Every good athlete is born with a some degree of natural talent. What they decide to do with this talent will separate the average from the outstanding.
Some athletes settle with playing a little above average, but for others that’s not good enough. The great ones want to reach their full potential — their destiny. Penns Valley girls’ track and field sprinter Destiny Andrus is working hard to be in this category of athlete.
Andrus, the Lady Rams and other area athletes will be at Altoona’s Mansion Park on Tuesday afternoon at the District 6 Class AA Champinships. The meet begins at 3:30 p.m. with Class AAA taking to the track on Thursday.
During the 2014 season, Andrus was part of a Mountain League championship team, but not as an individual winner or even a state qualifier. At the district meet, she placed fourth in the 100-meter dash in 13.25 seconds and sixth in the 200 at 27.49.
This year as a junior, she is the Mountain League champion in the 100 and 200, and also as part of the winning 400 relay. She also was a first-team All-Star in soccer. She has broken the Penns Valley school record in the 100 with a 12.66, and is .29 away from the 200 record of 26.1. Both of these times would give her a ride to the PIAA Championships if she can match them on Tuesday. She plans to run in the 100 and 200, and on the 400 and 1,600 relays. She also qualified for the 400 but will not compete in that event.
Andrus’ journey to track excellence started when she joined the junior high track team.
“To be honest, I started it to keep me in shape for soccer, and I didn’t think I’d be that good, but when I tried it I thought, ‘Hey i’m actually kinda good at this, and it’s fun, so I’m going to keep doing it.”
As a junior high athlete, Andrus quickly made a name for herself by breaking the school and meet records in the 200 and 400 relay.
Despite so much running, she has remained relatively injury free, plagued only by a strained hamstring during the winter indoor season, and by shin splints. She credits her coaches with keeping her healthy, including girls’ head coach Lynda Federinko (or “Fed,” as the team lovingly refers to her), assistant girls’ coach Kendyl Paolini and boys’ head coach Drew Welch. The staff has guided the programs to three Mountain League track titles in the last two years.
“Welch and Fed have definitely pushed us a lot,” Andrus said. “And actually, funny enough, we hated them during the time it was happening, but it really helped a lot of us become much better athletes. Even though we were dying during the workout, we’re not dying now that we’re actually racing, so we can run faster and harder.”
Relying on and listening to her coaches has made a huge difference this season, cutting 0.59 seconds off her 100 time.
“Fed has been making sure that I warm up,” Andrus said, “and I’ve realized that she knows exactly what she’s talking about when she’s telling me to warm up constantly. I feel like that’s a big part why I’m doing better.”
Federinko has equal respect and admiration of Andrus.
“Destiny is very easy to coach,” the fifth-year coach said. “She gives 110 percent at every practice and takes every opportunity to improve. She has always been dedicated to the success of her team as well as to her own success.”
Andrus also is inspired by her younger sister Jordan, a star on the junior high team who excels at the long jump, high jump and shot put, owning the junior high records at each event.
“(Jordan is) completely amazing,” Destiny Andrus said. “I honestly don’t know how she does it. She just goes out there and destroys everyone.”
Andrus is extremely excited for her individual events at the district meet, even though she admits to being somewhat of a headcase when it comes to nerves. Before a race, she said doesn’t have any rituals, but she always gets into the blocks in a specific manner and prays until the starting gun fires.
“I don’t want to mess up anything because of over thinking” she said.
She is equally excited for the 400 relay with teammates Valerie Kubalak, Maci Ilgen and Valerie Hosterman. Andus is the team’s anchor, receiving the baton from Hosterman.
“I feel like Val and I have had a lot of chemistry in our handoffs from the start,” Andrussaid. “Our handoff definitely got faster in the exchange zone as our season progressed.”
At the end of the day, sprinting is an unpredictable race and no one knows what will happen, and Andrus accepts that. She has worked herself into peak performance, and while she has another year left of track, it’s clear her name will be remembered and her work ethic could take her to even greater places — not that it matters to her.
“I just think that God has given me an amazing gift,” Andrus said, “and I’m going to do everything I can not to take it for granted.”