Lampeter-Strasburg's Ezra Mellinger felt pressure as he charged down the long jump runway late Friday afternoon on the first day of the Lancaster-Lebanon League track and field championships.
Manheim Central's Will Rivers had taken the lead in the finals — hitting a mark of 22 feet, 10.25 inches — and Melliger knew he needed to beat it to retain his league title.
"It's really nice to have that competition," Mellinger said. "That's where you get the big jumps, when you know you really have to work for it. When you're scared. "
Propelled by the fear, the adrenaline and the competition, the Pioneer senior pulled himself through the air and landed 23-11 later for the win and a meet record.
Moments earlier, Warwick's Juliette Delmotte had delivered a walk-off win of her own in the girls triple jump (38-0). Their jumping triumphs complemented field-event wins for Donegal's Cael Rapp in the javelin (172-10), Conestoga Valley's Joe Cardina in the high jump (6-6), Manheim Township's Sydney Horn in the pole vault (12-6) and Cedar Crest's Hannah Woelfling in the discus (134-10).
In Friday's only track event finals, 3,200-meter run titles went to Warwick's Kate Dickow (10:37.90) and Manheim Township's Ian Miler (9:27.79). Warwick took an early lead in the team standings with 28 points for the boys and 25 for the girls.
Drama in the jumps
"Will really had me worried," Mellinger said of Rivers, who posted his best mark of the day on his first jump in the finals. "I had an undefeated season, and I was like, 'Wow, it could end here.'"
Manheim Central’s Will Rivers opens the long jump finals at 22-10.25. He has the lead. pic.twitter.com/3uUC54W5r8— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 10, 2019
While Rivers soared to a lead in the finals, Mellinger — who also qualified for Saturday's track finals with preliminary-heat wins in the 100 (10.78) and the 200 (22.30) Friday — was flagged for fouls on his first two finals attempts.
"It's something I've been dealing with for almost a month now," he said of the misfires. "It's consistency and a rhythm down the runway. You just have to feel it. I'm getting faster, so it's hard to stay consistent down the runway. It's just something I have to learn."
But on his final attempt, Mellinger felt relief after he hit the board and broke the league-meet record set in 1984 by Solanco's Tom Rath.
"I knew it was a good last jump," he said.
Like Mellinger, Delmotte knew her final jump of the day was a good one when she landed.
"I knew what I had to do," she said. "I just tried to bring as much power into it as I could, make my phases very long and work on my finish. It all came together."
That's a triple jump of 36-0.5 for Warwick's Juliette Delmotte. She's the leader through the first set of jumps. pic.twitter.com/JALu4CNKRc— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 10, 2019
The jump surpassed the leading mark set by Cocalico's Olivia Sensenig, who finished second (36-8.5). Aiming for a 37 feet, Delmotte also surpassed her own expectations.
"Once I finished," she said, "I looked back and saw that I was much farther in the pit than I usually am. I just thought it was a foul, so when I heard, 'fair,' I got really excited. And my coaches and teammates were really excited."
While the jumpers pulled off wins in the field, Dickow pulled ahead of the competition in the 3,200 to post the meet-record time and set an L-L League record, 15 seconds ahead of Elizabethtown's Cat Shontz (10:53.00), who finished second. Shontz's teammate, Madeline Quinn, finished third (10:58.30).
"The last 100 is always exhilarating," said Dickow, who won the title in 2016 and finished second last year, "because the whole crowd is cheering, and it's the home stretch."
Warwick's Kate Dickow leads wire to wire in the girls 3,200 to win the Lancaster-Lebanon League title at 10:37.9. That's a meet and an L-L League record. pic.twitter.com/qLF1AHJf8g— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 10, 2019
Miller savored the home stretch of his victory after finishing third last year, 10th as a junior and 16th as a sophomore.
"Freshman year, I impressed myself," he said, "and realized winning here was one of my goals going forward throughout high school. To finally get it was exhilarating, to say the least."
With about 1,200 meters to go, Miller pulled ahead from a chase pack that included Warwick's Noah Marin (second, 9:35.08) and Connor Shields (third, 9:38.21), and Ephrata's Andrew Foster (fourth, 9:42.60), who overtook Miller in the final lap last year on his way to the title.
"I never like to do it," Miller said, "but I took a quick peek over my shoulder with about 70 meters to go, and no one was there, so the last 50 meters or so was kind of a celebration."
Manheim Township’s Ian Miller takes the L-L League boys 3,200 title at 9:27.79. pic.twitter.com/M2RWpv6AvY— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 10, 2019
Rapp hit the winning mark with his penultimate heave in the finals to take the title.
Donegal's Cael Rapp throws 152-11 in the L-L League javelin trials. pic.twitter.com/LhxJfMgF92— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 10, 2019
"I blocked better," he said of his throw. "I did a lot better with my footwork, and I released over top really well. It felt real easy when I did it."
Rapp's offering sailed 13 inches beyond the second-place mark from Manheim Township's Jack Rodenberger (171-9), who had led at the end of the trials.
"I knew what I had to do," Rapp said. "I just went out, relaxed and did it."
Challenged in the high jump by Warwick's tandem of Nate Good (second, 6-2) and Christian Hess (third, 6-0) and Elizabethtown's Derek Heisey (fourth, 6-0), Cardina locked up the title before clearing 6-6 on his final attempt.
"It's definitely the adrenaline of leagues and all the excitement," the senior said. "A technique problem I've been having is not driving my right knee. On my third attempt, it felt like a good knee drive, and I think that's what helped send me over the bar."
Horn's best bar gave her the win over Annville-Cleona's Kayla Long (second, 10-6) and Horn's Blue Streak teammate, Molly Brooks (third, 9-6). She attempted to break the meet record of 13-0, set last year by her sister, Mackenzie.
"I didn't want to go up a pole on my last jump," Horn said, "so I just stayed on that pole and varied the standards, but it didn't work out."
Woelfling successfully defended her discus title when she landed her winning throw with her first attempt of the afternoon.
"I think my adrenaline was really pumping," she said. "I was excited to throw all day, and I warmed up really well beforehand."
Cedar Crest's Hannah Woelfling throws 124-2 in the L-L League's girls discus trials. She hit 135 earlier. pic.twitter.com/TvB78lthuD— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 10, 2019
Lampeter-Strasburg's Kristen Herr finished second (119-8) while Penn Manor's Jalyn Clow took third place (110-9).
The league-championship meet is set to resume Saturday at 10 a.m. with track finals and the balance of finals in the field.