State College’s Hamilton jumps to gold
State College’s Lance Hamilton dropped to his knees after his final attempt in the triple jump. He knew the PIAA gold medal was his.
After five years of waiting — talking with his friends since the seventh grade about earning state gold — the realization of reaching that goal Friday at the Class 3A PIAA Track and Field Championships all came crashing down at once. He broke into tears and, a few moments later, longtime friend and teammate Jake Hefkin tackled him to the turf.
“We were both crying,” Hamilton recalled a few hours after his winning jump of 49 feet, 6 inches, “because he knows how much I wanted this. It was unreal. It was hard to hold back all the emotions.”
In seventh grade, Hamilton took up track and field and immediately fell in love with the triple jump. It just didn’t love him back, at least not at first. He recalled with a laugh how he was the kid everyone had to wait for; he was the one who would routinely finish in last place.
But he wanted to be the best. And, the way he saw it, the only one who could stop him was himself — so he started putting in more hours, often with Hefkin, and he watched YouTube videos and listened intently to his coaches. One day, he told himself, he would be the best.
And on Friday, at Shippensburg’s Seth Grove Stadium, no one was better.
Hamilton posted a distance of 48-10 on his first attempt and thought that might be enough for gold. On his third attempt in prelims, he went 49-6. But he wasn’t comforted just yet. He lost the 2019 state indoor title to his brother, Stanley Hamilton, on the last round of jumps — and he finished third at the outdoor state meet last season when he viewed himself as the top seed.
But, by the time his sixth and final jump attempt came Friday, he knew the title was his. The reality just didn’t set in until he walked out of the sand pit — after trying to set a state record but fouling. “Measure it anyway!” came a yell from the crowd. (The runner-up, Coatesville’s Naheem Moore, finished at 48-0.)
“I just sank to the ground and instantly broke into tears,” Lance Hamilton said. “We all knew what a moment this was because we go by a saying, ‘Heap see, but few know.’ A lot of people see the end result and they see me jumping far, but they don’t know how much of a collective effort it is and how many people go into making that success happen. So sharing that moment was pretty special.”
Said Little Lions coach Artie Gilkes: “He deserves it more than anyone I’ve ever coached. He worked so hard for it. ... He doesn’t miss practice, he doesn’t miss workouts. He gets hurt, he gets beat up, and he doesn’t miss training. He keeps stepping up.”
Hamilton spent the rest of the day with that gold medal proudly hanging around his neck. He didn’t take it off until the late afternoon when he arrived back at the dorms.
It’s something he waited for. Hoped for. Dreamed about. And worked toward. He wanted to enjoy it.
So he didn’t want to look too far ahead Friday. But he also wanted it to be known that he’s not done just yet either. He still has the New Balance nationals next month, and he’s looking forward to joining the Penn State track and field team for the upcoming season.
But, no matter what happens, Hamilton won’t forget about Friday anytime soon. He perfected his technique this offseason, focusing on fundamentals rather than brute speed or force, and he attained a longtime goal few thought he’d achieve when he first started dreaming five years ago.
“Unreal,” Hamilton said. “It’s unreal.”