WVC Athletes Get District Tune-up

May 5, 2019

PLAINS — This time of year is always billed as a last chance for track and field athletes to qualify for the postseason with strong performances.

For Nazir Dunell, Saturday was more like his very first chance to show how he plans to run at districts in little more than a week.

Meyers’ state champion has battled a pulled hamstring all spring and sat out much of his senior season. He’s only getting close to 100 percent now.

“This was, since states, the first time I’ve run at full speed,” said Dunell who won last year’s PIAA Class 2A championship in the 110 hurdles in 14.78 seconds.

No one would have guessed that with the way he flew through both hurdles events at Saturday’s annual James Cross Wilkes-Barre Invitational at Solomon-Plains Junior High’s track. Dunell was one of three Wyoming Valley Conference athletes to grab a pair of first-place medals, both of which he won without a doubt.

Dunell ran the 110 hurdles in 14.95 seconds, 1.25 ahead of Scranton’s Sam Jones. He had an even more decisive win in the 300 hurdles, a 41.30-second performance that clocked in 1.85 seconds faster than Jones.

“It felt good just being able to be back in a race, coming in first place,” Dunell said after his 110 hurdles final. “Just being able to finish the race felt amazing.”

Saturday was just about business as usual for Dunell. He was nearly a full hurdle ahead of the rest of the James Cross finalists as he made his final leap.

The rest of this season would have likely looked the same, but Dunell said he injured his hamstring the day before Meyers’ first meet. He had to stay away from hurdles work and go through physical therapy treatments to “get back to where I need to be for districts and states.”

The on-and-off nature of his injury made it even more frustrating to deal with.

“I’d be able to run one day, then the next day I wouldn’t be able to walk. It was just rough,” Dunell said.

Meyers is a Class 3A team this season, but Dunell’s goal is to still repeat as District 2 champion in both hurdles. He’ll keep trying to get healthy enough to pull that off until May 14’s championship meet.

That’s when Tunkhannock’s Rebecca Avery will have her eyes on district hardware, too. Saturday made it clear that she’ll be another WVC athlete worth watching this postseason.

Avery, also a senior, put together one of her best showings of the season with victories in the shot put (33 feet, 6 inches) and discus (110-1). Her winning throw in the discus turned out to be a personal-best mark.

Avery said she’s been working on her movements all season, and her dad is always there to get her in the right mindset. The future Bloomsburg thrower is trying to end her high school career right.

“It’s not the last time I’ll throw, but it’s the last time I’ll be able to wear a Tigers uniform,” she said. “I’ll miss my friends that I’ve been throwing with for six years.”

Of course, she can extend her Tunhannock career with a trip to states — something much more possible with the graduation of Berwick state champion Payden Montana.

Avery could now shoot for high placement at districts with a good day in the shot put. Even better, her new discus PR is better than any active thrower’s mark at last year’s district event.

“It’s anyone’s game,” Avery said. “It’s crazy. It’s always in the back of mind. I’ve never been to states, and maybe this year I can pull it off.”

Other WVC athletes put together big days in their own district tune-ups.

Hanover Area’s Abby Korba, last year’s D2 triple jump champion, won that event (37-¼) as well as the long jump (17-3½). Teammate Isabella Popson won the high jump at 5 feet, and Nanticoke Area’s Abby Cullen took the javelin at 102-4.

Coughlin’s Rafael McCoy won the boys 100 in 11.2, and teammate Jude Bourdeau was awarded first in the 200 after tying Scranton’s Rodo Brown in 23.73. They’re half of Coughlin’s champion 4x100 relay.

Northwest’s Ariana Walker had enough in the tank to finish strong in her 300 hurdles, winning by .36 seconds in 47.47. Also on the track, Meyers’ Angel Rodriguez won the 800 (2:06.18) and Coughlin’s Catherine Shuleski won the 3200 (12:54.41).

Valley West’s Jack Gorham had the best boys long jump (20-foot-2¾), a half-inch ahead of Northwest’s Matt Saxe, who blew away the javelin field at 186-6. Valley West’s Cole Gorham scored a narrow discus victory at 135-5, while runner-up Jervone Young of Coughlin had no problem winning the shot put at 47-10¾.

GAR district champion Curtis Smith took the high jump clearing 6-2, and Tunkhannock’s Dalton Yeust was a foot better than anyone else in the pole vault clearing 13-3.

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