SALEM-When Salem senior Megan Lehwald stood waiting for her final long jump attempt at Saturday's Division II district track meet, she took a moment to visualize herself jumping at regionals next week and thought of how badly she wanted to make it there after falling short in the district meet last year.
"I was pretty confident that I already made it with my previous jump," Lehwald said. "But I wanted to be sure. I wasn't going to leave anything back." .
Channeling everything she had, Lehwald not only captured a district title, she set a district meet record with a jump of 17-feet-4.
It was the longest jump by an area athlete in 10 years.
The top four in each event advance to next week's regional meet at Austintown Fitch's Falcon Stadium.
"I was standing there before my jump just trying to focus as much as possible on regionals and trying to get myself a little angry," Lehwald said. "I think it really helped me explode off the block."
Lehwald's jump shattered her school-record 16-8 set at the Columbiana County Meet last year. Having surprised herself with the jump, Lehwald has no idea what she has in store for her first regional long jump appearance next Saturday.
"Now that I just hit that mark, I'm really confident going into next week," Lehwald said. "I've been working hard all year, and I think I'm still getting better."
Lehwald's jump was part of a solid afternoon for the Quaker girls, who finished third in the team standings with 82 points. South Range won with 113 and West Brnach was second with 108.
Salem junior Marissa Swindell had a stellar afternoon, getting a personal best on her way to capturing the 400 dash (59.40 seconds).
"This year is my first time running the 400, so it was really satisfying to come out here and win the district," Swindell said. "I feel like it's more of a mental race than other races. You have to mentally eliminate the fact that it's going to take over your body."
Swindell also won the 200 dash (26.99). and joined Lehwald, Hannah Texter and Julia Dundon on the winning 800 relay team (1:49.76).
Also for the Salem girls, junior Alyssa Wright won the discus (131-11), while the 400 team of Texter, Lehwald, Dundon and Elizabeth Aukerman finished second (52.40) and the 1600 relay team of Swindell, Dundon, Anna Wyss and Anna Shivers finished fourth.
The Salem boys were led by the winning 1600 relay team of Dan Rumsey, Marcus Crittenden, Ethan Bailey and Cameron Turney with a 3:24.11, the best time in the area this season.
"You want to keep gaining steam and setting PRs (personal records) this time of year," Rumsey said. "Our goal is to get back to state."
Turney was an alternate on the 1600 team that advanced to the state meet last year and is motivated to get back this time as a major contributor.
"It's been a real challenge this year, meeting the standard that was set," Turney said. "We all feel a sense of responsibility to love up to it."
The Quakers advanced two other boys relay teams.
The 800 relay team of Haedan Panezott, Crittenden, Rumsey and Turney finished second (1:30.67) and the 400 team of Panezott, Crittenden, Brandon Kitts and Logan Taylor finished second (44.32).
Caleb Quinn also finished second in the 110 hurdles (15.46) and Rumsey finished third (51.07) in the 400 dash.
The Salem boys finished fifth in the team standings with 60 points. Marlington won with 94.
The last area girl to clear 17 feet in the long jump was Wellsville's Shawntae Dillard who had a jump of 17-0 1/4 in 2007.
Lehwald's jump is the longest in the area since Beaver Local's Paula Ferry jumped 18-5 1/4 in 2004.