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IMG_4340BY JEFF FALK

PHOTOS BY LORI MESSERSMITH

SHIPPENSBURG -In many ways, the PIAA Track and Field Championships evolved into a sentimental swan song for Lebanon County competitors.

Jeronimo Rodriguez didn’t go out with his best race. But he did go out with a bang.

On Saturday at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium, a silver medal in the Class AAA 400-meter was a pleasant surprise for the Lebanon senior. But Rodriguez wasn’t totally satisfied with his performance, only because he felt like he left some tenths-of-a-second on the track.

IMG_4322Rodriguez’s silver was the brightest of medals earned by local student-athletes in six events at the state meet. The event also served to bring down the curtain on the 2014-15 scholastic sports season in Lebanon County, not to mention a number of amazing athletic careers.

Rodriguez covered his 400 meters in 49.12, a time that was bested only by Upper Darby senior Donovan St.Louis and his 48.33. In the finals, Rodriguez shaved .29 of a second off his preliminary time.

“It feels good,” said Rodriguez through an engaging smile. “It’ll hit me. It’ll hit me that it’s my last race too. It wasn’t really my best race, but I’m not mad. I’m happy. I gave it my all.

“I’m not sure if it’s (the 400) a dash or a run, to be honest,” Rodriguez continued. “It’s a hard race. If I’m saving anything, it’s on the back stretch.Then I give it my all the rest of the way.”

IMG_4331Despite starting from the less than ideal position of Lane Six, Rodriguez appeared to get off to a fast start. But midway through the race, St. Louis gained control of the outcome, and had enough to hold off Rodriguez at the tape.

“When you’re in Lane Six you can’t see anyone tripping up on you, so you’ve got to go the whole time,” said Rodriguez. “Honestly, I didn’t notice around. I just blocked it out. The only thing I heard was the (starter’s) gun shot.

“I think I could’ve improved my start,” added Rodgriguez. “I could’ve gone out a little faster. I knew I had to go hard, and my coach told me to kick at 200 meters. I was pretty close at the end. I thought I had a good chance to catch him (St, Louis). But he had a good kick.”.

IMG_4224Rodriguez, who was fifth in last year’s PIAA Class AAA 400 meters, began running the event five years ago, but started specializing in it more recently.

“I got a 49 (seconds) and I wanted a 48,” said Rodriguez. “I wanted to run a low 48, and if I do, then I’m real close to first. I like the two (hundred meters), but the 400 is my race. I was ranked fourth (following the preliminaries) and jumped up two spots. It feels good to jump off with a nice bang.

IMG_4178“Yeah, I like that (second),” continued Rodriguez. “Last year I was fifth and this year the 400 is so much faster. I wanted first, but second’s good. They’re (the finalists) all fast. I was nervous. I knew I had to leave it all out there.”

For a contingent of highly-decorated Palmyra female athletes, the state meet was simply one final opportunity to do what they had always done – the best that they can. On this day, that meant a fourth-place medal.

IMG_4220Seniors Katie Dembrowski, Maria Tukis and Miranda Salvo teamed with sophomore Jess Dembrowski to take fourth in the Class AAA 3200-meter relay. The Cougar foursome set a new school record and established a new personal best with their 9:07.89.

“In preparing for today, you just think about the race,” said K. Dembrowski, who will play Division One field hockey at Penn State. “You think about medaling and you think about a P.R. (personal record). After it’s over, that’s when all the emotions come out.”

“Some people might say we’re lucky,” said Tukis through tears. “But we’ve worked so hard to get the things we achieved. I’ve never been so focused and so determined to do well.”

IMG_4183“I couldn’t have asked for three better girls to run with,” said Salvo. “We were all really focused.”

Salvo, J. Dembrowski, Tukis and Katie D. ran mostly third or fourth during the entire race. They finished almost nine seconds behind PIAA winner Wilson, runner-up Great Valley and bronze-medalist Unionville.

But yesterday wasn’t the first time that they had enjoyed success on the PIAA level. In one way or another, some or all of the four had also shone on the state stage in basketball, cross country and field hockey – not to mention Salvo, Tukis and K. Dembrowski collaborating with Olivia Farabaugh to capture PIAA gold in the same 3200-meter relay event two years ago.

“I’m pretty darn happy,” said Salvo. “But it’s also bitter-sweet. We’re a family. We accomplished so much together.”

IMG_4204“Obviously we’re very emotional,” said Tukis. “These are four amazing girls, and we have an amazing coaching staff. When you’re on a relay team it’s like being part of a family. It’s an end of an era.”

“It’s really special to have been here three years,” said K. Dembrowski, her voice cracking. “We had a really good day. We got a medal, we P.R.ed and we got a school record. With our time, everyone had really good splits. We couldn’t be happier.

“But that’s why it’s so disappointing to see it end,” K. Dembrowski added. “We’re never going to be able to play high school sports again. Going from high school to college is going to be so different.”

Meanwhile, Lebanon senior Erin Winters experienced an up-and-down day in the Class AAA pole vault, then settled for a somewhat disappointing fifth. Winters cleared 12-0, four inches below her top height at the District Three meet and six inches less than her personal best.

IMG_4237The gold medal went to Bishop McDevitt’s Tesia Kempski’s 12-9.

“On my first attempt at 12-6, I thought I had it,” said Winters, who will go down in history as the best female pole vaulter Lebanon County has ever produced. “But when I hit the mat, I saw it (the bar) falling. But I’m very happy. My coach (Steve Richards) said my attempts were great. Getting a medal was my goal. I didn’t care where I placed, I just wanted to place.

“I didn’t feel like it was competition because we’re all friends,” continued Winters. “It doesn’t feel like we were competing against each other. But skill-wise, it was huge competition.”

Winters achieved her personal best while winning the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship, after being crowned the Lebanon County champion. In finishing second at the District Three meet, Winters cleared the same height as champion Kempski.

IMG_4284“No, I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” said Winters, who, along with her pole, is off to George Mason University. “I’ve been trying not to think about it. It’ll hit me on Tuesday when I go back to school and don’t have to go to practice.

“But I’ve been in touch with my college coach,” Winters added. “He wants to put together a summer training routine for me.”

IMG_4287Cedar Crest’s reigning District Three Class AAA champion 3200-meter relay team of Dan Glosser, Matt Royer, Jordan Cruise and Jesse Cruise couldn’t duplicate the magic of the week prior, but still managed to make some memories. As a group they ran a 7:50.28, which was sixth to state champion Pennsbury’s 7:38.42.

“That’s still pretty good,” said Falcon senior Jordan Cruise. “We wanted to get a top five, but a lot of teams ran faster than we thought they would. We ran a P.R..

“It’s pretty exciting to end your career medaling at the state meet,” Cruise continued. “You can’t find a better way to go out. I’m going to miss it.”

IMG_4161A different Falcon P.R. resulted in another sixth-place ribbon. Junior Evan Horn hoisted the spear 185-3 to grab some hardware in the Class AAA javelin.

Horn’s previous best – a 183-4 – had come at last spring’s state meet. He had used throws in the 181s and 179s to win the Lancaster-Lebanon League and District Three javelin competitions, respectively.

“In the beginning, baseball was getting me out of shape,” said Horn of the activity that competing in javelin provides for him. “I knew I had to do something. Now I love this. I got a P.R., so I’m definitely happy. My goal next year is 200.

IMG_4288“Coach (Tim Brown) talked about starting fast instead of slow,” Horn continued. “I thought I got a good drive out, and I think that was the key.”

On Friday, Cedar Crest senior Shanna Sweigart earned a seventh-place ribbon in the  girls’ Class AAA shot put. Sweigart closed out a solid senior season by heaving the heavy metal ball 39-7.

To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to see more go to www.http://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/gallery-nine/.

  Boys' Class AAA 400-meter Dash

 Competitor, School, Prelim, Final

  1 St. Louis, Donovan        12 Upper Darby 01         48.81      48.33   10   
  2 Rodriguez, Jeronimo       12 Lebanon 03             49.41      49.12    8   
  3 Bowman Jr., Charles       12 CD East 03             49.37      49.25    6   
  4 Hughey, Peter             12 Jms Buchanan 03        49.12      49.29    5   
  5 Richard, Ray              10 Wyoming Vly W 02       48.82      49.80    4   
  6 McIntyre, Javon           11 Garden Spot 03         49.23      49.90    3   
  7 Kidd-Jackson, Da'Vion      9 St Joseph's 12         49.60      50.82    2   
  8 Zimmerman, Brian          11 Mifflinburg 04         49.01      52.27    1

IMG_4276

Girls’ Class AAA 3200-meter relay

 School, Prelims, Finals

  1 Wilson 03                                         9:28.10    8:58.79#  10   
  2 Great Valley 01                                   9:24.67    9:01.60#   8   
  3 Unionville 01                                     9:31.31    9:06.81#   6   
  4 Palmyra 03                                        9:30.04    9:07.89#   5   
  5 Mount Lebanon 07                                  9:33.33    9:13.88#   4   
  6 North Penn 01                                     9:28.39    9:14.30#   3   
  7 Pennsbury 01                                      9:30.77    9:14.88#   2   
  8 Easton Area 11                                    9:30.55    9:20.59    1   
  9 Abington 01                                       9:31.55    9:23.92  
 10 Upper Dublin 01                                   9:31.99    9:23.98  
 11 Central Bucks West 01                             9:30.67    9:28.81  
 12 Hershey 03                                        9:33.58    9:30.11
  IMG_4254
   Girls' Class AAA Pole Vault
 Competitor, School, Seed, Result

  1 Kempski, Tesia            12 Bshp McDevitt 03    12-04.00   12-09.00#  10   
  2 Burner, Lucianne          11 North Pocono 02     11-00.00   12-00.00    8   
  3 Fry, Megan                 9 State College 06    12-00.00   12-00.00    5.50
  3 Shank, Kennedy            12 Northern 03         11-06.00   12-00.00    5.50
  5 Winters, Erin             12 Lebanon 03          12-04.00   12-00.00    3.50
  5 Finn, Rachel              11 Liberty 11          11-06.00   12-00.00    3.50
  7 Franco, Dominique         11 CR South 01         11-06.00   12-00.00    2   
  8 Plecenik, Kelsey          12 Norwin 07           11-06.00   12-00.00    1   
  9 Light, Madison            12 Lower Dauphin 03    11-00.00   12-00.00  
 10 Lowery, Samantha          12 Chambersburg 03     11-00.00   11-06.00  
 10 Yenchik, Haley            12 Canon-McMlln 07     11-00.00   11-06.00  
 10 Bourdon, Sarah            11 Carlisle 03         11-00.00   11-06.00  
 13 Hess, Jordan              12 Penn Manor 03       11-00.00   11-00.00  
 13 Lynch, Katherine          12 Emmaus 11           11-00.00   11-00.00  
 13 Burns, Bryanna            11 McDowell 10         11-00.00   11-00.00  
 13 Baldessaro, Grace         12 Altoona Area 06     11-00.00   11-00.00  
 13 DeBone, Molly              9 Hempfield 07        11-06.00   11-00.00  
 13 Baublitz, Alexis          11 Central York 03     11-06.00   11-00.00  
 13 Gumbrecht, Greer          11 Easton Area 11      11-00.00   11-00.00  
 13 Wood, Savannah            11 CR South 01         11-06.00   11-00.00  
 13 Deissler, Katlyn          12 CR South 01         10-00.00   11-00.00  
 22 Fellers, Hannah           11 No Allegheny 07     11-00.00   10-06.00  
 22 Frank, Katie              12 Williamsport 04     10-00.00   10-06.00  
 22 Buntic, Nada              11 McDowell 10         11-00.00   10-06.00  
 25 Starosta, Samantha        12 Upper Dublin 01     10-06.00   10-00.00  
 25 McGriff, Brooke           10 Bradford Area 09     9-06.00   10-00.00  
 27 Scott, Brittany           12 Oxford Area 01      10-06.00    9-06.00  
 -- Freeman, Alex             12 Arch Ryan 12         7-09.00         NH  
 -- Sebwe, Kel-Lisa           11 Arch Ryan 12         8-00.00         NH
  IMG_4316
Boys' Class AAA 3200-meter relay

School, Prelims, Final

  1 Pennsbury 01                                      7:55.75    7:38.42#  10   
  2 Pennridge 01                                      7:55.92    7:40.56#   8   
  3 State College Area 06                             7:56.33    7:41.50#   6   
  4 Central Bucks West 01                             7:58.23    7:46.37#   5   
  5 Penn Wood 01                                      8:00.03    7:48.06#   4   
  6 Cedar Crest 03                                    7:56.20    7:50.28#   3   
  7 Penncrest 01                                      7:56.97    7:50.70#   2   
  8 Abington 01                                       7:57.61    7:52.96    1   
  9 Twin Valley 03                                    8:01.21    7:55.29  
 10 Radnor 01                                         8:00.44    7:55.47  
 11 Altoona Area 06                                   7:58.49    7:55.91  
 12 Wilson 03                                         8:00.53    7:56.12
 IMG_4211Boys' Class AAA Javelin
 Competitor, School, Seed, Final 

  1 Jones, Grant              12 La Salle Cllg 12      183-07     199-11#  10   
  2 Mason, Skyler             11 W Allegheny 07        200-01     190-04#   8   
  3 Manz, Andrew              11 No Allegheny 07       190-02     188-07    6   
  4 Solfanelli, Nick          12 Scranton Prep 02      188-04     186-10    5   
  5 Hill, Grayson             11 Cthdrl Prep 10        178-00     186-06    4   
  6 Horn, Evan                11 Cedar Crest 03        179-08     185-03    3   
  7 Leacraft, Brandon         12 Spring Ford 01        180-00     182-09    2   
  8 Sing, Evan                12 Penncrest 01          194-08     179-04    1   
  9 Hoffsmith, Alex           11 Palmyra 03            179-03     177-07  
 10 Clearie, Casey            12 Liberty 11            178-00     174-04  
 11 Long, Nate                12 Chambersburg 03       177-03     173-04  
 12 Williams, Josh            12 Stroudsburg 11        181-10     170-06  
 13 Ziegenfuss, Derek         12 Parkland 11           201-09     168-02  
 13 Hoag, Tyler               11 Manheim Cntrl 03      177-02     168-02  
 15 Fox, Hayden               10 Hempfield 07          185-01     168-01  
 16 Baldyga, Cole             12 WC East 01            176-09     167-07  
 17 Gephart, Ethan            11 Jersey Shore 04       163-01     166-05  
 18 Hess, Drew                12 Wilson Area 11        206-09     165-08  
 19 Haas, Tommy               11 Hatboro Hrshm 01      173-06     162-06  
 20 Hook, Matt                12 Fleetwood 03          177-04     159-09  
 21 Hughes, Brandon           12 Bradford Area 09      170-01     156-01  
 22 Ebel, Erik                10 State College 06      156-07     154-02  
 23 Leacraft, Bryan           12 Spring Ford 01        181-01     154-01  
 24 Casagrande, Zach          11 Yough 07              171-06     146-05  
 25 Marsack, Mike             11 Stroudsburg 11        201-11     143-06  
 26 Egan, Ian                 10 Father Judge 12       152-06     134-00

IMG_4309

Girls’ Class AAA Shot Put

Competitor, School, Seed, Result

  1 McCartney, Courtney       12 Selinsgrove 04      49-05.75   46-00.00#  10   
  2 Ruth, Jocelen             11 Kutztown 03         43-05.75   42-11.75    8   
  3 Lynch, Janese             10 Academy Park 01     41-03.75   42-06.25    6   
  4 Stauffer, Emily           11 Cocalico 03         43-07.00   42-06.00    5   
  5 Sample, Erin              12 Nazareth Acd 01     40-09.50   41-07.00    4   
  6 Stevenson, Alexandra      12 Bethel Park 07      42-04.50   41-03.50    3   
  7 Sweigart, Shanna          12 Cedar Crest 03      39-01.50   39-07.00    2   
  8 Gambacorta, Nina          11 Garnet Valley 01    42-05.50   39-03.25    1   
  9 Taub, Allison             12 CR South 01         38-06.50   38-01.00  
 10 Greene, Sunny             12 Conestoga Vly 03    40-00.50   37-09.50  
 11 Alderman, Sydney          12 Red Land 03         38-05.50   37-05.75  
 12 Callihan, Kalynn          12 Butler 07           39-05.00   37-03.00  
 13 Johns, Emily              10 Lake Lehman 02      40-02.50   37-00.75  
 14 Robinson, Jaynelle        11 Williamsport 04     39-06.00   36-03.75  
 15 Bair, Jordan              10 State College 06    36-05.00   36-01.50  
 16 Wesley, Sara              12 Exeter 03           38-00.50   36-00.00  
 17 Biller, Katie             11 Mt. Pleasant 07     37-10.75   35-09.50  
 18 Montana, Payden            9 Berwick 02          37-06.00   35-03.00  
 19 Gray, Andrea              12 Geo Wshngtn 12      36-01.50   35-00.00  
 20 Aminu, Jazmyn             10 Liberty 11          37-04.50   34-09.50  
 21 Greggerson, Kristen       10 Gateway 07          37-06.00   34-07.75  
 22 Kent, Natalie             11 Strath Haven 01     37-11.75   34-07.00  
 23 Erie, Giovanna            12 Freedom 11          37-05.50   34-05.50  
 24 Fontanazza, Abby          10 Oil City 10         35-08.50   33-09.00  
 25 Leve, Amanda              12 Arch Ryan 12        34-08.00   33-01.75  
 26 Orenak, Allison           12 Saint Marys 09      32-08.50   32-09.00

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