BY JEFF FALK
SHIPPENSBURG – Following a stellar spring on the track, Lebanon County athletes took to the field – and air – during Friday’s first day of the season-ending PIAA Track and Field Championships, inside Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium. A local horizontal jumper and a pair of County vertical vaulters turned the large gathering’s attention to the sky.
Annville-Cleona freshmen Reagan Hess soared to a runner-up showing in the Class AA long jump. Northern Lebanon senior Derek DiAngelis ascended to third in the Class AAA pole vault. And Annville-Cleona senior Samantha Becker flew to a fourth-place finish in the Class AA pole vault.
“Well, I was trying to win,” said Becker, “but what happens, happens. I’m not very happy. I always feel like I could do better. I’ve only been vaulting two years. I’m just honored to be here.”
“My head coming in was a personal best,” said DiAngelis. “I just admit, I’m greedy I wanted to go higher. It feels like a little technique. It’s not where I wanted to be.”
“It’s in between,” said Hess, “because I know that wasn’t my best jump of the day. I thought I could do better, but I’m happy. You could see today that they were all bringing it.”
Saturday’s second and final day of heated PIAA competition will go off at 9 a.m., at ‘The Grove’ at ‘The Shipp’. A squadron of track athletes will represent Lebanon County on the other side of the sport.
With her 18-2.25 in the long, Hess finished a solid second by three inches to Boiling Spring junior Abby Martin, during her initial taste of state-level competition, in the morning. Hess, who won the event at last week’s District Three meet, will compete in three other – track – events this weekend.
“My goal in the 100 and 200 was just to make the finals,” said Hess. “There’s a lot of fast girls here. In the four-by-one, I want to help my team get on the podium.”
Hess’ Little Dutchmen teammate Becker fell six inches short of her prior best this season, with her 110-0. Her sights were set a bit higher.
“”I wanted twelve (12-0),” said Becker.
DiAngelis fell out of the Class AAA competition when Valley View’s Ryan Wilkes and McDowell’s Cal Sanford both cleared 15-0. Wilkes won it by making 15-6.
“Places are always nice,” said DiAngelis. “It’s nice to win. I just wanted to do my best. I was competing against myself. I can’t control what other guys do.”
DiAngelis had finished second in last year’s PIAA Class AAA pole vault competition.
“There’s definitely a pride thing,” said DiAngelis of Lebanon County’s continued rise through the state pole vaulting world. “It’s nice to see all the schools from such a small county doing well. Coach (Jim) Weaver is often a common denominator. People come to him for advice. There’s a lot of science in it. Everything has to be so precise.
“This mainly took over (from football and wrestling last year),” continued DiAngelis. “I was always good for my age. But the explosiveness and speed from lifting translated well into vaulting.”
On the track, three-quarters of the Palmyra girls’ 3200 relay state champion of a year ago set itself up for a medal by qualifying for the Class AAA finals. Miranda Salvo, freshman Jess Dembrowski, Maria Tukis and Katie Dembrowski ran the fifth fastest time during Saturday’s preliminaries.
The Cedar Crest boys’ 3200-relay team of Jared Glosser, Jordan Cruise, Jesse Cruise and Jarrod Cruise also advanced to the Class AAA medal round. Another Falcon, senior Denzel Pierre, survived the preliminaries of the Class AAA 100-meter dash.
Pierre also spearheaded a strong showing by Falcon boys in the Class AAA 400 relay.
Lebanon Cedar Jeronimo Rodriguez assured his school of its first state medal in recent memory by reaching the finals of the Class AAA 400 dash.