BY JEFF FALK
SHIPPENSBURG – Annville-Cleona freshman Reagan Hess doesn’t have a favorite track and field event. But we don’t always get to choose what we’re best at.
Sometimes the event – or events – pick us.
On Saturday at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium, Hess and the Class AA 100-meter dash appeared very comfortable with each other, during the final day of the annual PIAA T&F Championships. The Little Dutchman ninth-grader ran an aggressive, competitive and tough 12.62 to earn a bronze medal behind seniors Ally Bartoszewicz out of District Seven and Central Columbia’s Ellen Shepard.
Hess’ dash to destiny was one of six medium-ranged medals copped by Lebanon County student-athletes during yesterday’s conclusion of the spring-ending tournament. Hess had leapt to a sliver medal in the Class long jump on Friday night at states.
“No,” said Hess when asked if she has a favorite event yet. “I like them all. But definitely the long jump and the 100 like me better. I know I can only get better.”
Hess, who also competed in the 200 dash and 400-relay, got out of the blocks strong and was even with Bartoszewicz and Shepard at the midway point of the 100. But Hess was beaten by .38 of a second by Bartocszewicz’s 12.28.
During a break-through freshman season, the Outstanding Female Athlete from the county meet was also crowned a champion at the Lancaster-Lebanon and District Three Championships
“I’ll definitely train, and next year hopefully win the 100 and long jump,” said Hess. “It could’ve been better. I was really nervous. Next year I’ll do better.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, the Cedar Crest boys’ 400-meter relay team ran an outstanding fourth in Class AAA, Erin Winters and Geronimo Rodriguez led a Lebanon High revival with fourth- and fifth- place performances in the Class AAA pole vault and 400-meter dash, respectively, the Palmyra girls’ 3200-meter squad took fifth in Class AAA and Annville-Cleona’s Avree Wright wielded a sixth-place Class AA shot put.
Winters became the first Cedar female since Jess Lentz in 1998 to capture a state medal, and Rodriguez became the first LHS male since Jared Odrick eight years ago to medal at the prestigious event.
Winters, who’s in her sixth year of vaulting, reached her second-seeded height of 12-0, but could go no higher. Bridget Guy of Hempfield Area cleared a winning mark of 12-6.
Winters has gone from 18th at states during her freshman year, to tenth her sophomore season, to fourth as a junior.
“During the competition, I do know (how high the bar is),” said Winters. “I just don’t like to think about it.
“It’s exciting,” continued Winters. “I did what I wanted to do. I medaled.”
Rodriguez, a fleet member of the Cedars’ football receiving corps, ripped off a 49.23 in the finals, which was well off Ridley’s Malik Jones’ winning time. Earlier in the day, Rodriguez had been clocked in 48.5 during a leg of the four-by-four.
“I tried to go out fast,” said Rodriguez. “I tried to stay with the kid next to me. But I almost died when I finished hard.
“It (the Cedars’ showing) makes me feel good,” Rodriguez continued. “It means we’re back. It means we’re doing good.”
After missing out on the 100 and 200-meter finals, Cedar Crest senior sprinter Denzel Pierre ran a strong closing leg of the Falcons’ 400-meter relay team. The hand-offs between teammates Peter Groff, Jared Brandt, Damon Edwards and Pierre appeared to be crisp during the Falcons’ 42.40.
Gateway won it in 41.16.
“The season has been such a blessing,” said Pierre, who is considering, among others, Shippensburg as a college selection. “We knew what we were capable of last year. This year we wanted to come away with something around our neck, and we accomplished it. These three guys mean so much to me. My last race was everything I could’ve hoped for.”
The Cougar quartet of Miranda Salvo, Jess Dembrowski, Maria Tukis and Katie Dembrowski could not duplicate their 2013 magic in the 3200-meter relay, and finished 16 seconds behind victor Central Bucks South. Salvo is the reigning District Three Class AA cross country champion, while Tukis is a past champ.
In the Class AA shot put, Wright chucked it 38-11.25 to finish sixth. Kailyn Clancy of California went 45-6.75.
Lebanon County’s total medal haul from the two-day PIAA Track and Field Championships numbered nine.