It was a season of Hope at Tamaqua
Just call it a "Hope and a Dream."
Competing on high school track's biggest stage, Tamaqua's Kayla Hope had just unleashed the three best long jumps of her career.
But in the blink of an eye, her incredible day of personal records was no longer good enough.
Hope's gold medal dreams had suddenly turned to silver and she had just one opportunity left to change them back.
Just call it a "Hope and a Promise."
A 40-meter sprint down the runway, a perfect takeoff that came within a hair of the foul line, and another personal record followed.
Eighteen feet, 10 and three quarters inches!
Hope had won a PIAA State Championship with a half an inch to spare.
"I felt so good that entire day," said Hope. "I was confident I had one big jump left.
"I promised myself before the final jump that I wasn't going home in second place."
Just call it a "Hope and a Goal."
That Friday afternoon in Shippensburg was the perfect ending to a near perfect season on the track for the Blue Raider junior, who was dominant in four different individual events and one relay.
For her consistency and versatility in every meet this season and her unflappability in the biggest meet of the season, Hope has been selected the 2011 TIMES NEWS Girls Track Athlete of the Year.
"It was an incredible finish to an unbelievable season," said Hope. "I had set some goals for myself prior to the season. I had some distances and times I wanted to achieve.
"But I really didn't set goals like winning league or district championships. I just wanted to work hard and keep improving. I guess the one tangible goal I did set for myself was qualifying for states."
Just call it a "Hope and a Prayer."
She might not have set her sights on winning championships, but her goals of hard work and improvement led to championships plenty of them.
Hope won Schuylkill League titles in the long jump, triple jump and 400 meter relay and added a second in the 200 meters.
At the District 11 Class AA championships one week later, she picked up gold in the long jump, 200 meters, and 400 meter relay and added a silver medal in the triple jump.
"Kayla is such a talented athlete," said Tamaqua coach Tom Kanger. "You could see as early as her freshman year that she had outstanding ability and it was just going to be a matter of working on her technique and getting some experience before she did some outstanding things."
After battling some injuries early in her career, Hope broke through with a solid sophomore year that saw her pick silver (200 meters) and bronze (long jump) medals at the Schuylkill League Championships and a silver in the long jump at the District 11 Championships.
"Kayla still wasn't totally healthy last season, but you could see the potential," said Kanger. "I really thought heading into this season that she could do some special things. I was just praying she could avoid any injuries because I felt that could be the only thing to slow her down."
Just call it a "Hope and a Leap."
As it turned out, nothing was able to slow her down.
With a slew of gold medals from various invitations during the regular season and even more success in league and district meets, Hope's junior campaign was already a huge success even before she left for Shippensburg.
But she was saving her best for last.
Hope entered States with a PR of 17-6 1/2.
By the end of the day, that distance was barely in her top five.
Hope's first jump at States was 17-10. She later added leaps of 18-0 and 18-8 the final one putting her alone in first place.
But with just three competitors left in the meet, the unthinkable happened. Rochester High School's Erikka Williams sailed through the air and landed a jump of 18-10 . Hope had just minutes to prepare herself for a final, critical leap.
Just call it a "Hope and a Gold."
"I wasn't disappointed when I saw what Erikka did," recalled Hope. "I knew I still had a jump left.
With no coaches allowed in the area where Hope was preparing for her final jump, the Tamaqua staff was busy shouting out instructions.
"I heard them yelling at me to relax and stay focused, but I told them it was okay. I remember having a big smile on my face and saying, 'don't worry, I got this.'"
Did she ever.
"I knew as soon as I landed the jump it was really good. I just didn't know if it was good enough," said Hope. "When I found out my distance and realized I had won the gold medal, I was ecstatic. I remember just hugging everyone.
"I was just so excited. It was incredible."