Freeport freshman Shemanski eager for PIAA track and field debut
Sidney Shemanski began her first varsity track and field season not established in the 800-meter run.
“I had tried the 200 and the 400,” the Freeport freshman said. “I then found the 800, and it's just worked out so well. I kept lowering my time each race. I began to think I had a really good chance at WPIALs and a good chance to make it to states. It wasn't until the Pine-Richland Invitational, where I got a 2:20, that I felt I could go far. I kept pushing myself and doing harder workouts.”
Those harder workouts and her determination led her to a WPIAL Class AA championship in the 800 last week at Baldwin.
Now, Shemanski is ready to take that next step at her first PIAA championship meet.
“WPIALs was an amazing experience,” she said. “When I first got there, I was amazed that there were so many people, and I got butterflies in my stomach. But I was able to handle it pretty well. I got into the atmosphere and became more comfortable with everything. My (800) finish gave me more motivation to focus for states and go faster there.”
Shemanski is one of several athletes who will represent the AK Valley at the state Class AA and AAA meets Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg.
She runs the 800 preliminaries Friday at 3:30 p.m., and the top four in each of the two heats plus the next four fastest times will advance to the finals Saturday at 2:35 p.m.
Shemanski's WPIAL time of 2:19.96 puts her as the No. 4 seed. She is in the second heat with No. 1 seed McKayla Lally (2:17.16), a senior from Pine Grove in District 11.
“Sometimes, as a freshman, you are under the radar at states,” Freeport assistant coach Bob Livrone said. “The other girls might think that she's only a freshman and not a threat. That could work to her advantage. Hopefully, she can carry her speed through, come away with a medal and hopefully finish in the top four. She wants to run her best and see where that puts her.”
A number of 800 runners from states last year are back, including five of the 12 who made the finals. The second-, third-, fourth- and eighth-place finishers are back. Shemanski is the only freshman in the field of 22.
“I have less experience at states than they do, but I feel I am a threat to them and can hang with them,” she said.
Shemanski said she also is excited to share her first state championship experience with Lurena Stewart, Kim Mixon and Maggie Ward on the Freeport 1,600 relay. The team placed fourth at WPIALs (4:13.55) and is the 22nd seed in a field of 25.
For the 1,600 relay, the top four from each heat advance to the finals, as well as the next four fastest times. The 1,600 relay prelims are Friday at 4:30.
Shemanski has a quick turnaround of about an hour Friday between the 800 and 1,600 relay.
“I am only a freshman, but I don't know if I will have this experience again,” Shemanski said. “I can't take anything for granted. I have to give all my effort Friday and Saturday. I owe that to myself and to my teammates.”
Burrell senior Lizzie Weimer knows what Shemanski and other first-time PIAA competitors are experiencing. Weimer will compete at states for the fourth time after winning her third WPIAL AA shot put and discus titles last week at Baldwin.
She owns three shot put and three discus state medals. Last year, she finished third in the shot and fourth in the discus.
“My freshman year, I was really excited to go to states in both the discus and shot,” she said. “I competed against some really high-level girls at states. I just went in the mindset of doing my best and seeing where that put me. I was just so excited for the entire experience. It helped me for my (return trips).”
Also competing at states as WPIAL champions are Burrell senior Nikki Scherer in the Class AA 200 and 400 — as well as Taylor Johnson, Scherer, Alaina York and Olivia Kelley and alternates Allee Kuhns and McKenzie White in the 400 relay — and Freeport's Robert Reichenbaugh in the Class AA 800 and the 3,200 relay.
Reichenbaugh, Johnathan Asay, Kevin Lynch and Alec Parker waste no time in jumping into competition as the Yellowjackets' 1,600 relay, seeded ninth, will run Friday at approximately 9:30 a.m.
“From fifth to 15th, we're all separated by five seconds,” Reichenbaugh said. “It's pretty tight. It will be interesting to see who is able to advance to the finals. We know we can run faster than we did at WPIALs. We want to set a (personal record) there and see where that gets us.”
Additional WPIAL champs at states from the AK Valley are Valley junior Darius Johnson in the high jump and Apollo-Ridge senior Dillon Butz in the 400.