Three-time district champion Reagan Hess leads more than a dozen Lebanon County competitors into this weekend's PIAA Track and Field Championships
Reagan Hess barely had time to enjoy her epic three-gold medal performance at last weekend's District Three Track and Field Championships when the talk turned to the next competition on the Annville-Cleona junior's schedule.
States, the final frontier in Hess's memorable 2016 campaign, was then a week away and the question centered around how she was feeling about taking a shot at the biggest gold medal of them all - a state championship.
The answer wasn't surprising.
"I'm ready, I'm ready to compete again," Hess said with a chuckle of trying to follow up her district titles in the AA long jump and 100 and 200-meter dashes. "One down, go to the next one. I know it's gonna be so much tougher, I know I have to turn it on."
The same could be said of the rest of Hess's Lebanon County brethren who have qualified for the PIAA State Track and Field Championships, set for Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg University.
Joining A-C's sprinting and jumping sensation in the battle against the Keystone States's best will be Northern Lebanon's Dakota Leonhard (Boys Class AAA shot put and javelin), and Matt Vines (Class AAA discus), Cedar Crest's Evan Horn (Boys Class AAA long jump) and Jesse Cruise (Boys Class AAA 1600 run), Palmyra's Alex Hoffsmith (Boys Class AAA javelin), Elco's Ethan Anspach (Boys Class AAA 200 dash) and Jared Harnish (Boys Class AAA 3200 run), Lebanon's Derin Klick (Boys Class AAA 800 run) and the Cedar Crest boys Class AAA 3200 relay team of Bryce Vukovich, Adam Wolfe, Matt Royer and Cruise).
Joining Hess on the girls side will be the Cedar Crest trio of Ariel Jones, Destinee Holloman and Hannah Woelfling and Palmyra's Camryn Simpson. Jones will take part in the AAA high jump and triple, Holloman the 100 dash and Woelfling the discus. Simpson will join Jones in the triple jump after setting a new school record (36-9) last weekend.
The county's top medal hopes are, of course, Hess, who's seeded second in the long jump, fourth in the 100 and eighth in the 200, and Leonhard, who's fifth in the shot put and 13th in the javelin.
Hess, though, is the county competitor with the best shot at gold. Second in the long jump and third in the 100 at states as a freshman, she sat out last season's state meet after a hamstring injury left her unable to qualify.
But after establishing a new district record in the long jump at 18 feet,6 inches, Hess, who leaped 19 feet even at the Shippensburg Invitational in late April, is one of the ones to beat along with top seed Breana Gambrell of Athens Area (18-8 1/4).
In the 100, Hess has legit gold medal hopes as well, with her 12.09 seed time well within the range of top seed Thelma Davies of Girard College and her 11.82 clocking.
Hess also has taken a liking to competing at Shippensburg's Seth Grove Stadium, and finds the long jump area particularly favorable.
"I really like their pit," Hess said last weekend. "For some reason my steps are always on. It's amazing, because everywhere else they're usually off. That will be nice (to compete at Ship in states)."
Saturday's meet is also notable for Horn, who will be competing in the final high school athletic competition of a distinguished career at Cedar Crest, where he starred in football, basketball and track and field.
Headed to New Hamsphire to play college football, Horn was a state medalist in the javelin last year, but did not qualify this year after being hampered by an elbow injury at districts. He's set to go in the long jump, though, where he's seeded 26th with a best effort of 21-6.