SJCA’s Sera Mazza talks District 6 win
Sera Mazza stood atop Mansion Park’s highest podium, faced the applauding crowd and smiled widely, wearing a first-place medal around her neck. The St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy track star and defending champion found herself in a familiar situation on Wednesday, once again being recognized as a District 6 champion.
But this time around felt different. The 1,600-meter winner still greeted her individual District 6 Class 2A triumph with happiness. She still celebrated with teammates later in the evening when SJCA was crowned district champs with 86 team points, beating out Central Cambria, Forest Hills and 25 other schools.
And yet, Mazza’s magical day at Mansion Park came with a feeling of finality. The decorated senior’s time at SJCA is almost up.
“It’s definitely surreal,” Mazza said, clutching her medal as she reflected on four years of success. “It’s hard to think of how different it will be next year.”
Of course, Mazza’s journey with the Lady Wolves isn’t finished quite yet. She still has the PIAA championships next weekend in Shippensburg before joining Penn State’s track program in the fall. And the Lady Wolves’ leader plans to end her high school career on a high note.
Mazza, who led SJCA to a pair of cross country state titles, has made it to the state track and field championships all four years now in the 1,600-meter run. As a freshman, she didn’t advance from the preliminary stage. As a sophomore, she reached the finals but finished 12th. Last year, Mazza medaled, squeezing her way into eighth place. This go-round, the SJCA standout is eying an improved showing and better medal.
Mazza looks primed to do achieve that after Wednesday’s showing. Her time of 5 minutes, 18.04 seconds was four seconds slower than her 2018 district-winning mark. But it paced the field by at least six seconds. Penns Valley’s Kelsey Hull finished in second place with a 5:24.98 mark.
Mazza’s dominance was apparent as she glided for the final 200 meters, taking the title with ease.
“The gameplan was to get out hard and drag out the field. We didn’t want it to come down to a finish,” SJCA coach Jayson Jackson said. “It was important to get ready for next weekend and be able to run well at the state meet.”
Mazza won’t be alone in Shippensburg, either. Clare Marsh won the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles. Izzy Warren qualified for states in the 100-meter hurdle, long jump and triple jump. Kathleen Simander qualified for the 800-meter run, and SJCA’s 1,600 and 3,200 relay teams made the cut, as well.
“We’re fortunate to have such a strong group of kids that run for each other and push each other,” Jackson added. “It helps with performances like this.” And it helps give Mazza peace of mind that all will be well when she moves on. Marsh and Simander are sophomores, while Warren is a junior.
Sure, Mazza is focused on her personal goals: Breaking 5:10.00 and improving her medal place in the 1,600-meter next weekend. But she also has an eye to what lies ahead and cares about the program she’s leaving behind.
Freshman distance runner Kate Youngmark called Mazza a “role model,” one who inspires her teammates to “attack things like she does.” That was evident Wednesday.
“It’s hard knowing that I’m going to leave this place. But I know it’s in really good hands,” Mazza said. “I’m excited to see what they have in store in the future.”