BY JEFF FALK
SHIPPENSBURG – Adults reflect back on events. Kids look forward to them.
Reagan Hess has been looking forward to this particular track and field meet perhaps more than any one in her young life. But not only has she been looking forward to it, she’s been preparing for it.
On Friday afternoon at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium, during the opening day of the 92nd annual District Three Track and Field Championships, Hess captured the title in the Class AA long jump, and in the process established a new district record. After missing last year’s district meet to a tweaked hamstring, the Annville-Cleona junior ripped off an unprecedented 18-6.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Hess accomplished the feat on her first attempt, following an afternoon full of trials. But perhaps even more impressive was the fact that the new District Three Class AA best was not Hess’ personal best.
While Hess’ performance was certainly the highlight, it was only one of a number of strong showings turned in by Lebanon County competitors at the district meet. Action on the track and in the field at the District Three Championships resumes Saturday at 9 a.m., back at Shippensburg University.
Hess will be part of top seeds in three other events today – the 100 dash, the 200 dash and the 400-meter relay.
“I’d say so,” said Hess, when it was suggested her last year’s absence made this year’s more special. “Every race, every medal, I put last year into this year. Not competing in leagues (the Lancaster-Lebanon League Track and Field Championships last week) was more to rest my legs than anything. I can not miss districts. That would kill me.
“I’m going for it,” continued Hess. “That’s (four gold medals) my goal. I’ll be happy if I can get them. That would be huge.”
Hess’ 18-6 was nearly 10 inches farther than runner-up Trinity Ponton of Wyomossing. Her mark was also more than two inches bigger than the previous long jump record established by Abby Martin of Boiling Springs last spring.
“The key was just pulling out a jump,” said Hess, who recorded a personal-best 19-0 at the Shippensburg Invitational in April. “To see an 18-6 on my first jump I was happy, especially with the trials. I really like the pit here. My steps are just on here.
“It’s amazing. Three down and three more to go,” Hess continued. “Now I’m just going to go home, rest mentally, stretch and do whatever I can to get ready for tomorrow. Today was crazy. I’ve never been so busy at a meet. Today was more tiring. Tomorrow will be more mentally challenging. Tomorrow I’m just laying it all out there.”
During her freshman season two years ago, Hess struck gold in the long jump and the 100-meter dash at the District Three Track and Field Championships. She also finished second in the 200-meter dash and anchored the Little Dutchmen’s silver-medal-winning 400-meter relay squad.
“I remember the stands being packed,” said Hess. “I remember so many people being here. I remember being so nervous. I was so nervous today.
“But I definitely made it to my advantage,” Hess added. “I had so much adrenaline. The more nervous you are, the faster you get out of the blocks.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
But while Hess’ performance was not unexpected, the showing of Northern Lebanon senior Dakota Leonhard in the Class AAA shot put was a bit more of a surprise.
Leonhard opened some eyes with a silver medal, after entering the competition as the number-five seed. Leonard heaved the heavy ball 54-4.75, which was second only to Manheim Central’s Tyler Hoag.
“I was hoping to do this well,” said Leonard, who did not compete at last week’s Lancaster-Lebanon League Championships either. “But I didn’t know with the competition that was here. I’ve just got to do it again next week (at the PIAA Track and Field Championships, back at Shippensburg University).
“I was at a prom last week,” added Leonard. “I didn’t really miss it (the league meet), because I knew I could be here this week. If it would’ve been districts, I would’ve had to tell her (his date), ‘No’.”
Unlike Hess and Leonhard, timing was not an ally of Annville-Cleona senior Matt Light. Light entered Friday’s competition as the second seed in both the Class AA long jump and javelin.
But both events were contested at the exact same time early Friday afternoon, and that fact certainly had an effect on Light’s performance. Shuffling between the two events, Light struggled to meet his seeding distances and finished fifth in the javelin and eighth in the long jump.
“I’m pretty upset about it,” said Light, who’s out for track and field for the first time since the spring of his freshman year. “It just wasn’t my day. It was a little difficult to coordinate. I had to run back and forth. I’m happy I got the medals, it’s just my distances weren’t as good as they should’ve been.
“The season’s been really good, but today wasn’t,” Light continued. “I tried to do it evenly, but it didn’t work out. I wanted to do the javelin first, so it kind of messed me up. I had the distances I wanted to get in mind, but I didn’t reach either.”
In other local results, Cedar Crest junior Ariel Jones finished fourth in the Class AAA triple jump with a leap of 36-10.25. Also fourth was Annville-Cleona’s Nate Ulrich in the Class AA high jump.
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