Dayna Holston Wenger moved out of her comfort zone earlier this year, taking a job as an academic adviser after spending more than 22 years working in athletics at Penn State University.
The Trinity High School graduate has never been one to shy away from a challenge.
She was a four-sport standout for the Hillers and a top performer in track and field at Penn State.
In the process, she had to take some chances to become such an accomplished athlete. For the most part, she made the most of those chances and opportunities.
That is why she thinks her move away from athletics will work out just fine.
“I have spent my entire professional career with Penn State athletics and have been able to work with some amazing student-athletes, coaches and staff,” she said. “One of my career goals has been to become an academic adviser, so I was thankful that the leadership and advising team at Penn State World Campus made me feel very welcome.
“They have a wonderful training program in place, which has given me the opportunity to learn from some very talented and experienced advisers. I am extremely passionate about Penn State and I am thankful that I get to work with Penn State students on a daily basis in my new position. The advisers are divided in teams here at Penn State World Campus, so I immediately felt at home. I am a Blue Team Adviser.”
Holston Wenger walked away from athletics to spend more time with her family, her husband, Doug, and their son, Christian, 8. The family resides in Boalsburg.
“Really, it was work-life balance,” she said. “I coached (track and field) for 13 years and that was a lot of hours a week, nights and weekends. When I moved to being involved events and facilities, it was the same thing. I loved what I did, the people I worked with and the student-athletes.
“My son plays hockey, baseball and basketball. I want to see him and be there with him while he plays. I still am working with students and it has been rewarding so far.”
While Holston Wenger decided to concentrate on track and field at Penn State, she made an impact in a variety of sports at Trinity.
A 1990 graduate, her talents made an impact in volleyball, basketball, track and field and bowling at Trinity. She was captain of the volleyball team and was selected the Most Valuable Player in the section.
Holston Wenger was a two-time state champion in bowling. She honed her skills at Alpine Lanes in Washington and rolled a 285 game when she was a junior at Trinity. She had 10 consecutive strikes before rolling a split. She rolled her games on the weekends at Alpine as Trinity didn’t have a competitive team at the time.
While she doesn’t recall getting close to a 300-game again, she did have 700 series and won state titles in 1989 and 1990.
Her bowling prowess attracted recruiters and opened up scholarship opportunities.
“The 285 game, I was head-to-head against a boy,” Holston Wenger recalled. “The bowling alley (in Elm Grove, W.Va.) literally stopped, and everyone started focusing on me. I had reached nine strikes in a row.
“My mom (Phyllis Holston), never missed anything of mine, but she wasn’t there that day.”
Holston Wenger averaged between 190 and 210 and twice participated in the nationals.
Track and field is where Holston made a lasting impact for Trinity.
During her junior season, she made a throw of 155-6 in the javelin at the 1989 WPIAL Championships at Butler High School. That throw put her in second place on the USA Today national high school rankings list.
The throw remains as one of the best ever in the WPIAL. It helped her gain All-America status and allowed her to participate in the Junior Elite Throwing Camp at the Olympic Sports Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I always loved being around and playing sports,” Holston Wenger said. “What I did in track, where I competed, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Holston Wenger said she became interested in throwing when a youth softball coach told her that her arm was strong and that she should consider learning how to throw the javelin and discus.
“It took a little bit of time,” she explained. “But Trinity had a good tradition of throwers, some of the best in the state. When I started learning, I learned from some of them and from good coaches.”
She added that her mom and dad (Jim Holston) provided a good foundation and were role models.
“Living in Wolfdale, being around good people – hard-working, blue-collar people and great families – made me proud of where I came from,” Holston Wenger said.
She was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame Washington-Greene County Chapter in 2000 and is a member of Trinity’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Holston Wenger laughed when recalling her junior season and her big throw at the WPIAL meet.
“I had the second-best throw in the country for about five minutes,” she chuckled. “The girl right after me, Jen Crouse from Knoch High School, broke that mark and knocked me back to third.
Holston Wenger parlayed that experience and her time in Colorado into a huge senior season.
She won MVP Field honors at the 1990 Washington County Track & Field Championships, winning the javelin, shot put and discus.
She went on to win the WPIAL javelin title and a bronze medal in the javelin in the PIAA Championships. She won medals in the PIAA and WPIAL that season in the discus.
Holston Wenger’s throwing excellence landed her a scholarship at Penn State where she flourished. She was a two-time NCAA qualifier in the javelin, placing 10th and 11th, falling just short of All-America status.
As a senior, Holston Wenger was selected team captain and named to the All-East Track and Field team. In addition, she received the Penn State Academic Achievement Award and All-Big 10 academic honors.
“(Crouse) ended up going to Penn State and there were other outstanding throwers there. I wanted to train with them every day. It made me better. We could push each other and train together and compete together.”
Holston Wenger said all the sports she played helped her in track and field.
“With individual sports, it’s you versus yourself,” she said. “Bowling helped me focus and taught me how to compete. Volleyball was my second favorite behind track. I really enjoyed it.
“I liked playing a lot of sports. It was busy and sometimes crazy, ut it was fun. I didn’t play basketball my senior year and when I look back, I’m not happy about that.”
After her playing days ended, Holston Wenger became throwing coach for the Nittany Lions. She spent 13 years as a coach before becoming the university’s multi-sport facility and events coordinator.
“It was a great experience for me to travel all over the country and learn so much from others,” Holston Wenger said. “A lot of people helped me. It made me want to go into coaching and help others.”
Two of the people Holston credits are Larry Myers and Elaine Sobansky. She played for them as a setter on the Hillers’ volleyball team.
“I enjoyed playing for them,” Holston Wenger said. “I student-taught at Upper St. Clair and then worked as a substitute teacher at Trinity. I coached some volleyball and was going to coach track, then got a call from Penn State to come back and coach track. I got my dream job one year out of college. I couldn’t pass it up.”
She called on all of her old coaches, went to clinics and absorbed as much as possible to be a good coach.
“I learned a lot,” Holston Wenger said. “Coaching takes a lot of time. You can always learn how to coach. But it’s important to be a good person. I treated athletes with respect. I made sure I was there for them. Coaching was a great experience for me.”
Despite walking away from coaching as a profession, she does “coach” her son these days.
“I try to manage that as much as possible,” she said. “He does ask my opinion a lot and I can’t believe that. I was on the other side of that before and I understand.
“He started skating when he was 5-years-old, and we go back to Pittsburgh a lot for that and I love that. I’m just trying to enjoy this as much as possible.”