Lucas swung, threw her way to Athlete of the Year honors
Fort Cherry's Lucas kept 'busy' all year
Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter ¬ Fort Cherry's Jenna Lucas throws the javelin for 157 ft. 4 inches during the track meet at South Side Beaver High School on Tuesday, May 6.
Lisa and Murray Lucas stood in the backyard of their home in South Fayette Township. It was a warm spring day in 2000 and the couple was preparing their five-year-old son, Jeremy, for tee-ball with an impromptu Wiffle Ball batting practice.
As Jeremy learned the basics of a fluid bat swing, the couple's four-year-old daughter, Jenna, played with dolls nearby when she suddenly stopped and told her parents that she wanted a turn.
“She put those dolls down and she never picked them back up,” Murray Lucas recalled.
The next 14 years of Jenna's life would be spent participating in athletics year-round. She started with slow-pitch softball, then came basketball with the South Fayette Little Hoopers, golf at Fort Cherry was next, then volleyball and finally, track and field.
The crescendo of a journey was decorated with medals and trophies, the biggest being back-to-back PIAA Class AA javelin titles. Lucas became the first athlete to accomplish the feat in Fort Cherry history when she threw 153 feet, 5 inches May 24. Jenna, who graduated in June, received a scholarship from Central Florida to throw the javelin and now, she is the Observer-Reporter's Female Athlete of the Year.
During the 2013-14 school year, Lucas was the top performer on the Rangers' boys golf team, led the volleyball squad in assists, was an O-R third team all-district selection in basketball, averaging 13.5 points per game, and in addition to a second javelin title, she took home her second WPIAL title.
Oh, and she was the lead in the Fort Cherry Drama Club's rendition of Grease during track season.
“I've been busy all year, every year of my life,” Lucas said. “It was stressful all year. I knew it was my last year to ever do it and to do anything in high school again. I'd do it again in a heartbeat because it was so much fun.”
Lucas, a journalism major at UCF, went back and forth during the fall between golf and volleyball. After being inserted as the starting setter in volleyball, she was unable to attend practices on the golf course. It did not stop her from being an integral part of the Rangers' nine wins in volleyball and she missed the PIAA Golf Championships by one stroke.
When she was a seventh grader, Fort Cherry golf coach Mike Slates remembers teaching Lucas the finer points of the game during a summer instructional program.
“After about the first year, nothing surprised me with her,” Slates said. “She was so gifted at whatever she did. Her swing was picture perfect. She's able to tune everything out and focus on whatever sport she's playing.”
Mixed in was slow-pitch softball. She played on AAU teams and Fort Cherry's slow-pitch club team. Lucas dropped the sport last summer but still received calls from coaches asking her to fill in at shortstop.
Her fate would change when Fort Cherry track and field coach Ben Maxin saw her quickness and athleticism on the basketball court.
After spending her first high school year jumping from sport-to-sport, Lucas had no intention of joining the track team, but the veteran head coach convinced her to give it a shot.
Lucas did it all for the track team. She ran the relays and performed all three jumps before wat6ching the throwers heaving a javelin down the football field. Like the day she picked up a Wiffle Ball bat, she wanted to give it a try and made a deal with Maxin.
An 80-foot throw would earn her a spot in the meet. Lucas accomplished the distance with ease and the deal will go down as one Maxin will never forget.
“She did every event for us and was in the top two or three in each one,” Maxin said. “The versatility she has in all of the events she did, and sports she plays, is incredible. There are kids who play a lot of different sports, but she can play all of them and pretty much master all of them above her peers.”
She won the WPIAL championship and a week later, then took home the PIAA Class AA javelin title with a throw of 147 feet, 1 inch. She repeated in both events as a senior with the third-best throw in the nation during the state meet in Shippensburg.
“It doesn't seem real,” Lucas said. “I never thought I'd become good in the javelin or ever get a scholarship for it. It's incredible.”
Lucas' daily routine during this school year sounded astronomical as she listed each sport and event. After starring in the school play and sealing her legacy at Fort Cherry, Lucas enrolled at UCF this summer and for the first time since she was a toddler, she will be playing one sport.
“I never knew how hard it was until I actually explained it,” Lucas said of her routine. “It's honestly really weird just playing one sport now that I'm in college. I love all of them and I loved the musical. I loved being on stage as much as the field.”
Her new stage awaits – the runway at track meets for the Golden Knights.
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