SHIPPENSBURG – Lanny Buck ascended to the top of the medal stand, secure in sharing a special legacy of accomplishment.
The Palmerton senior etched his name into the track and field history book Friday afternoon as the third Blue Bomber to capture a State gold medal in the pole vault.
Buck, the District 11 Class AA champion, cleared 14 feet, six inches on his first attempt to claim Palmerton's first boys State title in 33 years at the PIAA Championships at Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium.
Buck's pole vault crown was the shining moment among the performances of TIMES NEWS Area boys during the first day of State competition.
Northern Lehigh senior Zach Fleming was the lone area male runner to qualify for the finals, doing so in the Class AA 1,600 meters.
This was the third appearance in the State pole vault competition for Buck, who finished tied for ninth the past two years, clearing 13-6 each time.
This time out, Buck entered the event tied for the top seed at 15 feet with Towanda senior Dylon Miller.
While no one managed to clear that mark on the cool, overcast afternoon, Buck was perfect at the heights leading up to it, sailing over 13-6, 14 feet and 14-6, all on his initial tries.
"Joy, pure joy," said Buck with a wide grin moments after entering Palmerton's pole vaulting lore.
Buck joins Dennis Lentz (a 1977 graduate, who cleared 14 feet) and Charles Romig (who won the 1964 Class B title by vaulting over 12-6) as Bomber State vault champions.
Buck is also the fifth Palmerton male to win a State track title, joining Billy Heydt (1964 Class B discus) and Bradley Browne (1977 Class AA mile)
Lentz was actually present in the stands to watch Buck continue the tradition.
"It was a thrill to watch someone do this again," related Lentz.
Entering this season, Buck had placed third at the PIAA Indoor Championships over the winter, with his top effort at 14-6.
As the season progressed, Buck broke Lentz' school mark of 14-3 , later clearing 15 feet to tie the all-time TN mark in the event, which he shares with Northwestern Lehigh's Noah Billig.
Buck also bounced back strong after missing the Colonial League Meet due to school-related matters. He cleared 15 feet at the District 11 Meet and narrowly missed setting a new record with three tries at 15-4.
"It was tough, but I tried to keep focused on practicing hard while bringing my grades up," he mentioned.
Buck was unfazed by the magnitude of the State stage. After his run-throughs, he decided to come into the competition at 13-6, and then spent most of his time watching the rest of the field fall by the wayside.
"I had some confidence coming in, because I was seeded first," explained Buck. "I didn't mind it. I just didn't let it get to me.
"I worked on a lot of technique this week, tried to eat right and just stay healthy."
At States, he patiently waited beneath an umbrella for his turns to vault.
Finally, only three vaulters remained: Buck, senior Brett Rhone of Bloomsburg and sophomore Patrick Anderson of Kane Area, and Buck took the edge by making his first crack at 14-6.
"By making his first vault, he put a lot of pressure on the other guys," said Palmerton coach Mike Gombert. "Coming in, we felt confident that, as the top seed, this was in his favor.
"I felt his experience from the last two years was to his advantage, because he was coming in as a confident senior."
Buck, Rhone and Anderson advanced at 14-6 but all missed at their three tries at 15 feet, which clinched the gold for Buck.
"I kept hoping for that big jump, but it never came," mentioned Buck. "Lucky for me, the other two kids missed it, too."
Buck is a protégé of the Vertical Assault Vaulting Camp in Bath, and he gave VA coach Mike Lawryk his second State champ of the day. Earlier, Wilson's Allison Vanek won the Girls AA title with a Meet Record 12-7.
Buck also credits his father, Lanny, Sr., with coaching and assisting his career through the years.
"Dad's always been there for me, and so has my mom," remarked Lanny, who will continue his career at Kutztown University. "They take me to Vertical Assault, which is 30 minutes away, and that's a lot of time out of the day to take me around."
"That is quite a commitment they made the past four years," said Gombert, They really committed to pole vaulting. That's a lot of time, energy and sacrifice to put it on their part, and it paid off."
Fleming in two races
Zach Fleming is competing in both the 1,600 and 3,200 at States. On Friday, he knocked eight seconds off of his District 11 runner-up time in the 1,600, finishing sixth in his preliminary heat ar 4:24.45. That was good enough to advance him into this afternoon's finals.
"The pace was pretty fast, so I figured I would stay in the middle of the pack for the first two laps, then I made a move on the third lap on the third corner and passed four people there," said Fleming.
Fleming will also compete in the 3,200 this morning, where he is seeded fifth with his District runner-up time of 9:45.63.
"I'm going to go hard on the two-mile and give whatever I have left to the mile," he related.
Other area runners weren't as fortunate.
Jim Thorpe senior Carl St. Hill, the D-11 AA 100 and 200 champion, did not compete due to a suspension. "He's still on the team, but he's not running today," said Thorpe coach Frank Miller.
The Olympians replaced St. Hill with Kareem Mickens on their 4x100 relay of Talon Fogal, Alex Garcia and P.J. Johnson, which finished sixth in its heat at 45.15, and with Kyle Bradley on their 4x400 relay of Mickens, Scott Lignore and Garcia, which finished 8th in its heat at 3:34.6.
Mickens finished sixth in his trial heat of the AA 400 at 51.88. Two other Olympians also had touch outings at Garcia, who was seeded fourth in the triple jump at 44-6, leaped 42-3 to finish in a tie for 13th place. Thorpe's Ben Moore placed 23rd in the AA javelin at 139-6.
Tamaqua's Zach Lakitsky finished eighth in his heat of the AA 100 at 11.77, while the Blue Raiders' William Breiner placed 25th in the AA shot put at 44-1.
Northwestern's Tim East placed fifth in his trial heat of the AAA 300 meter hurdles and did not advance to the finals.
Also scheduled to compete today are Northwestern's Joe Hall (AAA javelin and high jump), Lehighton's Cory Kresge (AAA long jump), Panther Valley's Andrew Tucker (AA discus) and Lakitsky (AA long jump).