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A-C's Hess jumps to district gold, sets record

Annville-Cleona's Reagan Hess picked up the first of what she hopes are four district gold medals with a record-setting win in the AA girls long jump Friday.

SHIPPENSBURG - One down, three to go. And Reagan Hess wants those last three very, very badly.

She's already got a lot, though - a new district record and a chance to compete in her favorite meet, one that a hamstring injury unceremoniously sidelined her from last season.

Annville-Cleona's junior sprinting and jumping sensation is off to a fast start at the District Three Class AA Track and Field Championships, ending the first day of competition Friday at Shippensburg University with a gold medal in the long jump via a record-setting leap of 18 feet, 6 inches, as well as berths in Saturday's 100 and 200-meter dash finals. Hess will also be in action with A-C's 4 x 100 meter relay on Saturday, giving her the chance to exit Ship with four gold medals after not being able to compete in districts at all last year because of her cranky hamstring.

"Every medal, every race, I've put last year's into this one," Hess said. "It killed me (not to compete) last year. It feels amazing, getting over that first hurdle. There's three to go."

Busy shuttling back and forth between the long jump and the 100 and 200 trials, Hess took any suspense out of the long jump early, establishing the new district record on her first jump of the prelims.

"It was crazy," she said. "I've never been so busy in a meet before. I got through it. There is no alternative."

And no turning back, either. Hess sat out last week's Lancaster-Lebanon League meet with an eye toward going for the four golds this week. She's not about to go back on it now.

"I'm going for it," Hess said. "That is my goal. I'll be happy with what I get, but my goal is to get four gold medals."

Like Hess, Northern Lebanon's Dakota Leonhard did not take part in the L-L meet, opting instead to attend his girlfriend's prom. It certainly didn't affect him on Friday, as he grabbed the silver medal in the boys AAA shot put with a throw of 54-4 3/4.

"I was hoping, but I didn't know," Leonhard said of if he thought he had such an effort in him after missing leagues. "Especially with the competition. I really wasn't sure.

"I was at a prom," Leonhard, the fifth seed, added. "It wasn't really difficult because I knew I'd come here this week, but it was kind of bittersweet. I got to see my girlfriend, who lives five hours away, but I didn't get to go against the other competitors."

And if districts would have been last week?

"I would have had to tell her no," Leonhard said with a laugh.

L-L meet standout Ariel Jones of Cedar Crest led a parade of other Lebanon County medal winners, taking fourth in the AAA girls triple jump with a leap of 36-10 1/4. Palmyra's Camryn Simpson was eighth in the same event with a school-record jump of 36-9.

In boys AAA, Elco's Jared Harnish was sixth in the 3200 meters, and Northern Lebanon's Damian DiAngelis joined Leonhard on the medal stand with a seventh place medal in the pole vault.

In boys AA, A-C's Matt Light, a senior, walked away with a pair of medals to cap a successful season, his first in track and field since his freshman year.

Competing in both the javelin and the long jump at essentially the same time, Light came up with a fifth in the javelin (152-9) and an eighth place medal in the long jump with a leap of 19-10. Light's A-C teammate, Cameron Hoch, was fourth in the javelin with a throw of 153-9, giving the Little Dutchmen two medalists in the event.

The competitor in Light wasn't happy, though, given that he entered both events seeded second.

"I'm pretty upset about it, because I was seeded second in both javelin and long jump," Light said. "It just wasn't my day. It was a little difficult to coordinate (competing in the events simultaneously). I'm happy I got medals, but I wish I had done a little bit better."

Three more A-C athletes also had medal-winning days. Nate Ulrich tied for fourth in the high jump and Griffin Hertz tied for eighth, while Adam Fox took a fifth in the discus.

The meet will resume Saturday, with action getting underway at 9 a.m.