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Hess shows mettle in taking state silver

Annville-Cleona's Reagan Hess wanted gold in the AA long jump, but settled for silver with a career-best leap of 19-1.

SHIPPENSBURG - In high-level athletic competition, you either lose or you get beat. There is a difference.

Reagan Hess didn't lose the gold medal she wanted so dearly - she was beaten by a better performance. And besides, she still won a silver medal with the best effort of her highly distinguished career.

It was a day of mixed emotions - but mostly positive ones - for the Annville-Cleona junior, who secured a runner-up finish in the Class AA long jump at the PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University Friday.

Entering the event seeded second after a winning jump of 18 feet, 6 inches at last weekend's District Three Championships, Hess raised her game and then some on Friday, topping out with a career-best jump of 19-1 on her final try of the day.

Unfortunately for Hess, her championship-like work was bettered by top-seeded sophomore Breana Gambrell of Athens Area, who popped a 19- 3 1/4 on her last jump of preliminaries to ultimately grab the gold.

It's sports. Stuff happens.

"I'm kinda beating myself up a little bit," Hess said after hopping down from the medal stand. "But she's a great jumper. To jump 19-3 as a sophomore - that was amazing. I just kept getting better and better each jump...I was like, 'Just one more, just one more.' I'm happy but I just wish I had one more jump."

Hess admitted to knowing little about Gambrell heading into the competition, but it didn't take long to notice her Friday after she followed Hess's initiial effort of 18-7 1/4 with an 18-10 1/4.

That forced Hess into a game of catch-up the rest of the way, one she pursued doggedly with leaps of 18-8 1/4 and 18-9 before digging deep for 19-1 on her last try.

"Competition," Hess said firmly. "I love competition. I love pushing myself. Having somebody in front of me probably helped me get that 19-1."

And on that 19-1, Hess appeared to have been shot out of a cannon, sprinting furiously down the run way and launching herself with a silent rage into the pit. It was the mark of a state champion on a day when becoming a state champion just wasn't in the cards.

"I just got out onto the runway and said, 'You have to put everything you have into this last jump. Who cares if you foul?'" she said. "Because at that point I was gonna be second anyway. I was like, 'You gotta go for it.' I gave everything I had left, everything the sun didn't take."

And because of that, Hess's initial disappointment at silver should continue to fade as the days go by. She won't let it go completely, though. Too much pride for that.

"I probably won't be as disappointed, but I'll always have a little disappointment," Hess said."I guess looking back, I'll be happy with a 19-1. That was my best jump to end the year with, so I'm OK with that."

Hess was also OK with earning a spot in Saturday's 100-meter dash semifinals after posting the fourth-best qualifying time of 12.27 seconds. Seeded eighth in the 200 dash, she also snared a spot in those semifinals on Saturday by placing third in her heat.

Also earning a berth in Saturday's finals was Cedar Crest's Jesse Cruise in the boys Class AAA 1600 meters after posting a qualifying time of 4:23.86, and Lebanon's Derin Klick in the AAA 800 after clocking a 1:55.94. Elco sprinter Ethan Anspach gained a spot in the AAA 200 semis with a time of 22.65 seconds.

In addition on Friday, Northern Lebanon's Dakota Leonhard was 13th in the AAA boys shot out, while Cedar Crest's boys 3200 relay of Bryce Vukovich, Matt Royer, Adam Wolfe and Nick Blandy finished 22nd in 8:10.55.

On the girls side, Cedar Crest's Ariel Jones took 13th in the AAA triple jump, and Palmyra's Camryn Simpson was 26th in the same event. Jones' Cedar Crest teammate, Destinee Holloman competed in the 100 dash trials but finished eighth in her heat and did not advance.