By Pete Chiodo
PETE CHIODO/Meadville Tribune
The 100-meter dash. Of any athletic endeavor, the 100-meter probably goes by the quickest — around 10 to 13 seconds from start to finish. The difference between winning and losing can sometimes be measured by a blink of an eye.
Yet, there is a lot that goes on in that 10 to 13 seconds. A runner has a lot of T’s to carefully cross and I’s to precisely dot to be on the winning side of one of those eye-blink moments.
Those little details were the focus for Meadville junior Heather Sternby and her coaches this week as they prepared for her run in the 100 at the PIAA Class AAA Championship Meet, which runs Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg University.
The preliminaries for the 100 are today at 11:30 a.m.
“We worked on her starts, her first 10 meters,” said Bulldogs head coach Carl Roznowski, “coming out good and moving well, getting a progression as she’s moving down track, no quick pop-up. We make sure she’s pushing off starting block.”
“And we worked on the finish. We had hurdles set up at the 10-meter mark, the 30-meter mark and the third one at the 50-meter mark. We didn’t want her to do a full 100. But we practiced running to the next hurdle before slowing down so that she gets in the mentality of running past the finish line, not to the finish line.”
Fine-tuning these mechanics will be critical for Sternby. She’ll be one of 30 runners in the event. There will be four heats. And the top two from each heat, plus the next eight best times get to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.
Sternby’s seed time of 12.71 seconds, recorded at last week’s District 10 Class AAA championship meet, has her right on the bubble of one of those semifinal spots.
“I was looking at the times and there is a whole bunch of girls within a 10th of a second,” said Roznowski. “So it’s going to come down to who wants it more and who has better start who is going to run past the finish line.
“She’s very capable of getting into the semifinals,” he added. “Again, it’s going to depend on those items I mentioned. A lot of runners have a tendency to ease up at the end. But when you’re right on the borderline you have to make sure you’re sprinting across that finish line.”
Sternby is slated to run in the fourth heat in lane No. 1. In her heat will be the favorite to win the event, Quakertown senior Jody-Ann Evans, whose seed time is 11.75. The PIAA meet record is 11.64, set in 2007 by Breehana Jacobs of Laurel Highlands. (The national record is 11.14, set by Marion Jones in 1992 as a member of California’s Thousand Oaks High School track team.)
This will be Sternby’s second trip to the state meet. Last season, she competed in the 200-meter dash. She very nearly made a return trip in the event this season, but ended up taking second in the 200 at the D-10 meet, about a half-second behind Grove City’s Lauren Decker.
“It flip-flopped,” said Roznowski. “She made it last year in the 200, but she lost the 100. This year she won the 100, but lost the 200.”
A strained hamstring, which kept Sternby off the track for a couple weeks this season, was possibly what cost her in the 200.
“If there had been a longer time that she had to recover I would have felt more confident (in the 200),” said Roznowski. “She didn’t have enough time to work on a longer distance. With that strained hamstring, we though it best to concentrate on the smaller distance to bring her back and not aggravate the hamstring.”
With the injury healed, there is little holding Sternby back from putting her best effort out on Shippensburg’s track today.
“It’s much better,” said Roznowski. “She has been improving greatly week to week. I feel confident that she will run better. Now it’s up to her.”