Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

E&S’s White: Girls’ track athlete of year

It was approaching 1 p.m. on a perfectly sun-kissed day and Cierra White, for the moment, was standing taller than anyone else on the infield at Shippensburg University.

It was approaching 1 p.m. on a perfectly sun-kissed day and Cierra White, for the moment, was standing taller than anyone else on the infield at Shippensburg University.

Perched atop an eight-tiered wood podium, White had just won her third career state track and field championship. As officials, other athletes, and reporters buzzed around - all while a photographer called out instructions for how these eight high school girls should pose for the snapshot - White appeared loose and energetic.

She started to dance, doing a little shimmy-shake, flapping her bent arms. A bashful smile crossed her face once she remembered that people were watching.

By about two hours later, White had run two more races, adding another state crown and a silver medal. By then, it was nearing 3 p.m. and White was done dancing.

How does it feel, she was asked, to have four career state championships to your name?

"I'm hot. And I'm sleepy. I want to go . . ." White said before her weary voice trailed off with an exhaling whimper.

White ran one final race that day at the PIAA championships. She would travel home with Class AA gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, titles she defended after winning both races as a junior. She also would be with the silver medal she earned as a part of Engineering & Science's 4x100 relay team, and a seventh-place medal as part of its 4x400.

Over a two-day period, White - The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania Girls' Track and Field Athlete of the Year - provided a sturdy foundation for the Engineers, which she led, almost single-handedly, to a fifth-place team finish.

She competed in four events, advancing to the final heat in each, meaning she ran at least two - and, in the case of the 100 and 200, three - preliminary races for every event. In total, she ran 10 races.

In a matter of months, White will be gone from Philadelphia and en route to Lubbock, Texas. She will join the Texas Tech track and field program with a set of new challenges, and more tireless work.

But her senior year in high school won't soon be forgotten. White entered the outdoor season more recognizable than ever before. As a junior, she doubled as the PIAA champ in the 100 and 200, but it was in March, at the New York Armory, where she achieved her greatest feat.

There she won the New Balance Indoor National title in the 200, edging the runner-up by a mere .02 of a second, finishing in 23.95. All of a sudden, White was one of the top sprinters not only in Pennsylvania, but also in the country.

It meant White would aim higher come the spring. She aspired to drop that 200 time by .1 of a second. In the 100, she would race for times around 11.60.

But constant rainstorms interrupted weekend invitationals across the region and, compounded by persistent overcast and cool conditions, truncated White's training schedule. E&S coach Ray Womack, who called White the school's best "pound-for-pound" athlete ever after she won her national title, lamented for weeks how the weather was limiting her improvement and her chances to run increasingly elite times.

"I had set goals this season," White said. "I wasn't running the exact times I wanted to. But, later on, when the weather kind of cleared up - it was still a little rainy - I did much better."

At the Public League Championships in mid-May, White finally broke free, winning the league title in the 100 in 11.79. She added a 200 title that week, before going on to claim District 12 titles in both events eight days later.

Her district-winning times of 11.97 and 24.05 in the 100 and 200, respectively, were the fastest, regardless of classification, among runners in both the District 12 and District 1 meets.

She wouldn't run any faster this year. At the state meet, White repeated as champion with times of 12.05 and 24.92.

She was never at her best this season, her personal goals not quite realized. But White remained a state champion, defending six major titles.

So, really, how does it feel?

"It feels really good," White said at Shippensburg. "I would have liked to go faster, but I'm fine. I'm happy that I went out there and did it."

Then she gingerly walked off, barefoot, shoes in hand. She was tired.