At the 2015 PIAA Class AAA District 6 track and field meet, State College’s Tristan Daman drew gasps from the crowd.
While rounding the corner in the 200-meter dash finals, the Little Lion collapsed on the track, his face twisted in agony as he held the back of his leg. Unable to stand, he was assisted off of the track, thus ending his junior season.
A few hours prior to the injury, Daman had secured a spot in the state tournament by running the state qualifying standard in both the 100 and 400 relay. He finished second in both. However the diagnosis of a torn hamstring eliminated his ability to compete at the state championships.
“Going into the 200, I already had a stressed hamstring so I knew that I shouldn’t push it. But I knew I wanted to beat Eli Mencer (Altoona) so I tried to over stress everything, and I ended up pushing past my limits,” Daman said.
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Nearly a year later, Daman will return to the District 6 track and field tournament on May 19 in Altoona’s Mansion Park.
A few things have changed since last year.
Daman is faster, under new coaching, and hungry for the chance to run as an individual at the state championships.
At the West Central Coaches Invitational on May 6, Daman broke his personal record in the 100 meter.
“West Central Coaches was a big thing for me this year, it’s actually been a big meet for me for the past couple of years,” Daman said.
His old record of 10.84 was beaten with a 10.77, which is .14 seconds away from breaking the school record of former Penn State football player and State College track athlete Alex Kenney.
“I think if everything goes well, I’ll be able to break it (the record) by districts or states,” he said.
The Penn State track and field commit also broke his personal record for the 200 meter this season.
Many athletes would let the prior injury take over and fail to rehabilitate the injury correctly and find themselves at a lower level of ability. However, Daman was back on the track a month later at a stage just as important as the state championships, the Junior Olympics. Daman explained that while JO’s were fun, he was more focused on the recovery aspect than his times.
The injury also has forced him to call attention to staying healthy.
“It’s really motivated me to make sure that I’m doing the right thing for my body,” he said, “I have done so many more hamstring flexibility training and just all the right things, like cooling down after a race or big workout.”
Judging by his times, the extra care for his body has worked in his favor.
“So far, it’s really helped my times, and I really think it’s going to help me in the future too. I’m already faster,” he said.
The senior also explained that the team’s new coach, Steve Shisler, has been another important part of his and the team’s success this year.
“It really turned out really well,” Daman said of the coaching change. “I thinks he’s bringing a lot of good things to the program. I think he can bring home a district and maybe even state title for us.”
Shisler is equally impressed with Daman.
“Tristan’s certainly one of the more, or the best sprinters that we’ve had come through the program since Alex Kenney’s departure,” Shisler said, “He’s coming into his own at just the right point in his high school career.”
The coach got to know Daman after working with him over the summer while Daman trained for the Junior Olympics.
“I saw his dedication and passion that he has for the sport, and I knew he would be a good leader for the program,” Shisler said.
The coaching staff named Daman one of the team’s three team captains for the season along with pole vaulter Griffin Thompson and distance runner Anthony Degleris.
And now, a season later, Daman is ready for his moment.
With faster times, the senior is hoping to run individually at the state championships, something he has yet to accomplish.
“If I make it, this will be my first year running a solo event. I was going to run sophomore year in the 200 but then we just decided to have me run in the 4x100 since my hamstring was having issues,” he said.
Having never gotten the chance, the senior is more motivated than ever for the chance to both compete and redeem himself after last year’s injury ending season.
“I’m feeling really excited,” Daman said, “I feel like I have some work to do and some things to show people. I want to show people that I can win some things and beat some records.”
District 6 Track & Field Championships
When: 3:30 p.m. Thursday (Class AAA)
Where: Mansion Park, Altoona
Note: For the first time, admission will be charged for the meet — $5 adults, $2 students with ID