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Palmyra's Ellie Keck had full control of the GameTimePA.com snapchat account for the District 3 track & field championships. Video by Lindsey Smith

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There is more than one way to win a championship. 

You can do it by repeatedly living up to weighty expectations or you can do it in surprising fashion, catching the experts - and the seeding - by surprise.

Either way, the sense of satisfaction that comes with winning a gold medal at an event like the District 3 Track and Field Championships is pretty hard to beat.

Just ask the 6 Lebanon County competitors who wore out a path to the top of the medal stand to collect seven golds on Saturday during the second and final day of the district meet at Shippensburg University.

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Successfully defending their top seeds were Annville-Cleona sprinters Reagan Hess and Stanley Miller and Cedar Crest jumper Ariel Jones, while somewhat surprising district crowns were worn by the Palmyra girls 3200 relay of Ellie Keck, Kelsei Bixler, Sarah Hollen and Jess Dembrowski, as well as Palmyra javelin thrower Kirstin West and  Annville-Cleona pole vaulter Kayla Long.

If anyone can relate to the burden of being a top seed it is Hess, who followed up Friday's record-setting win in the long jump by blazing to victory in the 100 (11.92) and 200 dash (25.09) on Saturday.

This weekend's three golds gave Hess a staggering eight champion's medals for her  district career, the overwhelming majority of which came with the favorite's target squarely on her back.

"It's kinda like a relief, in a way. You have so much stress every single year coming into these meets," Hess said. "Looking back, it's a relief that I could set these goals and reach them all. If you're the top seed you have a target on your back. It's big pressure."

Then there's the other side of competition, when a championship is more of a pleasant surprise than an expected outcome, as was the case for the Palmyra girls 3200 relay, West and Long on Saturday.

 

Not exactly an underdog as the No. 2 seed, the Cougars' relay quartet was nonetheless about 12 seconds off the seeding pace of No.1 Hershey entering the race.

But with Bixler's blistering second leg and Dembrowski's gutsy anchor job setting the tone Palmyra held off Hershey by .05 seconds to win in 9:22.99.

"This is surreal," Keck said. "I can't believe this."

"We were gonna try for it, but it wasn't expected," Bixler said.

Palmyra teammate West's victory in the AAA javelin was equally unexpected, given that, while seeded a strong third, she had to deal with top seed and Lancaster-Lebanon champ Kristen Herr and defending champ and Penn State recruit Madison Smith of New Oxford.

 

But she popped a 140-9 on her final throw to steal away with her first district title.

"It's pretty good, I worked hard for it," the soft-spoken West said. "I was just hoping I could do my best and I pulled through. I was a little nervous because I competed against (Smith) at Penn Relays and she can be very intimidating. But she's a great thrower."

Long, meanwhile, was also seeded third, but beat her previous best effort by a full foot to win the AA girls pole vault with a winning performance of 10-6 that left her and many others fairly stunned.

"Yeah," Long said quickly, when asked if she surprised even herself with the win. "My coach really helps me a lot, because I do gymnastics and don't get to go to practice a lot."

 

For Jones and Miller, their victories as top seeds were unsurprising but still represented the first district titles of their careers.

Jones, the top seed in the AAA high jump after a record-setting jump of 5-7 1/2 at the Lebanon County meet, needed to clear just 5-4 to win on Saturday, while Miller zoomed to victory in the 100 with a late burst that gave him an 11.19 clocking.

"It feels good. I hope I can do really good at states again," said Jones, also fourth in the long jump on Saturday. "I wish I could have kept going (higher), but it wasn't the best weather, the total opposite of Friday."

The weather was indeed chilly and uncomfortable, but it was safe to say Miller barely noticed while grabbing district gold for the first time despite a hip injury that later forced him to withdraw from the 200 dash finals.

"It feels amazing," he said, beaming. "It's been my goal the entire track season, to get on the wall (at school). I'm one of the greats now."

Other notable performances from Lebanon County competitors on Saturday included a second-place finish from the Cedar Crest girls' 400 relay of Jones, Shayla Bonzolet, Destinee Holloman and DeAsia Holloman, Destinee Holloman's third place in the AAA 100 dash, Lebanon's Derin Klick taking third in the boys AAA 800 meters, Cedar Crest's Jesse Cruise placing third in the AAA boys 1600 and Palmyra's Camryn Simpson grabbing third in the AAA girls long jump.

In addition, Annville-Cleona's Eriley Torres was third in the AA girls shot put, A-C's Hess, Joanna Myers, Morgan Zimmerman and Timeshah Clark took fourth in the AA 400 relay,  and Hannah Woelfling of Cedar Crest earned a sixth place medal in the AAA girls discus.

 

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