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Monessen senior at home with hurdles

| Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:54 p.m.

When Monessen senior Felicia Mull began her career with the Greyhounds track team as a freshman four years ago, she was projected as a thrower, despite her diminutive 5-foot-4 frame.

Competitive by nature and hailing from an athletic family, the shot put, discus and javelin were routes to her track success. However, during one typically chilly spring afternoon after she completed her practice tosses, she ambled over to the track to watch a friend run the hurdles.

“I've always loved track and running and when I watched my friend running the hurdles, I said, ‘I can do that,' and I decided to give it a try,” she chuckled.

Fortunately, Monessen track coach Ramont Small, overseeing the Class AA program, was watching.

“Coach saw me run the hurdles, and he said ‘Do it again,' ” she recalled. “So I did, and I've been a hurdler ever since.”

At a meet the next day Mull ran the 300 but fell during a practice session. Her one day's worth of experience, however, paid off as she won her heat. And Monessen girls' track has never been the same.

With less than a full season under her belt as a sophomore, Mull advanced to the WPIAL qualifier in the 110 intermediate and 300 low hurdles.

“Felicia was just learning the event as a sophomore and learning to attack the hurdles,” said Small, in his eighth season with the 'Hounds. “From her sophomore to junior years she improved on her technique and form, and developed a better grasp of the fundamentals.”

As a junior last year Mull placed fourth in the Monessen Invitational against tough competition and went to the qualifier in both the 110 and 300 low hurdles. She advanced to the WPIAL finals in the 110 and has even higher aspirations this season.

“Felicia is more determined to get better this season,” Small added. “Her technique is much better and she is more fluid going over the hurdles. I've also seen progress in that she is stronger now and attacking the hurdles better. Her footwork has improved, and her steps are more precise in getting over the hurdles. She is more focused and is pushing herself, learning more about proper technique. From last year to this, she set a goal to make it to states and her determination is one of the keys to her success. She has high hopes of going to states this year.”

If Mull has a choice regarding a trip to the PIAA championships, a berth in either event would suit her, but she would prefer the 110, a quick-paced race with a steady 1-2-3 step beat prior to jumping the hurdles. However, she noted she is “better in the 300 because I have good endurance and have a good kick at the end. I am goal-oriented and put pressure on myself to do well. I have high expectations for myself.”

With WPIAL and PIAA successes within reach, Mull reflects on the Monessen Invitational last year when she reached the 110 finals, earning her first medal in either event.

Just as inclement weather has affected every track program in western Pennsylvania, Small pointed to Mother Nature in hampering spring workouts, preventing outside conditioning to run its full course.

Despite the adverse conditions, Mull “did well in the 110 hurdles in her first meet,” Small said. “She finished second, and we were competing against an AAA school.”

But Mull has more on her plate than just the hurdles. At Monessen she is president of the Youth Council, a member of The Future Is Mine club and is an after-school mentor for students in grades six, seven, and eight. With graduation two months away, Mull has her sights set on attending California University of Pennsylvania where she plans on becoming involved in the school's ROTC program, with the U.S. Navy in her long-range plans.

Les Harvath is a freelance writer.