Name: Mara Whalen
School: Fort Cherry
Sport: Track & Field
Whalen’s week: The speedy distance runner ran the anchor legs on the Rangers’ 3,200- and 1,600-meter relays at the WPIAL Class AA Track & Field Championships held at Slippery Rock University. Both produced gold medals and school records.
Not too bad for a school that doesn’t have a track.
Whalen overtook a Burrell runner to easily win the 3,200-meter relay for the Rangers in 10:03.10. The three talented teammates who set the stage for Whalen in that race were Kayla Salvini, Morgan Zickefoose and Emma Blickenderfer.
In the 1,600 relay, Whalen got the baton for the final 400 meters and breezed to victory in 4:03.21, just two seconds off the WPIAL record of 4:01, set by Springdale in 2008.
Setting up that final lap were teammates McKenzie Faurer, Jadyn Hartner, and Alex Guerra.
Whalen also finished second in the 400 with a personal-record time of 58.5 and sixth in the 800.
“I didn’t think I was going to have as good a day,” Whalen said. “I came in not ranked as high. I thought I might be able to pull through in the 400. I’m really proud of myself because I did not think I was going to pull through in the 800. I don’t understand the concept of the race but I know it makes my legs hurt.”
Fort Cherry has won WPIAL gold in all three relays in the program’s history.
“She is a pretty special athlete,” said Fort Cherry coach Ben Maxin. “She’s been our closer and her time in the 400 was just outstanding. She almost won that race and set a school record. We try to put her in a position to close and the girls had a great race (in the relays), all of them.”
A little help: Whalen has a little something that helps her get through her races. It hangs around her neck.
“It’s my good luck charm,” she says of the necklace and small diamond.
“My grandma passed away when I was in seventh grade,” she said. “This the diamond from her wedding ring. I never take it off. I wear it for every race.”
Whalen says it reminds her of how encouraging her grandmother was with her.
“We were very close,” said Whalen. “She was a great grandma. Every race I run, I do it for her. I think of her sitting up there saying, ‘Hurry up.’ At the end of the day, it’s cool to get medals. But this (necklace) is the best medal I could have.”
Compiled by Joe Tuscano