SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. – For most schools, having an athlete win an individual state championship in track and field is a rare occurrence.
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In fact for some schools, it’s never happened.
That’s what makes what Evie Bliss (javelin), Hayden Smith (high jump), and Landon Chalmers (discus) did for Union/A-C Valley even more remarkable.
That trio brought home three gold medals at Friday’s PIAA track and field championships. No other school had more than one state champion in either 2A or 3A on Friday.
Well, two schools, actually, as the name is self-explanatory as Union and A-C Valley co-op in track and field, as well as several other sports.
Even with the co-op, the program is still on the smaller end, with A-C Valley having a total enrollment of 100 in grades 9-12 (50 male, 50 female) and Union 115 (53 male, 62 female).
That’s what makes what they accomplished on Friday even more special.
And all three had their own unique storylines.
Bliss uncorked a throw that not only bested her previous PR by 15 feet at last week’s District 9 championships, but it was the No. 2 throw in the United States this season.
“I knew it was a good throw because it felt good, but I didn’t know it was over 170,” Bliss said.
Smith, meanwhile, cemented his status among District 9’s all-time track and field athletes by winning his second PIAA gold, clearing 6’8” to win the high jump.
“I felt good today,” Smith said. “I didn’t expect it to be 6’6” (second place), I expected it to be 6’4”, but that’s what I’m saying, you can’t go into a meet thinking that because some guys will pull a jump.”
Chalmers won a state title in the discus, an event he didn’t even win districts in. That honor went to Redbank Valley’s Cam Wagner, who brought home another state title of his own (both will also compete in the discus on Saturday). Chalmers was seeded sixth.
“I had some pretty good competition, great guys to go against,” Chalmers said. “I honestly didn’t know what it was (distance) when it landed, I just knew that it was good.”
Three unique champions in what can only be described as a co-op that has worked beautifully.
Sure, they are individual accomplishments, but the name on the front of the uniform is the same, and that’s rare and special.