All Western Wayne's girls track & field team needs is a win over Scranton on Monday to secure a Lackawanna League championship. The Lady 'Cats are undefeated in Division Two after an electrifying 76-72 victory over Valley View.
At the start of the spring season, Justin Collins wasn’t exactly sure what he had. Western Wayne’s track & field coach knew his girls team was talented...but, he also realized they were very young and inexperienced.
As the ‘08 Lackawanna League campaign loomed, he pointed to three crucial dates on the schedule. The first was opening day against Dunmore. If the Lady ‘Cats could post a big win right out of the blocks, then they just might be able to make some noise in a rugged Division Two.
“It was definitely important that we get off to a good start,” Coach Collins told TWI Sports. “This team is made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores. So, they needed a positive start to build some momentum.”
A positive start is exactly what the Lady ‘Cats got. Western Wayne’s young team showed surprising poise in posting a 76-74 decision over pre-season favorite Dunmore. With that big win in their pocket, the local lasses set their sights on two more Lackawanna League powers: Montrose and Valley View.
Western Wayne took care of business against the Meteors, rolling to an impressive 91-59 victory. On the heels of that win, all that stood between the Lady ‘Cats and a possible Division Two title were the Cougars.
“Before every meet, we sit the whole team down and do a little power point presentation,” said Coach Collins. “We dissect the upcoming meet and show the girls where we need points. It doesn’t always work out the way we think it will, but it gives the girls an idea.”
On this particular occasion, Coach Collins’ scouting report was right on the money. He was convinced the meet would be as close as they come...and that the outcome could very easily come down to a single event.
That’s exactly what happened.
Western Wayne and Valley View were in a virtual deadlock heading into the final event, the 4x400M relay. Coach Collins called his girls together just before taking their positions on the track. He told Charlcie Brink, Shannon Nolan, Sarah Wildenstein and Courtney Kromko that it all came down to them.
“They weren’t going to let us lose,” he said. “As far as I was concerned, it was already over. They really rose to the occasion. The race wasn’t even close.”
Brink, Nolan, Wildenstein & Kromko didn’t just win...they dominated. The Lady ‘Cat quartet burned up the track and broke the tape in a time of 4:18. In fact, Kromko crossed the finish line some 50 yards ahead of her Cougar counterpart.
With that individual event victory, Western Wayne carried the match by a final score of 78-72. The win was the Lady ‘Cats’ sixth in a row and sewed up at least a tie for the league title. If the Varden girls defeat Scranton on Monday, they will be the ‘08 Division Two champions.
Next up for Western Wayne is a weekend road trip to Wyalusing. The Lady ‘Cats are competing in Saturday’s “Rams Invitational,” which will serve as a tune-up for Monday’s all-important Lackawanna League finale. The meet against Scranton will take place at 4:15 p.m. in Varden.
Young & Hungry
Lyndsay Barna, Courtney Kromko and Shannon Nolan have been at the forefront of the Lady ‘Cat attack all season long. Each of these youngsters has turned in one outstanding performance after another in Western Wayne’s surge toward a league championship.
Barna is the ringleader and one of Division Two’s best all-round athletes. Coming into the spring, Lyndsay was viewed as a hurdles specialist. However, after a rigorous off-season filled with indoor events all over the state, the Lady ‘Cat sophomore has become much more than that.
“Lyndsay has worked incredibly hard and it’s definitely paying off,” said Coach Collins. “She’s already won a state medal for the indoor hurdles and there’s no reason she can’t win one outdoors. Lyndsay is such a gifted natural athlete that we have to rein her in a little bit sometimes. She’s good at everything.”
Against Valley View, Barna won both hurdling events going away. She took the 100M high in a time of :15, then cruised to victory in the 300M intermediate (:49). As if that wasn’t enough, she finished first in the long jump (16’1”) and second in the pole vault.
Lyndsay was joined on the medals stand by both Kromko and Nolan.
Courtney sprinted her way to yet another stellar outing. She posted victories in both the 400M (1:01) and the triple jump (33’8”).
“She’s really exceeded my expectations,” said Coach Collins. “I saw Courtney last year in junior high and I knew she’s be able to help us out this season on the varsity team. But, I never guessed she’d contribute as much as she has. Courtney is having an outstanding season...and she’s only going to get better.”
In addition to playing a key role in Western Wayne’s 4x400M relay win, Nolan also chipped in with a big victory in the 800M. Shannon crossed the finish line in a time of 2:36, holding off a late charge by two Valley View pursuers.
“Shannon is a versatile runner and we ask her to do alot,” said Coach Collins. “On some days, she runs the 4x800M and the 800M. On other days, we send her out for the 4x400M and the 400M. She runs her tail off and always gives us her best.”
Another underclassman who may be flying under the radar a bit this spring is Sarah Lutat. Still just a frosh, Lutat has carved out a niche for herself in the distance events. Against Valley View, she cruised to a win in the 3200M, stopping the clock at 13:54.
“Sarah has been a pleasant surprise,” said Coach Collins. “Even though she’s just a freshman, she’s a gutsy runner. Sarah has been winning her share of races in the 3200M and she also runs a leg on the 4x800M relay team. I think she has a bright future on the track.”
Rebecca Farrell and Claire Bateman also earned gold medals in Western Wayne’s narrow victory at Valley View. Farrell held of the Cougars’ Alyssa Rupp to win the 200M (:26.9), while Bateman led a Lady ‘Cat sweep in the pole vault (8’).
Coach Collins and his girls are eagerly awaiting Monday’s meet with Scranton. All the Lady ‘Cats need to do is hold off a 2-3 Knights’ squad and the Division Two title is theirs.
Scranton is coming off a big win over West, but the Invaders have yet to win a meet in Lackawanna League action this spring. Still, Coach Collins isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We’re working hard and staying focused,” he said. “If the girls go out there and do what they should, we’ll be fine. They’re very excited and so am I.”
After Monday, the Lady ‘Cats will turn their attention to the annual league championships and the upcoming District Two meet. This year’s “Robert Spagna” event is slated for May 6th at Scranton Memorial Stadium. Districts for Class AA schools will take place May 13th in the Electric City.
Without question, Western Wayne should be a major player at both meets.
“I don’t want to jinx us because we’re having a great season,” said Coach Collins. “But, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t finish in the top three at districts. If a couple of things go our way...well, you never know.”