BY JEFF FALK
SHIPPENSBURG – The track and field season is a three-month grind – longer if an athlete competes in the winter indoor season. It involves training, nutrition, proper rest, technique, repetition and trial and error.
Sure everyone wants to peak the end. But there are limits as to how much competitors can improve in a week, or two weeks.
At some point, it just is what it is. At some point, one’s best has got to be good enough.
On a damp Saturday at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium, during the final day of the annual PIAA meet, Annville-Cleona senior star Reagen Hess spearheaded a strong contingent of Lebanon County student-athletes who left it all on the track, and in the field. Hess captured a bronze medal in the Class AA 100-meter dash and paired it with the silver she copped in the long jump on Friday afternoon.
Hess’ were the shiniest of state medals brought home by local competitors in nine events. They also pushed Hess’ final career total of metallic medals in the big postseason meets to 33 – an all-time haul that did not include a state gold.
“My field is so competitive,” said Hess. “Any other year I might have won. Our quality here is better than other states. No other comes close to our’s.
“As much as I love competing, when I look back my memories will be of my team,” continued Hess. “It was just so much fun to be here as a team. We’re a small team and we’re so close.”
Hess appeared to be in contention for an even higher medal at the halfway point of the 100-meter dash final. But winner Thelma Davies, a sophomore out of Girard College, and runner-up Breana Gambrell, a junior from Athens Area, finished stronger than Hess.
Hess was clocked in 12.15, while Davies went 11.62 and Gambrell 12.10.
“It is a good feeling,” said Hess, who did no qualify for the finals in the 200 meters. “You can only ask for so much. I’m so grateful.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Hess added. “I was having trouble with my hamstring on the left side, which is brand new. I ran through the pain. I wanted to finish my last race. I felt it in every jump and every race. Now I get to rest, but I’m going to miss everything.”
An afternoon prior, Hess had ripped off a career-best of 19-1.75 in gaining silver in the long jump. That effort, which came on her final attempt of preliminaries, was some three inches off Gambrell’s gold-medal leap of 19-5.
Hess finished second in the same event at last year’s state track and field championships.
Hess’ legacy will be as one of the most prolific track-and-field athletes that Lebanon County has ever produced.
“It’ll probably hit me when I go to school and I don’t have to go to practice,” said Hess of her career accomplishments. “Or when the weekend comes and I don’t have a big meet. It’s going to take a little bit to settle in. It’s something that hasn’t set in yet.
“This place (Seth Grove Stadium) is like home sweet home,” continued Hess. “It’s so comforting. I know everything about this track.”
While Hess’ performance featured the only metallic medals claimed by local competitors, a number of Lebanon County athletes turned in surprising fourth-place efforts.
Running the final race of his career, Cedar Crest senior Jesse Cruise led for the majority of the Class AAA 1600-meter run, before settling for fourth. At the top of the stretch, Cruise was passed by a pack that had stalked him most of the way.
Cruise was able to extract a measure of consolation from the fact that he set the CCHS school record in the event, with his 4:13.18. That time was about .71 of a second off the winning time turned in by Carlisle’s Isaac Kole.
“I’m happy, but satisfied, even though I’m never satisfied,” said Cruise, who came into the weekend seeded third. “For awhile, I was out in front, and I wasn’t sure how close they were. I wish I could’ve gone a little faster. It’s the end, I guess.
“I knew going into it that there were guys who were faster,” Cruise added. “I don’t think my coaches wanted me to go out that fast. They went past me and then I thought I needed to go.”
In his final scholastic race, Lebanon senior Derin Klick used a strong kick from the middle of the pack to pick up fourth-place hardware in the Class AAA 800-meter run. A three-time Lancaster-Lebanon League champion in the event, Klick ran 1:53.24, while first-place finisher Josh Hoey covered the distance in 1:50.13.
“It means a lot,” said Klick. “I improved from last year. It (the 800) just keeps getting faster. It’s hard to keep up. That race went out harder than other races. I really wasn’t feeling it. I was just rolling with it.
“It’s starting to sink in,” Klick continued. “It’s (his career) amazing. But without anyone in the league or the district, it’s hard to run fast. They’re the ones to push it. I try to make the most of every single race.”
Meanwhile, Palmyra junior Camryn Simpson jumped up and hauled in a fourth-place medal in the Class AAA long jump. Simpson nailed her 18-5 on her last jump of preliminaries, to break her own Palmyra school record.
She finished just a quarter of an inch short of bronze. Kyasia Caldwell of Pocono Mountain East won the competition with her 19-7.75.
“I had a lot of motivation,” said Simpson. “I knew if I tried hard enough I could get on the medal stand. It (her personal best) was great timing. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
“I wanted to make the finals,” added Simpson. “It’s (the long jump competition) awesome. It’s an opportunity. I got to meet so many great people.”
Simpson’s Cougar teammate, Kirstin West, also came in a very satisfying fourth in the Class AAA javelin. West uncorked a 139-2 on her first attempt in the finals, which was slightly off her winning effort in the event at last weekend’s District Three championships.
West, a junior,also garnered gold at the Lebanon County meet and was second in the javelin at the Mid-Penn Conference Championships.
“It’s kind of been unreal,” said West. “I can’t believe I got this far. It’s fantastic. It’s (the competition) usually easy to get in your head, so you have to focus on yourself.
“I knew there were going to be some really big dogs here,” West added. “I was really nervous. I tried to not think about the 160 throwers. I put in a lot of hard work. When I set a goal, I really strive for it.”
Cedar Crest senior Ariel Jones was a bit disappointed in her state showing, despite the fact that she took home a pair of medals.
After hauling in an eight-place medal in Friday’s Class AAA triple jump with a career-best of 37-9.5, Jones held down the third leg of a Falcon quartet – that also included Shayla Bonzelet, DeAsia Holloman and Destinee Holloman – that finished seventh in the 400-meter relay in 48.57. But Jones did not medal in her best event, the high jump, or the long jump.
Still not bad for an athlete who’s focused on basketball and only came out for track as a junior.
“I decided that before I signed during basketball season,” said Jones of her intention to also compete in college track and field, within the confines of the same Seth Grove Stadium. “I was going to do just basketball. I talked to the Shippensburg coach and I talked to (Cedar Crest’s) Coach (Rob) Bare and I realized it was something I could do better at. I’m going to miss it (high school athletics) a lot. I’m going to miss the friends and the coaches. But I think I’m ready to start a new chapter in my life.
“It’s frustrating, because I didn’t do as well as I could have,” Jones continued. “My knee was bothering me, but I thought I could work through it. I think it was overuse. It’ll be good to get a break.”
For her part, Destinee Holloman finished seventh in the Class AAA 100-meter dash.
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PIAA Track and Field Championship Records
Boys 2A: Moreau, Renner, Schoenfelder, Spooner – Lewisburg (2004) 7:44.44
Girls 3A: Polesz, Stratz, Kwapinski, Stratz – CB South (2014) 8:51
Boys 3A: Dickson, Manion, Poiesz, Mallon – CB South (2009) 7:33.48
Boys 2A: Keenan Michael – Montoursville (2008) 14.00
Girls 3A: Chanel Brissett – Cheltenham (2016) 13.19
Boys 3A: Charles James – Truman H.S.; Chad Black – WC Henderson (1983) 13.79
Girls 2A: Thelma Davies – Girard College H.S. (2016) 11.58
Boys 2A: Jeff Brown – Grove City (1979) 10.58
Girls 3A: Breehana Jacobs – Laurel Highlands (2007) 11.64
Boys 3A: Leroy Burrell – Penn Wood (1985) 10.44
Boys 2A: Paul Vandegrift – Archbishop Kennedy (1987) 4:03.22
Girls 3A: Kim Gallagher – Upper Dublin (1981) 4:41.08
Boys 3A: Drew Magaha – Upper Moreland (2011) 4:07.32
Boys 2A: Mike Spangler – South Western (1984) 46.36
Girls 3A: Leaha Walker – Williamsport (1986) 53.11
Boys 3A: Clinton Davis – Steel Valley (1983) 46.27
Boys 2A: Jackson, Lenz, Kuntz, Sutliff – Trinity (2012) 42.23
Girls 3A: Barnes, Lewis, Crosby, Brissett – Chelenham (2016) 45.78
Boys 3A: Rier, Henry, Arroyo, Totten – Harrisburg (1998) 41.14
Boys 2A: Tom Wise – Grove City (1992) 37.47
Girls 3A: Leah Nugent – Abington HS (2011) 41.10
Boys 3A: Eric Futch – Penn Wood (2011) 36.43
Boys 2A: Domenic Perretta – Beaver Falls (2016) 1:50.10
Girls 3A: Chanelle Price – Easton (2008) 2:02.90
Boys 3A: John Lewis – Cheltenham (2015) 1:48.72
Girls 2A: Thelma Davies – Girard College HS (2016) 23.85
Boys 2A: Andrew Snyder – Camp Hill (2015) 21.50
Girls 3A: Dasia Pressley – Pennsbury (2015) 23.52
Boys 3A: Clinton Davis – Steel Valley (1982)
Boys 2A: Chris Dugan – Southmoreland (1997) 9:04.09
Girls 3A: Sara Sargent – Pennsbury (2010) 10:21.06
Boys 3A: Zach Brehm – Carlisle (2015) 8:55.60
Boys 2A: Bradley, Simpson, Green, Carr – Milton Hershey (1988) 3:19.07
Girls 3A: Pitt, Mansaray, Moore, Turner – Penn Wood (2016) 3:42.67
Boys 3A: Beckford, Henderson, Johnson, Jackson – Glen Mills (1996) 3:12.76
Boys 2A: Matt Benson – Sheffield (1992) 7-1
Girls 3A: Cyre Virgo – Fleetwood (2013) 5-11.25
Boys 3A: Tyrone Smith – Plymouth-Whitemarsh (1985) 7-0¾
Boys 2A: Patrick Anderson – Kane Area (2012) 15-11
Girls 3A: Abby Schaffer – Easton (2008) 13-0½
Boys 3A: Chris Williams – Strath Haven (2012) 16-6
Boys 2A: Russell Dickinson – Octorara (1976) 24-3½
Girls 3A: Nicole Smith – McDowell (2005) 20-3
Boys 3A: Dion Bentley – Penn Hills (1988) 25-5¼
Boys 2A: Jarred Gambrell – Athens Area (2011) 50-01¾
Girls 3A: Sheena Gordon – McDowell (2002) 42-10¼
Boys 3A: Carlton Lavong – Methacton (2010) 50-5
Boys 2A: Joe Kovacs – Bethlehem Catholic (2007) 64-10¾
Girls 3A: Elaine Sobansky – Trinity H.S. (1980) 50-1¼
Boys 3A: Jordan Geist – Knoch (2016) 74-03½
Boys 2A: Brian Milne – Fort LeBoeuf (1991)
Girls 3A: Colleen Rosensteel – Greensburg C.C. (1985) 165-2
Boys 3A: Kyle Long – Hempfield (2011) 202-10
Boys 2A: Rob Robbins – Northeast Bradford (2011) 221-06
Girls 3A: Madison Wiltrout – Connellsville (2015) 182-08
Boys 3A: Billy Stanley – South Park (2012) 246-9