Lebanon County track stars ready to shine
Year in and year out, it seems, Lebanon County churns out top-notch scholastic track and field talent. Annually, a good number of those performers prove themselves capable of competing with the best the Lancaster-Lebanon League, District 3, and the entire state has to offer.
This year figures to be no different, given the distinguished group of quality athletes that will be strutting their stuff at a stadium near you.
With that in mind, here's a quick look at five Lebanon County kids to keep a particularly keen eye on this spring, followed by a closer look at each of the six Lebanon County track and field teams:
Reagan Hess, Annville-Cleona
The county's most decorated track and field athlete is set for one last medal-grabbing go-around after an absolutely spectacular junior season.
In 2016, Hess, among many other things, won her third straight Most Outstanding Athlete award at the Lebanon County Meet, captured three gold medals (100, 200 dash, long jump) at the District 3 Class AA Championships, and claimed the silver medal in the long jump at the PIAA state meet with a career-best leap of 19 feet, 1 inches.
She is, quite simply, a once-in-a-generation performer, the likes of which will not be seen again around these parts for quite some time. If you haven't seen her in action yet, don't miss your chance this spring.
Derin Klick, Lebanon
A middle distance beast, Klick is coming off a stellar junior season in which he captured his second straight 800 meter run title at the Lancaster-Lebanon League meet, as well as a silver medal in the same event at the AAA district meet.
Also the reigning Lebanon County cross country champ, Klick appears to be poised wrap up his high school career in style. He's already broken 2 minutes in the 800 just two meets into the season and, barring any unforeseen developments, will definitely have to be dealt with by anyone who competes against him in the postseason.
Jesse Cruise, Cedar Crest
If it seems like Cruise has been around the local scene forever, it's only because he has. A standout middle and long distance runner since he was a freshman, Cruise, like Klick, looks to be set to go out with a bang in his senior season.
He certainly had quite a junior season, anchoring Cedar Crest's league champion 3200 meter relay team and earning a runner-up finish in the 1600 meters after a spirited duel with McCaskey star Nathan Henderson at the L-L meet.
In addition, he took 7th in the 1600 at districts. It would only be fitting for Cruise to spend the final days of his career on the medal stand at the big postseason meets.
Ariel Jones, Cedar Crest
Better known locally for her work on the basketball court as the Falcon girls basketball team's dynamic point guard, Jones is also a big-timer in track and field. Particularly in the jumps: She's the reigning L-L champ in the high jump and long jump and also finished fourth in the high jump at states with an school-record leap of 5 feet, 7 inches.
Oh, and she's also a quality sprinter who's a key part of the Falcons' 4 x 100 relay. If her senior year is anywhere near as good as her junior year, Jones will be hauling a lot of hardware home come late April and May.
Camryn Simpson, Palmyra
Part of a talented Palmyra squad that is after some team titles this spring, Simpson looks to be primed for a big junior year after very strong performances as a freshman and sophomore.
How big? Well, she unleashed a school-record long jump of 18- 1/2 at last Saturday's Bruce Dallas Invitational, an effort that if duplicated or improved upon come the postseason will make her a strong big meet medal contender. She's also a standout triple jumper, too, having earned a medal at districts last year and qualifying for states.
Coach: Jerome Simon
Last year's record: Boys - 5-1 Section 3, Girls - 4-2 Section 3.
Key losses: Boys- Adam Fox (javelin, shot put, discus), Lucas Bush (shot put, discus), Matt Light (jumps and middle distance), and Preston Ceravalo (pole vault). Girls- Alicia Hitz (hurdles), Courtney Conners (800 meters), Veronica Merone (triple jump, 4x100), Tori Malloy (long jump,high jump, 4x100), and Maddie Deitz (distance & pole vault).
Top returning performers: Boys - Stanley Miller (long jump,100, 200, 400,4x100), Griffin Hertz (high jump, long jump,100),Cameron Hoch (hurdles, javelin), Noah Myers (javelin, shot put), Brayden Turner (javelin), Dom MacMillan (sprints), Ethan Fortuna (jumping, middle distance), Doyle Shertzer (distance). Girls- Reagan Hess (long jump, 100,200,4x100), Timeshah Clark (100,200,4x100), Morgan Zimmerman (100,200,4x100), Kayla Long (pole vault), Maia Gingrich (high jump), Emily Fiebig (javelin).
Promising newcomers: Boys - Jalen Price (sprints), Caleb Turner (sprints), Hayden Funck (middle distance), Gavin Knox(middle distance), Shawn Springer (distance), Romeo Varela (sprints, jumps). Girls - Eriley Torres (shot put, javelin), Mackenzie Drane (discus,shot put), Morgan Dancause (shot put, javelin), Julie Strickler (100, 400), and Gracen Kreider( long jump, hurdles), Joanna Meyers(sprints, high jump)
Outlook: A-C said goodbye to some quality competitors on both the boys' and the girls' side, but still return a wealth of talent, including sprinter/jumper extraordinaire Hess for the girls, and sprint standout Miller for the boys. There is also a good deal of promising young talent in the fold, which has Simon extremely optimistic.
"We have district/state medal talent in certain events and are very young in other events," Simon said. "We will be competitive with every team that we face this season. It has been exciting to see our veterans setting great examples for our young kids to follow. The coaching staff is excited about this season and helping our seasoned vets reach higher levels. We’re are also impressed with the young talent and how much they have improved over the first month of the season."
Coach: Rob Bare
Last year's record: Boys - 7-2, Girls - 6-3
Key losses: Boys - Evan Horn, Matt Royer, Chris Kelly, Luke Allwein, Bryce Vukovich. Girls - Taylor Menser, Tiana Menser, Miranda Spangler
Top returning performers: (Boys) - Jesse Cruise (MD), Garrett deBien (Jav), Nick Felty (multi), Jabin Joseph (TJ), Greg Munnion (Jav), Nick Blandy (MD), Adam Loehr (multi), Josh Rudd (Distance), Blake Thomson (sprints), Adam Wolfe (Distance), Jake Barrett (Distance), Gekye Hampton (hurdles), Essay Santos (jumps). Girls - Alex Burrows (MD), Tyra Craun (MD), Bridgett Finn (MD), Destinee Holloman (Sprints/Jumps), Ariel Jones (Jumps), Emily Peters (MD), Hannah Weddle (Throws), Madyson Brown (Jav), DeAsia Holloman (Sprints), Cate Strunk (Distance), Hannah Woelfling (Discus, HJ).
Promising newcomers: Boys – Terrell Davis (Throws), Tyler Eisenhauer (jumps, sprints), Nathan French (Jav, jumps), Aidan Sullivan (sprints), TJ Moore (throws), Ryan Scicchitano (MD), William Sheffield (MD). Girls - Grace Miller (Jumps, Jav), Tasia Rutter (sprints), Shayla Bonzelet (sprints).
Outlook: Both Falcon teams registered opening week wins over Hempfield before falling to McCaskey in competitive battles in their second meet. That showed Cedar Crest can compete with anybody in a deep and talented Section 1 but will have to bring their best week in and week out to do so.
Boys - "Section One is loaded," Bare said. "Several teams have athletes who will be state medalists. We believe we'll be competitive, but we'll have to strengthen our "areas of improvement" if we want to compete week in and week out in Section One. We will have several events where we will be deep, so that will be fun."
Girls - Section One is loaded," Bare repeated. "Lots of great athletes, including hurdlers, sprinters, jumpers, throwers, etc. We believe we'll be competitive, with our eyes on sharpening for the last dual meet, leagues, districts, and states. We have some pretty good front-runners, which will help our team be successful."
Coach: Bob Miller
Last year's record: Boys - 6-1 (Section 3 champs), Girls - 4-3
Key losses: Boys - Ethan Anspach, Ryan Rolon, Luis Rolon, Blaine Troutman, Austin Eldridge. Girls - Chandelle Keller
Top returning performers: Boys - Tyler Horst (throws), Evan Gettler (sprints), Cory Kline (jumps), Ryan Eshleman (jumps), Grant Brubaker (hurdles), Greg Onisa (hurdles), Ryan McCallister (distance)m Brett Flory (hurdles), Jared Weaver (pole vault), Tyler Hill (pole vault). Girls - Jalissa Nolt (hurdles), Jordan Rosengrant (sprints), Hannah Williams (sprints), Alexis Thomas (throws), Alyssa Keath (throws), Emily Bidelspach (jumps), Lily Brubaker (distance), Heather Gettle (jumps), Elizabeth Ebling (sprints)
Outlook:The boys team, the defending Section 3 champ, lost a quality group to graduation but still managed to win its first two meets. The girls, though young, are also off to a 2-0 start.
"There are some returning athletes on both the boys and girls teams, but overall we are very young," Miller said. "Because of the depth we have we will be competitive in the section on both the boys and girls sides."
Coach: Nick Watt
Last year's record: Boys - 5-2, Girls 0-7
Key losses: Boys - Luke Fureman, Alan Cooper, Jesse Brownstein, Huy Luu, Lucas Imm, Jan Suarez-Torres, John “JJ” Maldonado, Girls - Mariangelis Pagan-Stacks, Grayson Long
Top returning performers: Boys - Derin Klick (Middle Distance: 2x Defending L-L Champion 800m), Nick Bradley (Throws), Phillip Hillishiem (Sprints/Jumps), Jeremiah Beckley (Hurdles/ Sprints), Julian Imm (Hurdles/Jumps/Javelin), Juan Maldonado (Jumps/Sprints), Dakota Morey (Throws), Angel Borges (Throws), Deryl Werni (Distance), Blaine Wike (Pole Vault), DeAndre Andrews (Pole Vault),Patrick Bray (Middle Distance), Gustavo Guzman (Throws), Jommo Gathara (Middle Distance). Girls - Ary’Anna Ortolaza (throws), Megan Deck (Throws/Pole Vault), Mariangely Vega Martinez (Sprints), Sadye Eisenhaur (Jumps), Sharlyn Yambo-Gonzalez (Distance), Maddison Mattern-Cortes (Middle Distance), Yesica Gonzalez Martinez (Sprints/hurdles), Sidney Wike (Pole Vault).
Promising newcomers: Boys - Khalique Wahington (Throws), Shaq Ortiz (Jumps), Jahlil Young (Sprints), Gabe Santiago (Sprints), Zakee Sailsman (Sprints/Jumps), Luis Aquino-Rios (Sprints), Alex Weaber (Jumps), Jacob Marderness (Throws), Gabe Calini (Throws), Shelby Lister (Throws), Tanner Mease (Distance),Matt Hoffman (Distance). Girls - Olivia Sforza (Throws), Talieen Zechman (Throws), Payton Arnold Paine (Distance), Allison Parr (Sprints), Ana Yik (Sprints)
Outlook: The Cedars are suffering from low turnout for the girls team, but appear to have one of its best boys teams in recent memory, one Watt believes can compete for the Section 2 title.
Boys- "Our boys are contending for a section title this year and it has been our goal for a long time to build up the program enough to be a perennial contender," Watt said. "We still have an uphill battle in terms of winning the section, but I think we have been close now for a few years, and it is only a matter of work for us."
Girls - "The girls team is at a distinct disadvantage in terms of team numbers, which is a curse in the world of track and field," Watt said. "We are young and talented though and we expect a lot of great individual performances from our girls this year. We may not have the numbers we need to contend in every event but we have a lot of talent and a great group of young ladies who work their tails off every day. Our goal is to continue to build our girls team from the ground up and to make them into contenders."
Coach: Lindsey Rayman, 1st year
Last year's record: Boys - 5-2 overall, 4-2 Section 3, Girls 2-5 overall, 1-5 Section 3
Key losses: Girls - Charley Darkes, Samantha Yordy, Taylor Berger, Bri Seip, Kaitlyn Miller, Madison Goodwin, Riley Browning, Kaley Donmoyer. Boys - Matthew Snyder, Tyler Mengel, Eric Herb, Damian DiAngelis, Billy Fellows, Ian Beard, Matt Vines, Dakota Leonard
Top returning performers: Boys - Eric Herb (1600, 800, 4x400), Klayton Adams (HJ, 300H, 800) , Dante DiAngelis (110H, 300H, PV), Shannon Ostermayer (110 H, 300H), Drashti Patel (1600, 3200), Ben Nguyen (4x800, 800, 4x400), Noah Smith (100, 200, 4x100, 400), Chris Taylor (100, 200, 4x100, 4x400), Blaise Torres (LJ, TJ, HJ), Christian Trader (LJ, TL, 100, 200), Cody White (110 H, 300H, HJ, LJ), Girls -Sara Zinsky (Jav, PV, HJ, 4x100), RaeAnn Lessing (HJ, LJ, TJ), Jordan Berger (1600, 3200)
Promising newcomers: Boys - Brandon Bomberger (1600, 3200), Erin Ditzler (1600, 3200), Madison Pillsbury (1600, 800, 3200), Nicholas Goodyear (shot, disc, jav), Madison Martin (400, 100, 4x100, 400x400), Josh Ragsdale (LJ, HJ, 4x100, 400), Ambrose Shirk (shot, disc, jav), Madison Talyor (HJ, 100, 4x100, 200), Rodrigo Urreta (100, 200, 4x100, 400), Hannah Whitman (100, 200, Jav, 400), Dustin Varvel (disc, pv)
Outlook: New head coach Rayman takes over a program that is in rebuilding mode after both teams were hit hard by graduation. But there are still standouts in the fold for the boys and the girls, so there is still reason for the Vikings to be optimistic.
"We are a young team and are looking to build our program," Rayman said. "As a team, our strength is not in numbers this year, but in heart. We don't have as many athletes as we have had in the past, but the athletes we do have bring everything they have to every practice and every meet. Although we lost some key athletes to graduation or non-participation, I think we can still improve as individuals and as a team from last year. It will be difficult to finish at the top of our section, but not impossible. We want to be section champions again!"
Coach: Danny Byrd
Key losses: Boys - Alex Hoffsmith (hurdles, javelin), Tanner Yaw (hurdles), Noah Davis (jumps).
Top returning performers: Boys - Mason Cooper (thrower) Sr., Bennett Von Stetten (jumps), Bryant Willis (jumps) Sr., Sam Sheils (sprints) Sr. Girls - Jess Dembrowski (middle distance) Sr., Camryn Simpson (jumper, sprints) Sr., Kylie Bomgardner (hurdles) Sr., Kirstin West (Javelin) Jr., Amber Stamm (thrower) Sr., Ellie Keck (distance) Jr., Amelia Baldo (sprints) Soph., Kelsei Bixler (distance) Sr., Hayley Schultz (jumps, hurdles) Sr., Alisha Nicely (throws) Sr., Sarah Hollen (distance) Jr., Jannae Bonds (high jump, hurdles) Jr.
Promising newcomers: Girls - Mia Julian (400 dash) Fr.
Outlook: On the girls' side, the Cougars are loaded with talent, and as a result are strong contenders for the Lebanon County and Mid-Penn Keystone titles. There is a talent on the boys' side, but much of it is unproven and inexperienced, so steady improvement throughout the season is the main goal there.
Boys -"We have some good returners, but numerous newcomers and lots of young athletes that will need to mature as the season progresses," Byrd said.
Girls - "We have a solid team with a good mix of veterans and younger athletes and hope to contend for a Keystone division title and a LebCo Championship. We also hope to qualify a good number of athletes to the post season," Byrd said.