SHIPPENSBURG – Xander Topos isn’t good at everything he does. He just puts himself in positions to succeed.
Effort, talent and fate have a way of taking care of all the rest.
On a raw Saturday at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium, during the Class AAA portion and final day of competition at the PIAA Track and Field Championships, Topos did something that few Lebanon County student-athletes had ever accomplished before him. The Palmyra senior earned a state medal in every event in which he competed.
Topos captured a bronze medal in his signature event – the 110 hurdles – he came in seventh in the 300 hurdles, he ran a strong leg for the Cougars’ 400-meter-relay that finished a surprising fifth and he also contributed to a Palmyra 1600-meter relay team that ran fifth. Those four medals added up to one outstanding performance.
But Topos wasn’t the only Lebanon County student-athlete who took home multiple state medals from yesterday’s meet. Cedar Crest senior Tommy Bildheiser earned a bronze medal in the Class AAA 800-meter run and anchored the Falcons’ 3200-relay team that ran fourth, while Northern Lebanon senior Dylan Lambrecht came in a very satisfying fourth in the Class AAA shot put and fifth in the discus.
“I had a full day,” said Topos, with a smile. “I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t think I was going to get seventh in the 300s. It was just a normal meet for me. I competed in the events I usually competed in, it was just against harder competition, which is a good thing.”
Topos day started with his third-place showing in the 110 hurdles. He appeared to get off to a bit of a slow start in the final, but closed hard at the end for a new personal best of 14.52. An hour later, he collaborated with Roman Byler, Quinton Townsend and Anthony Mansfield for their fifth-place hardware in the 400-meter relay.
“I got my P.R. (personal record) in the semifinals,” said Topos of the 110 competition. “When I hit the finals, I was definitely nervous, but I PRed again. The first hurdle is always my weakness, but I got stronger towards the end of the race.
“I’ve always had more passion for the 110,” added Topos. “But the relays are more fun because I get to do it with the guys.”
As the 11th-seed Topos, finished seventh in the Class AAA 300 hurdles from the second of the three heats in the timed final. He concluded his day by teaming with Townsend, Mansfield and Jake Klucinec for a fifth-place showing in the 1600-meter relay.
“Last night, I was thinking about a top-three in the 110s,” said Topos. “I always down play myself and say the other guys are really good. But when I get down in the blocks, I get focused. I don’t hear the crowd at all.”
Bildheiser’s performance in the Class AAA 800-meter run was just as strong. Seeded ninth, Bildheiser was clocked in 1:53.73, which was good enough for third.
“It was an amazing day,” said Bildheiser. “It’s a day I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. I’ve come a long way, since I started as a little freshman with big dreams. My coaches always believed in me, my teammates always believed in me and my family always believed in me.
“Every single day, we had to go out and brave our adversity,” added Bildheiser. “This is bigger than us. Coach (Rob) Bare has changed the lives of so many people, and he’s changed our lives for the better.”
Bilheiser’s strong finished helped wrap up the Falcons’ fourth-place effort in the 3200-meter relay, after teammates Luke Hinegardner, Ryan Wolfe and Jayden Heagele had put him in a pretty good spot. Cedar Crest was timed in 8:00.74, which was about seven seconds off the time the same foursome posted in winning the event at the District Three Track and Field Championships last week.
“I hung on OK on the first lap,” said Hinegardner. “I started to lose it a little bit. There were a bunch of guys who got ahead of me on the final lap. We weren’t in the best position going into the second lap.”
“I wanted to make sure I stayed up there with the teams in front of us,” said Wolfe. “I had an OK final lap. My leg was pretty clean. There was a decent amount of head win on the back stretch. Times were slower today, just because of the weather.”
For the first time this postseason, Lambrecht did not finish first in both the shot put and the discus. Prior to the state meet, the Northern Lebanon senior had accumulated a total of six gold medals – three in each big event.
“I’m happy,” said Lambrecht. “No complaints about two medals at states. I think with my bigger throws, I was able to get them because of the competition. Today, I had to earn my way up.
“I would’ve been super happy with two PRs (personal records) today, or one PR,” Lambrecht continued. “I would’ve been a little happier with a bigger shot put throw. But in the discus, the guy (Dan Norris of Hempfield Area) beat me by 25 feet, and that’s respectable.”
Seeded seventh in the discus, Lambrecht uncorked a 165-02. Lambrecht, who was seeded fourth in the shot, put a 57-5, while Dustin Hyde of Somerset Area took the gold with a 59-8.
“I like to think I gave everything,” said Lambrecht, who plans to continue throwing at Penn State. “Looking back, I wish I would’ve had another throw today. But that’s how it always is.
“I still have four more years to put in at Penn State,” Lambrecht added. “I’m excited for college. It’s filled with people who want to be there.”