The future of area track and field
In this area the name Gambrell is synonymous with track and field.
For most who follow the sport in the area the name is familiar from the recent past when Jarred was a state record-holder in the triple jump.
However, it's also a name people are going to start hearing a lot once again as Breana Gambrell is very quickly making a name for herself.
Just a seventh grader, Gambrell has a long jump of 17-feet, 1-inch this year, better than any varsity athlete in the region this year. She also ran a 12.24 hand timed in the 100m, which was faster than any varsity runner in the region.
"I am really surprised I'm able to do things like that," Gambrell said.
Just starting junior high this year, Gambrell figured it was going to take some time to find a lot of success.
"I wanted to start out small and work toward something bigger," she said.
It didn't take long for Gambrell to build to something big as she is now landing jumps that would be good enough to qualify her for states if she was in high school.
"I just can't wait to get to varsity," Gambrell said.
But, competing on the varsity team is some time away for the seventh-grader, but that doesn't mean she's not going to prepare herself with some top competition.
Gambrell is planning to compete at freshman Nationals this year.
"That's just incredible, I never pictured I would go this far," she said.
For years Gambrell has been around jumpers, watching her brother, and being around her dad, Ben, the jumps coach at Athens.
"That helps a lot, it helps me with him telling me what to do," Gambrell said.
Being around her older brother and so many of the other jumpers at Athens has allowed Breana to pick up a few pointers over the years.
"I think I picked up a little bit," she said. "Not much, but a little bit of what to do."
Right now, there is no escaping the big shadow that her older brother casts, she hears it whenever she goes to a meet.
"People look at me because of him. They ask is that the Gambrell girl," Breana said.
When this season started people knew Breana because of the records her brother broke. They knew her as Jarred's little sister.
Each meet she goes to that begins to change. Meet after meet the jumps get longer, the times get faster and the shadow starts to fade.
Each time she competes Breana Gambrell is making a name for herself. She is letting people see she is the future of Athens track and field.
FROM RIVALS TO FRIENDS AND FUTURE TEAMMATES
For the last couple years Troy's Casey Norton and Wyalusing's Erika Huffman have been rivals.
They have been two of the best distance runners in the area. They have pushed each other, made each other better and fought every race to see who came out on top.
Next year the two seniors will once again be racing each other. They will push each other, make each other better, but this time they will do it as teammates at Shippensburg University.
Ever since they both decided to run at the same college that rivalry has started to change. The two have become closer.
"It's a lot different, we work together a lot more than we did last year," Huffman said.
"We are better friends," Norton said. "We talk to each other a lot more now."
Not only will the two be teammates next year, they will also be roommates and that has meant plenty of conversations while they run about things that have nothing to do with track and field.
"We talk about things not involved in running," Norton said. "It's not that we weren't friends be fore, but were are definitely better friends now."
Already the two are starting to act like teammates when they run, encouraging each other and hoping the other succeeds.
"It feels kine of like we are working as teammates," Huffman said.
It's not just the runners who have changed, they are seeing the change in their family as well.
"My parents used to yell beat Erika," Norton said. "Now they yell go work with her."
"My dad will yell to work together. If she goes ahead he will start yelling to stay with her, run together," Huffman said. "He will start cheering for her when she's doing well."
One thing that makes it easier for the two to encourage each other this year is that both will be focusing on different events for the postseason, with Huffman looking at the 800 and 1600 and Norton focusing on the 3200.
"We focus on two different events which is nice," Norton said. "It helps a lot that we have different events."
"I just stay out of the two mile," Huffman said.
A year from now the two will be teammates at Shippensburg, but these dual meets and invites this year might be some of the last times they run the same events on the track, as both will focus on different events in college.
"It makes for a fun last year," Huffman said. "It's the last time we will really run together. We will run on the same team, and we will be roommates, but we will run different events next year."
MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF
Athens' Austin Depew is used to being around some talented athletes.
For everything he has accomplished in track and field, Depew has always been a little bit in the shadow.
First it was Gambrell. Then it was Ray McDougan. Athletes competing in the exact same events as Depew who stole the spotlight.
This year things are different.
A year ago when McDougan scratched from the long jump, Depew, who was the alternate, earned a spot in states.
Now, it's Depew who is the name everyone in the NTL is looking at as the one to beat.
"It's a lot more pressure," Depew said. "It's really tough if you don't perform like you think you should."
Between the jumps, and running the sprints, Depew is busy each and every time he competes and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"Coach Gabriel just told me I'm going to be tired when I run the 4x100, he said 'it sucks to be good,'" Depew said. "I like it though. It's a lot of fun."
Getting to states last year was a bit of an eye-opener for Depew, it showed him where he wants to get in the future.
"It shows you what the real deal is," he said. "I worked real hard the whole offseason for this year."
A lot of his time this summer was spent working with Gambrell.
"We always push each other," Depew said. "I look up to him. I worked with him all summer and it helps."
Watching Gambrell have success at Michigan State has helped Depew see it's possible.
"To be from a small town and to be able to get there, it shows what you can do when you work hard."
Next year it will be Depew who is competing at the college level as he will be a member of the Bloomsburg track and field team.
"When I went for my visit, I loved it, I knew it was the right place," Depew said.
It's close enough for his friends and family to come and watch him compete and Bloomsburg offers Depew to compete against great athletes every time out.
"It's going to be a lot of fun, competing against so many good people," he said.
LOOKING FOR THE BEST EVENT
Northeast Bradford's Lydia Werner has a problem.
A problem that every track and field athlete would love to have.
The freshman is finding success in too many events this year.
From the hurdles, to the jumps, to a number of running events Werner is establishing herself as one of the top athletes in the NTL, making for some tough choices as she decides what to focus on for the postseason.
"It's hard to choose, I like to do them all," Werner said. "But, I will have to choose."
For most of the season Werner has been trying out a number of events, trying to see which ones are the best for her.
"We are trying to see what ones I need to work on," she said.
The freshman has brought home victories in a half dozen or more events this year, but she knows she needs to trim down that number starting this week.
"It makes it tough to choose," Werner said.
As she prepares for the NTL meet this week, and districts next week the picture is starting to become clearer about the focus for Werner.
"I would like to do the hurdles, the high jump and some running event," she said.
While Werner is finding plenty of success this season, it doesn't mean the transition from junior high was easy.
"It's pretty tough," she said.
Already this year Werner has earned a state medal in cross country, and she would love the chance to make it to states in track and field as well.
"That would just be awesome," she said. "Getting to states in one of my events would be great."
BLEGGI GOES ALL IN
A year ago Wellsboro's Lauren Bleggi was pulling double duty as a freshman.
One day she was sprinting for the Wellsboro track team, the next she was playing for the softball team.
Bleggi was able to find success in both sports, but she realized that she needed to make a decision if she wanted to fully excel in one.
So, this year Bleggi is no longer playing for the Wellsboro softball team so she can focus on track and field.
"It was hard," Bleggi said. "But, I wanted to do better in track and it's paid off."
As hard as it is to leave softball behind, Bleggi knows that she still gets a chance to compete in that sport.
"It was hard, but I am still on the travel ball team with them," she said.
Bleggi is watching her times fall and is setting some pretty big goals for her future.
"I want to get under 13 (seconds) in the 100," Bleggi said. "And, I want to do well at districts."
A year ago Bleggi was part of a strong Wellsboro relay team that made it to states and she is hoping that in the future she can get back to Shippensburg.
It was after her trip to states last year that she started to realize she needed to focus on one sport.
"After seeing what the state meet was like, I knew I had to work hard," she said. " I would like to try and get back there some day."
The Wellsboro roster is completely different this year and Bleggi has gone from the newcomer, to one of top returning runners for the Green Hornets.
"It was weird at first, people were looking up to me," she said. "But, I like it."