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Shaler Junior Brianna Schwartz
Brianna Schwartz ran her final event of the school year two weeks ago in New York. It was a prestigious invite-only event sponsored by adidas and Schwart ran a race in which 10 high school runners from around the country competed in the mile.
The entire meet was part of the adidas “Grand Prix” and the event that Schwartz participated was called the “Dream Mile.” For Schwartz, it was a rather appropriate title because she had a “dream year.”
Schwartz, a junior at Shaler Area High School, did some marvelous things in the 2013-14 school year. She put herself in the WPIAL spotlight, but also gained national prominence. She is the MSA Sports Female Athlete of the Year.
The award is picked by the MSA Sports staff and takes into consideration all WPIAL athletes. Unlike some past years when girls won the award by playing multiple sports, Schwartz was a one-trick pony. But a pony that ran like no other in WPIAL history.
Schwartz established herself as arguably the best distance runner in WPIAL history, making her marks in both cross country and track.
In cross country, Schwartz did the following:
*Won the WPIAL Class AAA championship for the second consecutive year with a record-breaking run. Her time of 17 minutes, 52 seconds at Cooper’s Lake in Slippery Rock broke the course record of 17:58, set by Latrobe’s Natalie Bower in 2008.
*Went on to run at the Foot Locker national championships in December in San Diego, where she finished sixth.
In track, Schwartz did the following:
*During the indoor state championships in early March, Schwartz won the mile with a state record time of 4:42.58.
*During the outdoor season, Schwartz won WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA titles for the second consecutive year in the 1,600. But she did much more. During the course of the season, she ran the best times in WPIAL history in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200.
*At the WPIAL championships, Schwartz set a meet record with a time of 4:45.19. She beat her own record set the year before with a 4:47.07.
*At the Butler Invitational, she ran the best 800 time in WPIAL history with a 2:10.15. Then at the Baldwin Invitational on the first Friday in May, Schwartz ran the fastest time in WPIAL history with a 10.10.03. It smashed the old No. 1 time of 10:25.7, run by Baldwin’s Carole Zajac in 1990. Zajac is a WPIAL legend and many had considered her the best distance runner in WPIAL history – until Schwartz came along.
All told, it was an unforgettable year for Schwartz. Her indoor time in the mile was the fourth-best in the country, indoor or outdoor. She capped everything off with the “Dream Mile,” where she finished eighth in the event with a time of 4:50.15. It was the first time in a while she didn’t finish first.
“It was a great experience,” Schwartz said of the “Dream Mile.” “I got to go to another city and they took care of us. They gave us a lot of gear, uniforms and stuff. The race itself didn’t go the way I wanted. There was a pretty good crowd there because there were pros racing after us.”
With her success in both cross country and track, an obvious question might be which one does Schwartz like better? She has no answer.
“I love them both,” she said. “During cross country, I love cross country. During track, I love track. The training is a lot different for both and I like that.”
Not all that long ago, neither track or cross country was on her list of favorites. Before she got to high school, Schwartz fancied herself a basketball player. Her father, Joe, played basketball at old Oliver High School in the City League. Her older brother, J.T., excelled in basketball at Shaler and now plays at Grove City. But after she opened eyes as a freshman runner in cross country and track, she realized running was her thing and gave up basketball after her freshman year.
College coaches can start calling July 1 and Schwartz will undoubtedly receive some Division I scholarship offers.
With one year to go in high school, Schwartz can add to her legacy. Will she improve on her times? Will she get the PIAA record she covets?
But no matter what, she already has left an unforgettable mark on the WPIAL.