran a career-best 15.35 in the 110 hurdle final to take third place and earn the trip to Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium for the state championship meet, held annually on the Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.

Suarez didn’t think a trip to states was possible until he ran the race and saw his time.

“I really didn’t because my time was like 15.6 before I got [to districts],” he said. “You need 15.5 to get to states and I [ran a personal record] with 15.3. I’m surprised that even happened.”

While Gibbons and Suarez run different events, they often try to help each other get ready for races.

“We talk each other up,” said Suarez. “Try to give each other confidence. He’s a senior so whatever he does I have to follow and do it next year for the younger kids.”

Pena, a sophomore, is in her first season as a thrower on the team. She threw 95 feet, 11 inches at districts to take fourth place. It was the second time in the past two weeks she unleashed a personal-best throw. Her 88-6 mark at leagues was her best up to that point.

She improved all season, but that improvement accelerated after the team picked up a volunteer throwing coach a few weeks ago.

“It felt pretty good,” she said. “It felt good to PR. I give a lot of thanks to my coach. We didn’t have a throwing coach at first but we just got one three weeks ago. I think that helped me get my form right.”

The District 11 meet was held at Whitehall High School on May 16-17.

PRESS PHOTO BY MIKE HAINES Jacob Gibbons strides through the finish line after winning his heat in the 200-meter run at the District 11 Championships. Gibbons took second place overall in the event to qualify for this weekend's state championships.
PRESS PHOTO BY MIKE HAINES Jairo Suarez wins his 110-meter hurdle heat at districts. He finished third overall in the event and earned a trip to the state championship meet by running a state-qualifying time.
PRESS PHOTO BY MIKE HAINES Salisbury's Gabriella Pena earned a medal for her fourth-place finish in discus at the district meet.
PRESS PHOTO BY MIKE HAINES Emily Batten competes in the 1600-meter run at districts.