Taryn Parks is now a two-time state champion. Looking ahead, the Greencastle-Antrim freshman has the next three years to add to her collection of gold medals.
Parks posted a blistering time of 4:45.81 to win the girls' 1,600-meter run at the PIAA Track and Field Championships hosted by Shippensburg University on Saturday. Locked in a three-girl battle entering the final turn, Parks found another gear over the final 200 meters, pulling away by almost three seconds at the finish line.
In the fall, Parks won the state cross country crown, beating Northern York's Marlee Starliper. After losing to Starliper in the mile at both the District 3 and Mid-Penn track meets, Parks responded with a tremendous showing, outkicking runner-up Katie Dammer of Abington Heights and Starliper, who crossed third.
"I really wanted to win, coming off those two races the past two weeks," Parks said. "I knew I had it in me to finish strong, and the last 200 I kicked past them. I was trying to stick with Marlee as long as I could, and I knew that Katie would be in the mix. It was just a dead sprint at the end and I was so relieved to cross the finish line."
Entering states, Parks was technically eligible in three events, qualifying in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at districts. But, with preliminaries added into the equation for the PIAA meet, Parks and her coaches elected to solely focus on the mile. Despite winning gold in the shorter 800 a week earlier, the decision to run the 1,600 certainly paid off.
"It's unbelievable, I could not be any more grateful," Parks said. "I've been focusing on this race the whole season. The 800 is really tough at the state level, so we liked my chances in the mile."
While Parks' performance headlined G-A's day, Campbell Parker claimed the Blue Devils' third state medal of the weekend, placing fourth in the boys' discus. The senior's first throw of 179 feet, 3 inches proved to be his best, sitting just two feet shy of his personal record.
"I'm happy, I finally got a state medal," Parker said. "At one point as a freshman I thought about wanting to win states, but there is some stiff competition. The first throw felt good, and it ended up being my best."
The competition included Knoch's Jordan Geist, who set a new state record in the event with a winning distance of 207 feet, 6 inches.
For Parker, Saturday was a strong turnaround after scratching all three of his tries during Friday's shot put. From the initial attempt in his premiere event, the University of Pennsylvania signee was determined for a better result.
"I've learned a lot, to put the past in the past," Parker said. "I knew I had to come back with a better mentality, to be more focused."