Annville-Cleona's Reagan Hess set two records and won the Outstanding Athlete Award for the third straight year, and the Cedar Crest girls stormed to the team title at Saturday's Lebanon County meet
Talent, of course, is required. But to truly be a champion, much more is needed.
Focus, commitment and the desire to push oneself to the limit, physically and mentally, are even more important attributes.
And they were all over the place on Saturday at Lebanon High School in the girls' portion of the Lebanon County Track and Field Championships.
Annville-Cleona sprinting and jumping sensation Reagan Hess and the Cedar Crest girls were among those wearing their desire for greatness on their sleeves, combining for three new county meet records along with a substantial gold medal haul during the latest installment of the annual county event.
Hess, a junior, established new county meet records in the long jump (18-4 1/2) and 200-meter dash (25.1) and added a third gold medal in the 100 meters while also garnering a third straight Outstanding Female Athlete award. Her heroics continued an epic climb back from a serious hamstring injury that sidelined her for much of the postseason a year ago.
Meanwhile, Cedar Crest took back the team trophy from Palmyra behind a record-setting performance from the 400-meter relay team of Taylor Menser, DeAsia Holloman, Ariel Jones and Destinee Holloman (49.7 seconds), Menser's three-peat in the high hurdles, and Briana Laliberte's tone-setting triumph in the 300 hurdles.
Not to be outdone, was Palmyra's Ellie Keck, who produced wins in the 800 and 1600 meters while also contributing to the Cougars' winning 3200 relay quartet.
The individual spotlight shined brightest on Hess, though, and with good reason.
"It means a lot," said an emotional Hess, who broke her own meet record set as a freshman in the 200. "My goal was to get this again, and to get it, everything paid off. It's a great honor. It means so much to me, coming back from the injury."
The team trophy meant just as much to the Falcons, who had surrendered county supremacy to Palmyra for much of the recent past, but took it back with a vengeance on Saturday, compiling 182.5 team points to runner-up Palmyra's 159. Annville-Cleona was third, followed by Elco, Lebanon and Northern Lebanon.
In addition to the relay record and the hurdle victories from Menser and Laliberte, the Falcons also counted wins from Faith Wenrich in the high jump, Hannah Woefling in the discus and the 1600 relay team of Tyra Craun, Laliberte, Cece Fiorentino and Emily Peters.
"I'm really proud of what our girls team has done, not just today, but throughout the whole season," Cedar Crest coach Rob Bare said. "I think all the areas came together - sprints, hurdles, jumps, throws, the distance. Everybody did what they needed to do."
Especially the 400 relay, which broke the 50-second barrier in impressive and somewhat surprising fashion with an absolutely seamless performance to highlight the overall team triumph.
"It's amazing," Menser said brightly. "When I first found out (the time) I was shocked. Our team has been working hard this season. We had a rough start, but our time has been improving. Just to break the county record is really humbling, it's really great."
Speaking of rough starts, Hess endured one of her own in the long jump, fouling on her first two jumps of the preliminaries before righting the ship and eventually grabbing the record in the finals to erase A-C grad Leslie Hummer's 31-year old county meet mark.
"I'll tell you, it was hard," Hess said of recovering from the early fouls. "It was pretty hard. I knew I had one more jump and just had to get to the finals. That 18-4, it wasn't my best jump, but it was enough to do it today. It hasn't really sunk in yet, but it's great. I can't wait to see what more I can do."
In any other year, what Keck accomplished may have led to her winning the Outstanding Athlete award. As it was, her stellar middle-distance work was more than good enough to stand on its own merits.
"It's been fun," Keck, a sophomore, said, beaming. "It's exciting, because last year I only ran the 400. I like the 400, but the mile and the 800 is what makes me happy, because they're fun."
Also grabbing county titles were Palmyra's Jess Dembrowski and Kelsei Bixler in the 400 and 3200, respectively, Elco's Emily Bidelspach in the pole vault, and Lebanon's Ary'Anna Ortolaza in the shot put. En route to a runner-up finish, Palmyra also got gold medals from Camryn Simpson in the triple jump, Kirstin West in the javelin and the 3200 meter relay team of Keck, Bixler, Dembrowski and Juliana Kerper.