Keystone State Medals - check back Sunday.
Two dozen of Lebanon County's top track and field athletes took center stage Friday at the PIAA State Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University. The locals were represented in front of a full house at Seth Grove Stadium in a half dozen relays and 10 individual events on the first leg of the two-day meet, which resumes at 9 a.m. today.
In Class AA, Annville-Cleona laid the foundation for a successful second half by qualifying for four finales. The Dutchmen boys clinched berths in the 4x400 and 4x800 relays, and juniors Shawn Wolfe and Ben Mason made the cut individually. Wolfe strode to a 4:25.61 mile to lock down the third seed in the 1600. Mason blazed his way to the fourth seed in the 400-meter dash with a personal-best time of 49.87.
The tandem will also combine with Mark Bachman in both relays. The 4x400, including Eric Bowman, bagged a No. 4 seed and broke a 1980s school record in the final event by crossing in 3:23.79. About eight hours earlier, Phil Corle helped them pass the baton in the 4x800 to garner a fifth seed for Saturday's first race.
"It's awesome. It's tough for a team to even make it to states," Wolfe said. "(The level of competition) is insane. It's crazy."
Not to be outdone, Palmyra's AAA boys' 4x400 followed up the Dutchmen's efforts by revising their own Cougar mark set last week at the District Three meet.
"It's so hard to get to states. There are so many schools in Pennsylvania (608 with boys' track programs)," said Harro, planning on attending Ship to play football next fall. "Even if you are 10th or 20th at states, it's incredible.
Another Palmyra relay with a school record, the girls' 4x800 of Devin Strynkowski, Olivia Farabaugh, Maria Tukis and Katie Dembrowski finished in 9:26.70. And although the boys' didn't survive the brutal AAA bracket, the girls' earned the final position in today's 3200 foursome finals.
A pair of Elco seniors - Nate LItschi and Drew Gerberich - will be back in the AAA mix. Litschi galloped his way to the seventh spot in the 110 high hurdles final today. He also spent a large part of Friday crouched under an umbrella, hiding from the sun between triple jump attempts where he took 11th.
"Considering they only take a certain few and weed it down to the very best, it's a blessing to even make it this far," said Litschi. "To qualify for the finals, that's just icing on the cake."
Gerberich again literally gutted out the 800 (1:56.38), earning an invitation back for the last heat just after noon today.
"Back in the leagues or district, you might be ranked high, but when you get here everyone's a stud," Gerberich said. "I didn't want to go back to the hotel tonight and not be running (today). So I got what wanted. The race was crazy, there was so much pushing and congestion on the last turn. (Saturday), I'm going to leave everything out. I won't hold anything back (in the finals)."
Annville-Cleona's girls also had a strong day.
In addition, the Cedar Crest boys' AAA 3200 relay lapped out 8:06.56 with Jarrod Cruise, Bryce Ebersole, Jeff Pellow and Shaun Ditzler.
Along with Friday's qualifiers, Northern Lebanon's Brian Boltz (boys' AA pole vault), Lebanon's Erin Winters (girls' AAA pole vault) and Cedar Crest's Garrett Levengood (javelin) will join Palmyra's Connor Strynkowski (3200 run), Shawn Mayer (pole vault) and Tim Moses (pole vault) in competition Saturday.