Klick, Hess lead county gold medal haul at L-L meet
LANDISVILLE - The day couldn't have been more gray.
And that was the best part of Saturday's weather, as rain and un-May-like temperatures conspired to create absolutely miserable weather conditions for the second and final day of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Track and Field Championships at Hempfield High School.
That didn't stop five Lebanon County competitors from hanging their own golden sunshine on the horizon.
More L-L Track and Field results:L-L Track and Field results
Led by Lebanon middle distance stud Derin Klick's third consecutive league title in the 800 meters, county athletes walked away with five gold medals Saturday to highlight a superb overall effort from the locals.
Joining Klick atop the medal stand was Annville-Cleona's Reagan Hess, who shrugged off a disappointing runner-up finish in the girls 100 dash to win the long jump in dominant fashion, and his Lebanon teammate Juan Maldonado, who captured his first L-L crown by winning the triple jump.
It was also a huge day for Cedar Crest, as Jessie Cruise struck gold in an event he's still a relative novice in - the 400 dash - and Ariel Jones followed up Friday's win in the triple jump to grab more gold in the high jump while leading the Falcon girls to a runner-up finish in the team standings.
In short, there was a lot for competitors to overcome and they did so splendidly, particularly Klick, who shook off a sore foot and a mighty challenge from McCaskey distance star Nathan Henderson to three-peat in 1:54.50.
"It means a lot," said a quietly thrilled Klick. "I've worked so hard this year. I'm a little beat up but I pushed through all that. With Henderson, I knew it was gonna be a really good race. This is the first time I think I ever beat him during track. That's pretty big."
Klick made Henderson, who established new meet records in the 1600 and 3200 this weekend, chase him while setting a blistering early pace. He would yield the lead at the midway point of the race but reclaimed it with a strong finishing kick that Henderson (1:55.46) and third place finisher Cole Sunderland of Manheim Central could not quite respond to.
"I tried to do what I did last year - I went out hard," Klick said. "I guess I slowed down a little bit going through the (first 400) but I went with him and tried to stay close and just did what I had to do the last 150."
For Hess, overcoming some emotional baggage was the key to her win in the long jump. Still smarting psychologically from the pulled hamstring she suffered in the 100 as a sophomore, she ran a - for her - subpar race while finishing second in the 100 on Saturday.
But she bounced back in style to win the long jump with a leap of 18-6 3/4, more than a foot better than runner-up Ava Hostetter of Hempfield.
"It's been a rough week, so I'll take it," Hess said. "Mentally getting ready for this meet...It's been a really tough meet for me. I'm just glad I did what I had to do and now I can get ready for districts and states. I was really disappointed in the 100, but I'd rather hold a little bit back in this meet than in districts and states."
Meanwhile, Cruise left nothing in the tank, giving Henderson a fierce battle before finishing second in the 1600, before sprinting to victory in the 400 in a personal-best 50.66 seconds. Not bad for a guy who just began taking the 400 seriously this year.
"I've run the 400 since my freshman year," Cruise said. "But this season it just seemed we didn't have any 400 runners, so I've just been running it and getting my time lower and lower. I don't think I ever imagined even running the 400 at leagues, so it's exciting."
While Klick, Hess and Cruise had worn gold before at leagues, it was Maldonado's first piece of that precious medal, after he outlasted Darien Ressler of Hempfield to win the triple jump with a best effort of 44 feet. 6 inches.
"I was working all season to get to where I am now," Maldonado, a junior, said. "I'm really happy with what I did today. I don't think I would have been able to do it without (Ressler) pushing me hard. We just kept going back and forth and that pushed me to go hard every time."
No county athlete had a better overall league meet than Jones, who led the Falcons to the brink of a team title on Saturday by winning the high jump (5-2), finishing third in the long jump (17-1 1/2) and teaming with Destinee and DeAsia Holloman and Shayla Bonzelet to finish second in the 400 relay.