The parents of Hempfield junior runner Aidan Hodge first met at Disney World. Naturally, the attraction holds a special place in the hearts of the Hodge family.
“My favorite ride is one of the Star Wars rides,” Hodge said. “I think it’s the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride.”
Speaking of which, Hodge kicked his speed into hyperdrive Tuesday evening at Lancaster County Central Park, taking first place in a big-time Lancaster-Lebanon League Section One meet against Cedar Crest, Elizabethtown and McCaskey.
Hodge crossed the line in a time of 16 minutes, 40 seconds. He was trailed by teammate Joe Fahrney (17:06).
Meanwhile, McCaskey sophomore Isabella Shertzer won the girls race in a time of 20:23, followed by Hempfield sophomore Ella Wolfe (20:42) in a tightly-contested race amongst the teams.
Boys: Hoping to be a potential challenger to Hempfield for the Section One crown this season, Cedar Crest came into the contest missing two of its top runners to injury: Ryan Wolfe and Jake Perhonitch.
“Before the race my heart was jumping out of my chest,” Hodge said. “I didn’t get to race against Ryan Wolfe. That made me feel a little bit better. But definitely nerves going into it.”
Hempfield runners took four of the top-five spots, six of the top-eight and eight of the top-11, leading to a clean 3-0 sweep in the team matchups. The performance kept defending Section One champ Hempfield (4-0 league) to remain near the top of the standings in what was the second league meet of the 2021 campaign.
Hodge created separation on the first major uphill part of the course in the first third of the race.
“Going up hills I attacked when I needed to,” he said. “I knew there would be great competition here. On the course walk I thought I could make separation on the hills.”
Hodge has now won both league meets in which he’s competed in thus far, in addition to last Saturday’s Unionville 2-miler amongst high school junior runners. As far as the league schedule goes, Hodge is looking forward to next Tuesday, when the Knights return home to host Manheim Township and Lebanon, with the Blue Streaks featuring top runner Tyler Stevens and the Cedars' featuring Caleb Hershey. Hodge, Stevens and Hershey are all undefeated to this point.
Girls: Shertzer has now picked up wins over Manheim Township’s Ava Shirk in the league-opener Sept. 7 and over Hempfield’s Ella Wolfe on Tuesday.
“Our plan for this meet was the same as it was against Township,” Shertzer said. “Stay with the top girl and try to outkick her at the end. The only thing that was a little different this time was on the downhills. On the downhills I sped up, I widened my stride to get out a little farther ahead.”
Up next for McCaskey is a league meet at Warwick next Tuesday, which will feature Warriors’ top runner Ella Hartel.
“I saw what I can do in the first meet against Township,” Shertzer said. “Now my goal is to come out first in every meet we have and hopefully be first in leagues. ...the next girl to watch out for is Ella Hartel.”
Cedar Crest, McCaskey and E-town each went 2-1 on Tuesday, as each head-to-head matchup in overall points was decided by a single-digit margin.
Those results will make the Section One race interesting moving forward, as Manheim Township (5-0) is currently the leader, closely followed by Warwick (4-0), E-town (4-1), Cedar Crest (3-2) and McCaskey (3-2), with a few league meets remaining over the next month or so.