Hess, Jones, Cedar Crest girls star at county meet
See the top 10 moments from the 2017 Lebanon County Track Meet held Saturday at Lebanon High School. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com
Barring unlikely ties, there can only be one Most Outstanding Female Athlete and one team champion at the Lebanon County Track and Field Championships each year.
But if there was ever a county meet in which more than one winner of each honor would have been more than acceptable, it most assuredly was the 2017 girls edition.
The story of this year's event was the epic individual brilliance - BRILLIANCE - of Annville-Cleona's Reagan Hess and Cedar Crest's Ariel Jones, and the superb collective team efforts of Cedar Crest and Palmyra.
Hess collected her fourth straight Outstanding Athlete honor after winning the 100, 200 and the long jump for a fourth consecutive year - the latter via a prodigious record-setting leap of 19-1 1/2 that may stand for, oh, eternity. But it was a deserved honor that was not without controversy, after Jones established three new county records in the high jump (5-7 1/2), triple jump (37-3) and as a part of the 4 x 100 relay with Hannah McCurdy, DeAsia Holloman and Destinee Holloman (49.5) on the way to leading Cedar Crest to a narrow team title win over Palmyra, 191-188.
Hey, a little controversy can be fun, right? Eh, maybe not.
"Reagan Hess is a phenomenal athlete," said a gracious but slightly steaming Cedar Crest coach Rob Bare. "She's gonna have gold, silver, bronze, all kinds of medals around her neck at leagues, districts and states. She is phenomenal. With that being said, not to give Ariel Jones a piece of that Outstanding Athlete award is a disservice to track and field. She got us 36 points (also finishing third in the long jump) and we won by (3). You do the math. She's the outstanding athlete on the winning team."
None of that, of course, made Hess any less deserving of the honor, as she completed her county meet career with a staggering 14 gold medals. Saturday, she clocked a 12.13 in winning the 100 dash, a 25.61 to cruise in the 200 and the aforementioned 19-1 1/2 in the long jump that obliterated her old record of 18-4 1/2 set last year.
"I felt really good coming down the runway. It was fast," Hess said of her record leap, which came on he second jump of the prelims. "I kinda knew it was pretty close to 19. It's crazy.
"The county meet to me is almost like districts (in importance). You're running against AAA schools, and you have some great competition and great friends that I've made over the years."
Hess graciously pointed out Jones as one of those great competitors and acknowledged she thought the Cedar Crest senior could have won the award - which went to Hess by a 4-2 vote of the county coaches.
And, well, it's not hard to make an argument for Jones, whose first record came in the high jump, where her 5-7 1/2 jump broke the 29-year record shared by her jumping coach, Palmyra alum Kim (Snyder) Miller.
"At first, I was a little rushed getting ready for the long jump, knowing Reagan Hess jumps two feet farther than everybody else," Jones said with a smile. "But once I got to the high jump, I knew I was gonna do good at it and just go for the record this year. And our 4 x 100 ran a great race and broke the record, and I pulled out the triple jump on my last jump."
Joining Jones and the 4 x 100 team on top of the medal stand for Cedar Crest was Hannah Woelfling who took the discus title with a throw of 112-2.
The Falcons needed each and every one of those wins and then some to hold off a deep and talented Palmyra squad that captured eight events.
Kelsei Bixler, Jess Dembrowski, Sarah Hollen and Ellie Keck won the 3200 relay, Maliyah Stough grabbed the high hurdles title, Bixler took the 1600, Mia Julian the 400, Jess Dembrowski the 800, Hollen the 3200, Kirstin West the javelin, and Bixler, Dembrowski, Hollen and Julian the 1600 relay.
"Watching it on the track, you would have thought Palmyra won," Bare said. "Because they had a bunch of 1-2s, a couple 2-3s. But our field events are really strong. When you put Jones out there in three field events, when you put Woelfling out there in four field events, that's a pretty good 1-2 punch."
Also winning individual county titles on Saturday were Elco's Natalie Swingholm (300 hurdles) and Lebanon's Megan Deck (pole vault) and Ary'Anna Ortolaza (shot put).