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Morning 첥Ƶ All-Area track and field: These athletes of the year win (and lose) with grace

Parkland's Andrew Beers, right was second in both Class 3A boys' hurdles events at the PIAA Track & Field Championships at Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium. (Rob Lombardo/Special to 첥Ƶ)
Parkland’s Andrew Beers, right was second in both Class 3A boys’ hurdles events at the PIAA Track & Field Championships at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium. (Rob Lombardo/Special to 첥Ƶ)
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Nataly Walters managed a smile on the awards podium at last month’s PIAA Track & Field Championships, but her body language told a different story.

The Palmerton junior wore a silver medal round her neck for her performance in the Class 2A girls triple jump a year after donning gold.

Disappointment did not begin to describe how she felt as the reality of it all hit her as she stood in front of thousands of fans at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium.

Walters then exchanged congratulations with the other medal winners before taking what must have seemed like a mile-long journey to collect her belongings along the back stretch of the track near one of the jumping pits.

At that point, Walters had two choices:

• Get to the nearest exit — fast.

• Or do as she had done the previous day and twice the previous year by going to the media tent.

It surely was tempting to choose the former, but when asked she unwaveringly chose the latter.

“Of course, I’m upset,” Walter said. “I didn’t win.”

Walters has spent her three-year varsity career winning a lot more than not. (The junior will compete in 3A as a senior.) She won three District 11 2A gold medals and a bronze medal. She won a pair of Colonial League titles, was second in one other race and third in another.

Parkland’s Andrew Beers also did his share of winning in 2024, claiming four gold medals in the EPC and District 11 3A championships, but he, like, Walters, wore silver at states instead of the desired gold.

He, too, like Walters, took the high road after suffering painful defeat.

Beers was second to Palmyra’s Tyler Burgess in the 110 and 300 hurdles finals, with first-hurdle issues the culprit.

“It’s just not the last race you want,” said Beers, who is bound for Monmouth in the fall. “I have nationals, but it’s not the same. It’s AAU. You’re running for yourself, not for a team.”

Beers’ last sentence summed up an attitude often lacking in this and other sports at all levels. He and Walters won plenty of competitions, but more importantly, offered their services to the team whenever and wherever needed.

Beers ran two of the relays and the 400 in addition to the hurdles.

Walters ran the sprints and was part of the school record-setting 400 relay team whose races hugged against one of her signature jumping events in the postseason schedules.

They elevated their respective programs and created memories and postseason opportunities for teammates.

For their character as much as for their talent, Beers and Walters are 첥Ƶ’s All-Area boys and girls athletes of the year.

Palmerton's Natalie Walters competes in the girls triple jump on Saturday, May 27, 2023, during the PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University in Cumberland County. (Amy Shortell/첥Ƶ)
Palmerton’s Nataly Walters is 첥Ƶ’s All-Area girls track & field athlete of the year for a second spring in a row. (Amy Shortell/첥Ƶ)

Walters repeats on the girls side despite missing a couple weeks with an ankle injury. She eased her way back into competition by taking only one or two jumps in the long and triple in the latter part of the Colonial League schedule before going back to 100% for the league, district and state meets.

She did not make excuses for her state triple jump performance. She did not question the two fouls, either, on what looked like potential winning jumps. She only promised to come back stronger because of it.

“To walk away with silver,” Walters said, “a lot of people would be happy with that. I’m probably one of the biggest competitors in our area. To come in and not do what I wanted to do is very upsetting.

“There’s next year. This is only going to push me even harder in the offseason because I’m not going to get beat next year. I’m going to win.”

Beers is looking forward to the new challenge of the 400-meter hurdles at Monmouth. He’s embraced the challenges the hurdles brought throughout his high school career.

The Parkland senior has no regrets about focusing on them, knowing how difficult those events can be.

“That’s the unfortunate part about picking the event,” Beers said. “Not everybody does it, but at the same time you could be like the girl in the 300 hurdles final. She should have won by a second, but she fell. It happens. It’s the crappy part about hurdling. You can be so good, but anything can happen.

“I kind of psyched myself out before I ran [the 300s], which I never do. I was thinking about getting over the first hurdle, which I never do. I just needed to shut off my brain and run.”

Beers and Walters took ownership for their perceived shortcomings at the state meet. Expectations of those at the elite level do that.

They’ve built resumes loaded with far more successes than failures. They’ve done so by going the extra mile in the offseason, in the preseason and during workouts throughout the season when they thought no one was watching.

But their coaches and peers took notice.

“Since I’ve been a head coach, it’s always been about how can an individual help the team?” Parkland coach Stephen Ott said. “That’s always been how Andrew views things. He’s been great.”

Morning 첥Ƶ reporter Tom Housenick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or at thousenick@mcall.com

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