Track team caps season at states
There were no medals for Northwestern at the end of the PIAA Track and Field Championships. But there was a sense of pride and satisfaction for a remarkable group of athletes that has achieved much success throughout their stellar careers.
The Lady Tigers were well represented in Shippensburg, led by the 1600- and 3200-meter relay teams. Individually, Northwestern had Alexis Gawelko in the 100 hurdles and Natcheli Gomes in the high jump.
Though neither relay advanced to the final of their respective Class AAA event after Friday's preliminary races, members of both teams were happy to run together one more time, and to do it at the sport's highest level.
"It's awesome to be able to come here and finish our careers together," said Sabrina Mertz, who was a member of both relay squads. "I couldn't think of a better place or a better way to go out."
Sarah Segan also pulled double duty, running in both relay events, while Gawelko did the hurdles and the 1600 relay.
Mertz, Gawelko and Segan, all seniors, along with sophomore Emily Renner took sixth in their preliminary heat on Friday.
All four were also members of Northwestern's Colonial League and District 11 championship soccer team this past fall, while Mertz and Segan helped lead the Lady Tigers basketball team to the district playoffs in February.
"It's really cool to be able to play other sports together," said Gawelko, who took sixth in her preliminary hurdle race Friday. "I think that definitely helps us."
The 3200 relay, which featured seniors Carly Pierce, Rachele Cerrone, Segan and Mertz, finished 14th in Friday's preliminary race.
After qualifying for states last year and advancing to the final, the group was admittedly disappointed to not repeat its performance this season.
"I wish we would have done better," said Pierce. "But we've had a great season and I'm proud of what we've done."
As was Cerrone.
"This is such a great group of girls," she said. "I'm so happy that I was a part of it."
While happy to be a part of the team's success on the track - which includes a 33-0 record in the Colonial League over the last three seasons - the group noted it's been equally important to represent the program well outside of competition.
"We're a small school and it means a lot for us come here with so many kids," said Segan. "We have so much support from the community and know that they're always behind us.
"It's important for us to come out and do well for them."
Gomes, also a senior and in her first year at Northwestern, placed 12th in the high jump.
"This was such a great experience," said Gomes, who won a district title in the event a week earlier. "I learned so much about myself this year and made so many great relationships.
"I can't thank my coaches and everyone on the team enough for what they've done."
Cam Richardson was the lone representative on the boys' side, competing in both the Class AAA 100- and 200-meter dash in Shippensburg.
The senior advanced to Saturday's semis in both events, taking fourth in his 100-meter preliminary race on Friday and sixth in his 200 preliminary event.
Richardson was unable to advance to the finals for either race, placing seventh in his 100 semifinal and eighth in his 200 semi.
Despite not leaving with any hardware, Richardson was happy to have the opportunity to compete one more time.
"It's great to be able to come out here and run against these guys," he said. "I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I did my best."
While Richardson's athletic accomplishments are undeniable - he will play football for Lehigh University this fall - his value to the program has been about much more than just what he's done in competition.
"He's been such a great leader for us," said coach Tim Cunningham. "It's going to be hard to replace all that he's done for us.
"But now it's time for some of the younger guys to step up."
CLASS AAA BOYS
100 - Cam Richardson, Northwestern, 11.33, fourth in preliminary heat, advanced to semifinals.
200 - Cam Richardson, Northwestern, 22.92, 6th in preliminary heat, advanced to semifinals.
CLASS AAA GIRLS
1600 relay - Northwestern (Sabrina Mertz, Emily Renner, Alexis Gawelko, Sarah Segan), 4:08.84, 6th in preliminary heat, did not advance to finals.
3200 relay - Northwestern (Sabrina Mertz, Carly Pierce, Rachele Cerrone, Sarah Segan), 10:28.58, 14th in preliminary heat, did not advance to finals.
High jump - Natcheli Gomes, Northwestern, 5-2, 12th overall.
100 hurdles - Alexis Gawelko, Northwestern, 16.28, 6th in preliminary heat, did not advance to semifinals.
CLASS AAA BOYS
100 - Cam Richardson, Northwestern, 7th in semifinal heat, did not advance to finals.
200 - Cam Richardson, Northwestern, 22.79, 8th in semifinal heat, did not advance to finals.