Daily News spotlight athletes: East Allegheny's K.J. Marshall, West Mifflin's Sydnei Zalice
School: East Allegheny
Sport: Track and field
Claim to fame: Marshall qualified for the PIAA championship meet after finishing second in the high jump (6 feet, 4 inches) and fifth in the long jump (21-7 1⁄4) and 200 meters (23.28 seconds). The senior will compete in all three events at Shippensburg University on Friday and Saturday.
“K.J. is blessed with tremendous natural athletic ability,” coach Ed Ferrell said. “We were counting on him a lot this year, and he definitely came through. I mostly put him in individual events against the best athletes, and he did very well. I think he has a really good shot at hitting 6-6 in the high jump at states. That would be a state record.”
Which event do you enjoy doing the most?
I would say I like doing the 200 meters the most, even though it isn't my best event. The high jump is my best event, but I like how we come off the block and then pick up speed. It's almost like a slingshot. I really like that.
How are you preparing for the state meet?
I've been practicing all day. My old coach, Richard Rouse, has been helping me and my head coach has been helping me out with my technique for the long jump and the high jump.
What do you enjoy doing outside of school and track?
I really just stay at home and take care of my son. He's 6 months old. I hang with him and work and that's really about it.
How did you get into track and field?
When I was in 10th grade, a group of buddies and I got into an argument over who was fastest. Our athletic director suggested we go to the track and find out. We ran the 100 meters, and I won by a lot. I ended up joining the team after that.
What are your plans for next year?
I'm going to CCAC-Boyce for a year and I have been in contact with the football coach at Clarion. I'm going to go there and play football.
Who do you consider a role model?
I would say my mother and father. As I was growing up, they pushed me to be who I am and I am grateful for that.
School: West Mifflin
Claim to fame: Zalice has helped the Titans to a 17-4 record (9-3 in Section 3-AAA) and a spot in the WPIAL semifinals. The senior went 1-4 with an RBI and a run scored as West Mifflin defeated Trinity, 9-5 in a quarterfinal matchup at California University. She has hit for a .358/.567/.463 line with 19 runs scored and 24 RBI.
“Sydnei has been a four starter for us at third base,” said head coach Casey Phillips. She's been a great player for us and has been tearing the cover off the ball over the last five games. She's unbelievably disciplined at the plate and doesn't swing at bad pitches. She's a very smart player offensively and defensively. She's intelligent and a student of the game and is always looking to improve.”
What do you think has been your team's biggest strength this year?
I think the chemistry we have this year has helped us a lot. We've worked harder and better as a team and we've really bonded. We go out to eat as a team all the time and I think that's a big reason why we've been doing so well.
Is playing third base a challenge?
I don't think it's any more of a challenge than any other position. The ball is on you quicker over there but you have to work hard to get better at any position in any sport.
What does your team have to do to beat Ambridge in the semis?
I don't know much about them so. Sometimes it's better to not know much about a team because then you don't have any expectations for them, like if a team has a really good starting pitcher. Sometimes not knowing specifics takes the pressure off a little bit.
What would it mean to you and your teammates to win it all?
It would be amazing, especially after three years of barely having a winning season. It would be an amazing accomplishment for us. It would be great to look back a few years down the road and be able to say that we were part of it.
What do you plan on doing next year?
I'm going to Grove City College and I will be playing softball as well. I'm going to major in biology. I think I want to do forensics but I'm not sure. Studying biology will give me a broad overview and a lot of options so I can change my mind if I want to. Math and science have always been my best classes so I figured this would be the best path to take.
— Robert Stinner