The annual Lebanon County Track and Field Championships are set for Saturday at Lebanon High, with more standout performances expected.
It's not the biggest or most prestigious meet on the Central Pennsylvania track and field schedule, but for the better part of the last three decades, the Lebanon County Track and Field Championships has made a home for itself in the hearts and minds of the athletes and teams that compete in it, and the community that supports it.
Each year on the last Saturday in April, "the county meet" takes center stage locally and provides a special atmosphere in which special - and often memorable - performances take place.
This year figures to be no different, although we'll find out for sure beginning on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Lebanon High School, when the six-team boys and girls battle royale gets underway.
There will be storylines aplenty - including the Cedar Crest boys' quest for an incredible 19th straight team title, and Annville-Cleona sprinting and jumping sensation Reagan Hess's bid for a third straight girls' Most Outstanding Athlete award - and maybe a few surprises popping up as the county's best get together once again with local bragging rights and more at stake.
"If you look at the results of the Lebanon County meet over the last 20 years, you're gonna see kids that have gone on to be district medalists, district champions, state medalists and state champions," said veteran Cedar Crest coach Rob Bare. "It is a high-caliber meet. Sometimes you think, 'Oh, Lebanon County, maybe not the biggest meet out there', but it is a high-caliber meet and high-quality as well."
One of the many reasons for that is the success the Cedar Crest boys have enjoyed over their nearly two-decade run as the county's best.
They'll be challenged this year by a quality Elco squad that currently leads Section Three and is paced by 100 and 200-meter dash top seed Blaine Troutman, Palmyra and javelin standout Alex Hoffsmith, and a deep Annville-Cleona group led by throwers Adam Fox and Matt Light, sprinter Stanley Miller and hurdler Derek Bosworth.
Also, keep an eye out for Lebanon and middle-distance stud Derin Klick and pole vaulters Huy Luu and Jesse Brownstein, as well as a Northern Lebanon squad anchored by throwers Dakota Leonhard and Matt Vines and pole vaulter Damian DiAngelis.
"Everybody's bringing something to the table," Bare said, commenting on the field.
But the Falcons - fronted by Evan Horn in the javelin, Jesse Cruise in the 1600, Luke Allwein in the hurdles, and Adam Wolfe in the 3200 - are the only ones bringing an unfathomable streak of team titles into the event.
"This would be 19," Bare said with a smile at Thursday's practice. "We just had a big team meeting, a big motivational session, and we say that the process is more important than the product. The effort is what's gonna get them where they need to be. If we can continue it another year - great. If not, whoever beats us is more than deserving."
The girls meet, meanwhile, shapes up as a three-team battle between defending champ Palmyra, Hess and Annville-Cleona, and Cedar Crest,. although Elco, Northern Lebanon and Lebanon could make an impact at times.
The Cougars boast six different No.1 seeds - high hurdler Kylie Bomgardner, 400 dasher Jess Dembrowski, 1600-meter standout Ellie Keck and 3200-meter compatriot Kelsei Bixler, pole vaulter Corrin Doan, and javelin thrower Kirstin West - and will be tough to knock off again this year.
A-C not only has Hess's supreme talents at the ready, but also the top seed in the 300 hurdles in Alicia Hitz, while Cedar Crest is loaded with athletes, including high jump and triple jump top seed Ariel Jones, and fellow No. 1 seeds Emily Peters (800), Miranda Spangler (shot put) and Hannah Woefling (discus).
"Annville's gonna score a lot of points, Palmyra's gonna score a lot of points," Bare said. "I think that girls meet, and the boys meet, is gonna come down to those second entries. Everybody's got great front-runners, but what are those second entries gonna do and how many points are they gonna score?"
The answer will come Saturday, when more memories and medals will be accumulated by the county's best.