S. ABINGTON TWP. — The Abington Heights boys and girls track and field teams, boosted by the return of many accomplished athletes, are hoping to be a factor in league, district and state competitions.
The girls team has won 68 consecutive Lackawanna League duel meets and the last two District 2 Class 3A titles.
While the Lady Comets bring back three girls — Katie Dammer, Calista Marzolino and Dani Heine — who advanced to the state championships last year, head coach Mike Ludka feels the team’s balance has been the main reason for its sustained success.
“It’s been the depth that has separated us a little bit within our division,” Ludka said. “Even when we’re not getting first place, we seem to be getting second and third and that keeps it close. And, we also have those really stellar athletes that take us to a whole other level.”
Dammer, a senior, placed second in the 1600 meter run at the PIAA Championships the past two seasons.
“I’ve definitely been shooting for that state championship all four years and I’ve come close a lot of times,” she said. “Pennsylvania is a really competitive state on the national level, so it’s not my only goal going into the season. I know that I can end up second or third again at the state meet and still be top 10 in the country. My goal is just to run as fast as I can.”
While Dammer has been a standout at the district and state level, Ludka believes her impact off the track has been just as important.
“She’s such a great influence on everybody around her,” he said. “She’s really a leader on the team.”
Marzolino, a junior, placed first in the 100 meter hurdles and high jump at districts last season and finished fourth in the high jump finals at the indoor state championships in State College Feb. 25.
“She had a great indoor high jump at states,” Ludka said. “We’re hoping that she picks right up from that and keeps it going.”
Heine, a junior, advanced to the state championships in the pole vault during her first two high school seasons and Ludka believes her performance at the state indoor meet may set her up for even more success.
“She set a personal record that day and I think kind of got over a mental barrier,” he said. “She’s an excellent pole vaulter, one of the best around, and we expect great things from her.”
Junior Dani Beamish, who placed sixth at districts, and junior Hannah Hughes, who was 13th, return in the 400 meter dash.
“They’ve been working hard and will probably see an increased role on the team,” Ludka said.
Senior Emma Marion, who was eighth, and junior Sarah Bath, who placed 11th, are back in the 3200 meter run.
“I expect them to step up and improve on their finishes a little bit,” Ludka said.
Sophomore Anna Marchetta returns in the 300 meter hurdles after placing fifth at districts last season.
Sophomore Rachel Klein is back after placing 15th in the pole vault.
Sophomore Jill Bird returns after finishing fifth in the discus.
Senior Megan Healey is back after placing fifth in the javelin, senior Sky Smith returns after finishing 11th in the shot put and senior Emily Clauss returns in the sprints.
The Lady Comets lost several key contributors to graduation, but Ludka has been impressed by many of the newcomers.
“We have an influx of a lot of new people that are going to hopefully pick up the slack,” he said.
Comets bolstered by distance runners
The boys team is coming off a fifth-place finish at districts and 3-1 Lackawanna League record.
Seniors Kyle Burke and Dan Uhranowsky return after qualifying for the 1600-meter run at states last season. Burke placed first in the 1600 and third in the 3200 meter run at districts a year ago. Uhranowsky placed third in each event.
“I definitely want to go for a state medal,” Burke said. “I came up short during the cross country season, so I’m definitely hungry to have success at the state level.”
Juniors Stephen Haggerty and Ryan Siebecker, 15th and 19th in the 3200 at districts respectively, are expected to add depth.
“We’re very strong distance-wise and we hope to keep that tradition going,” Ludka said.
Junior Antonio Maletta is back after placing second in the 300 meter hurdles and fifth in 110 meter hurdles at districts last season.
Ludka feels Maletta may be poised for even better finishes this season.
“I think it was a moment where he kind of had a wake-up call of what he’s capable of doing,” Ludka said. “He’s come into this year primed and ready to roll. “
Senior Chris Schimelfenig returns after placing 10th in the 400 meter dash at districts.
Senior Tucker Schimelfenig is back after finishing 18th in the long jump.
Sophomore Shervin Mokhtari returns after a 14th place finish in the 300 meter hurdles, junior Ryan Flynn is back after placing 16th in the discus, and senior Noah Golosky returns after finishing 19th in the javelin.
“We lost a ton of talent through graduation, but we return a lot, as well,” Ludka said. “A lot of guys are competing to earn spots and fill the lineup.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.