By all accounts, the 2021 PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University was one for the books. The May 28-29 finals marked a triumphant return from last year’s COVID-cancelled events, condensed preliminaries and finals into a one-day schedule for each classification, and was, weather-wise, the coolest championship weekend on record with rainy, damp days in the 50s.
First-time state qualifiers Danny Britten of Trinity High School and Lindsey Husic of Bishop McDevitt High School put all those elements aside on their way to state silver medals.
Britten, a rising senior at Trinity, ran a 15:16 in the boys’ Class AA 110-meter hurdles, shaving nearly half a second off his District 3 time to win state silver with what was by far the fastest time of his career.
“Every single time I ran in the post-season, my time got better. My time at states was surprising, because I only had four days of practice between districts and states,” Britten said.
He attributes the impressive half-second improvement to his coaches’ efforts for him to stay lower to the hurdles in order to save previous tenths of seconds.
The trip to Seth Grove Stadium was Britten’s first go-round in PIAA competition. He had qualified for districts as a freshman, but was unable to compete due to illness. And then COVID shut the competition down last year.
“My goal was just to make the finals,” said Britten, who entered as a tenth seed. “My performance ended up being a lot better than that. Going in seeded tenth, there wasn’t any pressure on me to perform.”
Britten said he spent the past year practicing in his driveway with three hurdles, one of a number of creative ways high school athletes endeavored to train when schools and facilities were closed during the pandemic.
“I think practicing coming out of a start and jumping the first three hurdles put me ahead of where I would usually be when the season came around,” he said.
“Every single coach at Trinity is super supportive,” Britten remarked. “One coach in particular, Joe Spila, heads the entire sprinting group, and he takes a lot of time out of practices to help me one-on-one with the hurdles…. I want to thank all the coaches and members of the track and field team because everyone has been so supportive, and I’m grateful for it.”
In girls’ Class 3A competition, Bishop McDevitt’s Lindsey Husic, a rising junior, propelled herself to state silver with an 18’1” in the long jump.
The distance ties her personal best, which she executed at the Mid Penn Championships.
“At districts this year, I didn’t feel my best and I wanted to redeem myself at states. To jump 18’1” made me so happy,” she said.
The 2021 PIAA Championships marked Husic’s first appearance in state competition, an experience made all the better by her track and field teammates, especially her comrades in the 4×100.
“This being our first season together (as relay teammates) and going to states was really, really fun. Starting out with the 4×100 we wanted to push ourselves every meet to get better and better. To break our school record and make it to states was so surreal and crazy for us,” Husic said.
The 4×100 team of Husic, graduating senior Vanessa Damone and rising juniors Maddy Brooks and Jazmine Bennett won District 3 gold and placed fourth overall in states. Husic said jumping drills and repetitive practice of baton hand-offs helped drive her to individual and relay success.
As for the challenges of a chilly and damp day for the state finals, Husic said she put it out of her mind.
“I didn’t allow the weather to affect me mentally. I had to focus on my run and my jump, and my teammates helped me block the weather out of my head,” she said. “We kept talking and practicing and knew we were going to succeed if we did that.”
“Being a smaller school and doing so well in districts and in states was surreal. Even during my long jump, I had so much support from other members of the team during my individual competition. We’re going to push ourselves again next year to succeed, and it will be so much fun,” said Husic, who also competes in the 100-meter run and the 4×400 relay.
“Being at McDevitt, it’s such a great school in itself, and being on the track team is so fun. Our coaches are fun too, including Coach DMac (Daniel McGinnis), which made this year and our competitions so much better. They push me to keep doing my best and moving forward in all my events.”
(Photos courtesy of Chris Pushart from Trinity High School, and Lindsey Husic.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness