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Best efforts pay off for LebCo quartet

Ariel Jones, Derin Klick, Dakota Leonhard and Alex Hoffsmith all used career-best performances to secure state track and field medals on Saturday.

SHIPPENSBURG - If you're going to perform the best you ever have, the PIAA Track and Field Championships is certainly the place to do it.

Ariel Jones, Derin Klick, Dakota Leonhard and Alex Hoffsmith can happily attest to that.

With a quartet of personal-best performances, Cedar Crest's Jones, Lebanon's Klick, Northern Lebanon's Leonhard and Palmyra's Hoffsmith found their way to the medal stand on the second and final day of the state meet at Shippensburg University on Saturday.

After not medaling at districts last week, Jones soared over the bar at 5 feet, 7 inches to claim fourth place in the AAA girls high jump, while Klick raced to sixth in the AAA boys 800 in a new personal record of 1:53.67, and Leonhard and Hoffsmith took seventh and eighth, respectively, in AAA boys javelin  with career-best heaves of 190-1 and 188-8.

Those efforts highlighted a strong day for Lebanon County performers that also included a fifth-place medal for Annville-Cleona's Reagan Hess in the AA 100 dash.

Hess was the county's eye-opener on Friday with a personal-best long jump of 19-1 that netted her a silver medal. Saturday, it was Jones drawing some oohs and ahs with her school-record high jump, which came on her second attempt of the finals.

"Probably not coming in," Jones said, when asked if she thought she had that kind of jump in her on Saturday. "But when I was jumping 5-4 I thought it was a good jump and I got over it pretty good. I just had the confidence.

"It felt great to win a county medal and a league medal, but to get it in states feels really good. Not getting it in districts kinda put me down a little bit, but getting it in states is good."

A state medal not only felt good to Klick, it seemed incomprehensible after the way he felt conditioning-wise back in early spring. But on Saturday, Klick ignored the steamy weather, racing to the front early, then hanging on for the medal down the stretch.

"The shape I was in at the beginning of the season, it wasn't where I was supposed to be," Klick said. "If you would have told me I would run at the state meet and win a medal I would have laughed at you."

Klick gained the opportunity to laugh last, but passed on it jokingly in his own best interest.

"It hurts too much," he said with a thin smile. "Track burns."

Both Leonard and Hoffsmith medaled in districts, but each saved the best work of their careers for Saturday.

Hoffsmith secured his medal on his first throw of the day and nabbed a school record in the process, while Leonhard was midway through the competition when he touched 190 for the first time ever.

"The competition has been very steep this year," Hoffsmith said after entering the meet seeded fifth from the bottom "I'm just glad to be here and medal, at least. I was looking forward to hunting some people down and making them have a bad day."

For some, Saturday's hot and humid weather was less than ideal, but Leonhard and Hoffsmith found it very much to their liking. It was, in short, a great day to throw and the two took full advantage of it.

"I like the heat," Leonhard said."Not too windy, it was nice and warm so no one got tight. Couldn't have asked for a better day."

The day could have gone better for Hess, but she was still able to end a memorable season with a second state medal after clocking 12.23 seconds in the 100 while finishing fifth. Bothered by a left leg ailment, the A-C standout finished seventh in her 200 dash semifinal heat and did not advance to the finals.

Still, it was a better ending by leaps and bounds than the one she had last season, when a hamstring injury ended her 2015 campaign at the Lancaster-Lebanon League meet.

"I'm very happy with my season," Hess said while admitting to being a bit miffed with her 100 time. "States, I probably could have done better, but it is what it is.I'm happy for my comeback season. This was good."

Also ending memorable seasons and/or careers on Saturday were Cedar Crest's Jesse Cruise, 11th in the AAA boys 1600, Elco's Jared Harnish, 19th in the AAA boys 3200, Northern Lebanon's Matt Vines, 18th in the AAA boys discus and Cedar Crest's Evan Horn, 22nd in the AAA boys long jump.

In addition, Elco's Ethan Anspach did not advance out of the AAA 200 dash semis, while Cedar Crest's Hannah Woelfling bowed out of the AAA girls discus after fouling on her first three throws.