LANDISVILLE – Most track and field athletes spent the early part of the spring season building up repetitions and honing technique in preparation for the important postseason meets. Casey Hess took a different route, one that involved some net results and a late start.
Now, Hess is peaking, and improving before our very eyes.
On a warm Friday evening at Hempfield High School, during the opening day of the annual Lancaster-Lebanon Track and Field Championships, Hess used progressive personal-bests to strike gold in the boys’ long jump. Locked in a tie for first place, Hess hit a PR of 22-0 on his final attempt – and the final attempt of the competition – to win it.
While certainly the highlight, Hess’ surprising gold was just one of the medals earned by local competitors during a strong opening day for Lebanon County at the L-L League meet. Joining Hess on the medal stand was Annville-Cleona teammate and higher jumper Noah Gunderson, and a trio of Lebanon County pole vault athletes.
The second and final day of the Lancaster-Lebanon Track and Field Championships will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, with finals in the remaining 14 girls’ events, while the boys portion of the meet will be contested between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m..
Hess had entered the long jump competition, seeded sixth, on the strength of a 21-3 regular-season best. But early in the competition, he leapt a personal-best of 21-10.5, good enough for a share of the lead, and tied with McCaskey’s Troy Johnson.
“If I hadn’t jumped 22, I would’ve gotten second,” said Hess. “It feels great. I was hoping for it, but I wasn’t expecting it. It’s kind of an honor. It was a great experience. I’m happy it ended this way.
“No, I wasn’t expecting to win, because I was seeded sixth,” continued Hess. “I was expecting to finish between third and sixth. I just had a good day, and some of the other guys didn’t do as well as they could have.”
What made Hess’ triumph even more incredible was that most of his spring had been spent concentrating on tennis, where he reached the second round of the District Three Class AA tournament. That pursuit limited Hess to just a handful of late-regular-season track and field competitions and an estimated 12-15 long jump reps.
“I’d say probably 90 percent of the spring season I just did tennis,” said Hess. “I knew I could make it to districts if I put the effort in. I was just doing tennis until about May 6th, when I had my first track meet. Before that, I had maybe two practices of about half-an-hour each.
“I would say the track conditioning helped me in tennis,” added Hess. “But nothing in tennis helped me for track.”
In a way, Gunderson’s journey to the second-highest rung on high jump medal platform was similar to Hess’, just not quite as dramatic. Gunderson, a Little Dutchman sophomore, out performed his seeding by two inches to capture the silver medal.
Top-seeded Nate Good of Warwick won the high jump with a leap of 6-9, some seven inches higher than Gunderson’s top jump.
In the girls’ pole vault, Lebanon County enjoyed a windfall of metallic medals.
Cedar Crest’s Emily Oriel, who was seeded fourth, finished as the runner-up to Solanco sophomore Katie Urbine. Both competitors cleared 11-0, but Urbine earned the gold on few misses.
Oriel’s Falcon teammate Molly Heintzelman tied Carissa Bender of Elco for third-place in the event. Both maxed out at 10-6.
“I was seeded fourth, so getting second was better than I expected,” said Oriel. “But I just wanted to do the best I can. I’ve been training hard all year. I went up a pole, to one that I never used before, and I think that made the difference.”
Two weeks ago, during a regular-season dual meet with Manheim Township, Oriel set the Cedar Crest girls’ record in the pole vault with a leap of 11-1.
“But I haven’t gotten there since,” said Oriel. “I was hoping to get 11-0 today, but 10-6 is my consistent vault. I’m going to districts, and I’m hoping to get my personal best there.”
7:00 a.m. – Stadium open for teams
7:30 a.m. – Gates open for spectators
8:30 a.m. – 4 x 800 Relay
8:55 a.m. – 100 Hurdles
9:05 a.m. – 100 Dash Field Events:
9:15 a.m. – 1600 8:00 a.m. – Girls’ High Jump & Javelin
9:40 a.m. – 4 x 100 Relay
9:55 a.m. – BREAK
10:10 a.m. – 400 Dash 10:00 a.m. – Girls’ Shot Put & Long Jump
10:25 a.m. – 300 Hurdles
10:40 a.m. – 800
10:55 a.m. – 200 Dash
11:10 a.m. – BREAK # 2
11:25 a.m. – 4 x 400 Relay
11:40 a.m. – Present Team Champion Trophy
11:45 a.m. – Clear Stadium
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Stadium cleared for cleaning
1:30 p.m. – Stadium open for teams
2:00 p.m. – Gates open for spectators
3:00 p.m. – 4 x 800 Relay
3:25 p.m. – 110 Hurdles
3:35 p.m. – 100 Dash Field Events:
3:45 p.m. – 1600 2:30 p.m. – Boys’ Shot Put & Boys’ Pole Vault
4:10 p.m. – 4 x 100 Relay
4:25 p.m. – BREAK
4:40 p.m. – 400 Dash 4:30 p.m. – Boys’ Discus & Boys’ Triple Jump
4:55 p.m. – 300 Hurdles
5:10 p.m. – 800
5:25 p.m. – 200 Dash
5:40 p.m. – BREAK # 2
5:55 p.m. – 4 x 400 Relay
6:10 p.m. – Present Team Champion Trophy