LEBANON – During the fall months, Katie Dembrowksi follows her heart and pursues her true passion of field hockey. This past fall, the Palmyra girls’ cross country team was all heart in winning the PIAA Class AA championship.
But while leading their parallel athletic lives, Dembrowski and the Cougar female harriers always kept tabs on one another. What spring provides is an opportunity for turning those thoughts into actions.
With Dembrowski and the other distance runners leading the way, the Palmyra girls claimed the team championship at Saturday’s Lebanon County Track and Field Meet at Lebanon High School. For her efforts, Dembrowski was named – in an extremely close vote by the six head coaches – the Outstanding Female Athlete of the meet, for the second year in-a-row.
But Dembrowski, a sophomore, would’ve traded a handful of OA awards for a single team title.
In actuality, it was Palmyra’s third straight team championship at the County Meet, but by one of the slimmest of margins. The Cougars accumulated 159 team points, to Cedar Crest’s 129 team points, Annville-Cleona’s 110 and Elco’s 102.5
Lebanon was fifth and Northern Lebanon sixth.
“Field hockey is my main sport, but all the sports I play are important to me,” said Dembrowski. “Basketball and track are tied, but I love my teammates and I enjoy competing with them. We’re all really close, even outside of track season.
“That (the OA award) was really special and we all did our best today,” continued Dembrowski. “It is so nice. We have a lot of depth and we’re a close-knit team. Our goal was to come in here and get first.”
“We were hoping the girls could keep the streak going,” said Palmyra head coach Dan Byrd. “The kids really look forward to this meet. It was a beautiful day and great competition. It doesn’t get any better than that.
“At this meet, I look more at the team competition,” added Byrd. “The kids get fired up to be county champs. We always have some kids who surprise at this meet. They come away with a lot of great memories.”
Dembrowski claimed the 1600-meter title by seven seconds and was in the middle of two victorious Palmyra relay teams. Katie D. combined talents with Maria Tukis, Miranda Salvo and Olivia Farabaugh to win the 3200-meter relay, then teamed with Tukis, Farabaugh and Hailey Bova to mine gold in the 1600-meter relay race.
Tukis, the reigning District Three Class AA cross country champion, finished first in the 400 meter run, while Farabaugh, also an accomplished cross country competitor who received consideration for the OA award, took top honors in the 800 meters. Salvo was crowned the Lebanon County champion in the 3200-meter run.
“It’s really nice,” said Dembrowski of her OA award. “It’s a good accomplishment for myself. It feels good to know I earned something I did last year. And in some of my events, I just wanted to do better than I did last year.”
“My best event is the four-by-eight,” Dembrowski added. “That’s my favorite race. And we have an awesome group in that event.”
“”It’s a good combination of team and individual accomplishments,” said Byrd. “A lot of kids stick around at the end to see what happened. So that makes you feel good.
“All of those middle distance girls have been outstanding for us,” Byrd added, “and they were again today.”
In the field, Palmyra also got a first-place performance from Rachel Kline in the high jump. Back on the track, Cougar Kendall Kreider took home top honors in the 100 high hurdles.
“It is kind of a weird dynamic,” said Byrd of the fact that Palmyra is the only Lebanon County school which doesn’t compete in the Lancaster-Lebanon League. “I love the Mid-Penn Conferene. But I have a lot of respect for the Lancaster-Lebanon League. There’s good competition in both leagues. And we’ve had some great County meets over the years.”
Thanks to triumphs in the shot and discus, Cedar Crest’s Shanna Sweigart was the only female athlete in the meet to win two individual events. Elco’s Lexi Wike garnered an OA vote in part because of her title in the triple jump, as did Annville-Cleona’s Samantha Becker, who won the long jump.
The 400-meter sprinting relay was won by the Cedar Crest crew of Gable, Sees, Kelsey Kauffman and Maddie Smith.
A pair of Little Dutchmen, Alyssa Patches and Sidni Peiffer, were triumphant in the javelin and long jump, respectively. A third Annville-Cleona competitor, junior Alex Siebecker copped the 300 intermediate hurdles race.
“We usually have a scrimmage with Annville-Cleona and Cedar Crest,” said Byrd. “I always look forward to it, but this year we missed it. I like coming down here and seeing these teams. It’s a little different, but I really like it. All these teams have great kids.”