In seventh grade, Alyssa Wise decided to give running a try and competed in a Hershey Track & Field youth running program.
Wise, who wanted to just test the waters, was not sold. Bored and uninterested, she stopped running. When she entered Washington High School as a freshman, her mother encouraged Alyssa to give it another shot.
Kim Wise, who was a standout track athlete during her days at Wash High, told her daughter running in high school was much different.
The move paid off. Wise, who is now a senior sprinter with the Prexies’ track team, won two PIAA Class AA individual titles as a junior in the 100- and 200-meter dashes in Shippensburg with times of 11.85 and 24.85, respectively.
It came just days after she claimed first-place in the 100-meter at the WPIAL championships (12.18) and second place in the 200-meter (24.15).
She committed to Pitt during the winter.
“Alyssa does an amazing job,” Wash High head coach Teresa Booker said. “She is just an athlete to watch. It’s always exciting to see what she has in store for us when she steps on the track. This year, I think you are going to see even more. I think her times are going to come down, and I think she’s going to do an amazing job again.”
Entering her senior season, Wise knew matching those times and accomplishments would be difficult. In the Prexies’ second meet of the regular season and the first at Wash High Stadium, Wise beat the time that won her one of the first-place medals with an 11.74 in the 100.
As the Wash High girls track team looks to capture its first WPIAL team title, the sprinter will try to improve on a historic junior season.
“I’m feeling pretty confident about this year,” Wise said. “A WPIAL team title is the main goal this year for us as a team. We have potential. We have good throwers, distance runners and in the other events, so we should be fine.”
In five meets to start the season, the Prexies are undefeated in boys and girls and finding contributors spread through all events.
On the girls team, senior India March is excelling in the 100 hurdles, and senior Andrea Sharp is back from injury to give Wash High the distance runner it lacked last season. With a group of freshmen immediately contributing, Wise and the Prexies are strong and deep.
“I’m really looking forward to the girls, because it’s been a while since the girls have won a WPIAL title at Wash High,” Booker said. “We definitely have the athletes and the desire to do that. Before, we were lacking in numbers. But this year, we have the numbers, we have the athletes and some of the freshmen are doing a heck of a job for us.”
The Wash High boys team is looking for its third straight WPIAL team championship, but will attempt to do so after losing two key athletes from last year’s squad.
Shai McKenzie, who graduated from Wash High early and is attending Virginia Tech on a football scholarship, placed fourth in the 100 and first in the shot put at last year’s WPIAL Championships. Darius Spinks also graduated after placing second in the 100 and first in the long jump. And Booker lost an additional sprinter in Josh Wise, Alyssa’s cousin, who placed first in the high jump.
Helping the sprinters is senior Chase Caldwell, who was a hurdler last year, and has made a seamless transition to his new event. Booker has the luxury of having one of the WPIAL’s top hurdlers in senior Quorteze Levy, who took third place in the 300 hurdles at the state championships.
Wash High does not have a youth program, but does benefit from the varsity program’s reputation, which makes recruiting freshmen an easy task.
“We don’t have a feeder program,” Booker said. “We get them in ninth grade. It’s that Prexie pride we’ve had over the years and the success we’ve had with the back-to-back WPIALs that draw freshmen in who want to continue that. When you have a program with high expectations and you make it fun for them, they want to do it.”