ALLENTOWN – After securing a gold medal by matching his personal best in the pole vault, Lanny Buck saw himself staring at a possible District record.
The Palmerton senior had cleared 15 feet on his first attempt to defend his District 11 Class AA title, which matched his personal best and tied his school and all-time TIMES NEWS area record, the latter which he shares with Northwestern's Noah Billig.
Buck narrowly missed his first two tries at 15-4, which would have surpassed the District AA mark of 15-3, sey by Kyle Miller of Catasauqua in 2008.
Buck's third attempt also came up short, but he had his first place prize, as well as earning a return trip to the PIAA State Track and Field Championships, scheduled for Memorial Day weekend at Shippensburg University.
Buck was one of two TN Area boys who were gold medalists on the first day of D-11 competition Wednesday at J. Birney Crum Stadium. Jim Thorpe senior Alex Garcia won the AA triple jump with a hop, step and jump of 44 feet, six inches.
Also earning State berths by virtue of finishing second in their events were Northern Lehigh's Zach Fleming (AA 3,200 meters), Panther Valley's Andrew Tucker (AA discus) and Northwestern's Tim East (AAA 300 meter intermediate hurdles).
Northwestern's Joe Hall is a double event qualfier for States, placing second in the AAA javelin and third in the high jump, clearing 6-5, right on the PIAA qualifying standard.
Buck was seeded first by 2 1/2 feet and was the clear favorite coming into the AA pole vault competition, but he was taking no chances.
"I practiced my heart out for this meet," said Buck, who missed last week's Colonial League Championships due to a school-related matter. "I came in at 13 feet just to get over the bar and get a mark. I didn't want to come into a big meet like this and come out with a 'no height'."
Buck didn't miss until he had cleared 15 feet. He made a valiant effort at setting a new record.
"I felt it (at 15-4)," admitted Buck. "I was over it the first time, but I hit the bar with my chin. Then I pushed off and hit it with my chest on the second."
On his third try, Buck didn't get enough speed on the runway to get over the bar.
Buck is looking to make a run at the AA State title. Last year, Buck cleared 13-6 at States, placing ninth, one spot from a medal .
"Win states, that's it," he responded when asked his goal for the PIAA Meet. "I want to jump higher than my best. I always want to beat myself if I can."
Thorpe's Garcia, a first year jumper, was seeded first in the triple jump at 43-5, but he surpassed that with his personal record 44-6 on his first jump of the trials.
"It was all heart," said Garcia of his winning jump. "I had nothing on my mind. I just ran, and when I jumped in the pit, I knew it was close to 45 feet. This was my first time over 44."
Northwestern's Hall got off a heave of 191-7 on his first trial attempt in the javelin, a personal best effort which put him in first place and held up until Blue Mountain's Tyler Rolshausen hit 192-3 on his final throw to take the gold. Hall's throw easily topped the State standard of 178 feet.
"I have no idea," said Hall as to how he hit his winning throw. "At leagues, most of my throws were going straight up. Today I brought that height down. Everything came together."
While Hall's 6-5 in the high jump was two inches below his best, it got the job done. "It was good, as long as it got me to States," said Hall.
The Tigers' East, the Northwestern record holder in the 300 hurdles, ran a personal best 38.67 in finishing second to Wilson's Kowan Scott, who set a new District AAA mark at 37.56.
East, who also tied for second in the 100 meter trials at 11.43, would have cruised to the hurdle gold in AA, but he was happy with his fate. "I'd honestly rather not place first in AA if I could get second against Scott and run a time that's three seconds faster," he said.
Northern Lehigh senior Fleming was the defending 3,200 champ in AA, running a 10:01 last year. This time he ran a personal best 9:45.63, but he was passed by Notre Dame's Bryan Megee with three-quarters of a lap to go and placed second by less than a second.
"I worked hard for it," said Fleming. "I felt comfortable with the pace. I was just trying to get in position to get back to States."
Panther Valley's Tucker was seeded fourth in the discus at 125-2, but he managed a personal best 127-1 to finish second to Catasauqua's Jeff Gallagher. "I knew I had to break 125 feet, and I just pulled it out," said Tucker. "Everything just clicked."
In the AA 100 trials, No. Lehigh's Cody Remaley has the top time of 11.49, with Thorpe's Carl St. Hill second at 11.58. St. Hill topped the AA 200 field in the prelims with a time of 23.03.