BY JEFF FALK
LANDISVILLE – From the outside, Elco’s Nate Litschi looks like a lanky kid who likes to jump over stuff. Get to know him and you realize he’s a young man who likes to overcome obstacles.
Litschi did some overcoming at Saturday’s Lancaster-Lebanon League track and field championships, both figuratively and literally.
The Raider senior leaper captured two gold medals at the meet, and generally enjoyed an outstanding day. Litschi won both the long jump and triple jump in comfortable fashion.
“It’s all right, I guess,” said Litschi of his performance. “I was going for first in all four events. I wanted four golds, but I’ll take two.”
Litschi, who also competed in the 110 high hurdles and the 300 hurdles, won the triple jump by seven inches. He went five inches farther than runner-up Charlie Hargrove of Lancaster Mennonite in the long jump.
But both efforts were off his personal bests. Litschi has gone 44 feet in the triple jump and 22-3.
He still has next weekend’s District Three Class AA championships at Shippensburg to beat himself.
“The one I enjoy most is probably the long jump,” said Litschi. “That’s probably my favorite one. I don’t feel like it’s my best event, but in that one I feel like there’s so much room for getting better.”
But the day could’ve been even more bountiful for Litschi. He got out slowly in the 300 hurdles, where he was the top seed, and finished third.
Litschi was also sixth in the 110 high hurdles.
“Coming in, I was feeling pretty good about myself,” said Litschi. “Bad starts. I’ll clean that up. And in the 300, I just need to go faster.”
Last year, Litschi won the triple jump at the Lancaster-Lebanon League meet on his way to a third-place showing at the PIAA Class AA Track and Field Championships. He was also sixth in the 110 hurdles at the 2011 District Three meet.
“It was a great experience,” said Litschi of last year’s district and state meets. “I was around a lot of great athletes. Everyone is willing to share pointers with you, so I learned a lot. Basically, you’ve got to have a good day, and a little bit of luck.”
Litschi said that he is very close to committing to Division Two Shippensburg University, where he could run track and play football.
“We’re weighing it pretty much,” said Litschi. “I most likely am going to go there. They contact me every week to see how I’m doing in track.
“Football and track are neck-and-neck for me,” Litschi added. “It’s hard to do, but when I was contacted by Ship they said I could do both.”
Litschi was joined on the top step of the medal platform by teammate and fellow senior Drew Gerberich. Gerberich won the 800-meter run in 1:55.78, a time that was two seconds faster than his personal best.
Cedar Crest’s Shaun Ditzler finished second to Gerberich with a 1:57.63.
“I was on the inside,” explained Gerberich. “I didn’t want guys jamming me in, so I just went out. I felt good after the first lap. I felt fine. So I just gave it my all the last lap.
“I just want to thank the Lord,” Gerberich added. “He gives me all the strength to do these things.”
Gerberich chose not to compete in the 1,600-meter run, an event in which he set a new local record at the Lebanon County Track and Field championships two weeks prior. Gerberich, who’s headed to Robert Morris, said he was trying to guage which event to run at the District Three Class AA meet, but now has settled on both.
Through the efforts of Litschi and Gerberich, Elco as a team surprisingly tied Cedar Crest for fourth in the team standings. Speaking of the Falcons, they received a gold-medal effort from the 3200-meter relay team of Jarrod Cruise, Bryce Ebersole, Jeff Pellow and Ditzler.
Northern Lebanon senior Brian Boltz also struck gold, with a 13-3 in the pole vault. Boltz’s teammate, Joe Vedilago, the reigning Lebanon County Outstanding Athlete, came in third in the 100-meter dash, but then appeared to injure his leg in finishing fourth in the 400-meter. His status for the remainder of the track and field postseason is unknown.
Meanwhile, Annville-Cleona’s Ben Mason took second in that 400-meter dash.