When Shaun Hay looks at the banners hanging in the Peters Township High School gymnasium, or looks at the school's swimming records, he has all the motivation he needs to run faster and train harder.
Hay, a freshman at Peters Township, had his best finish of his young high school career Saturday at the Central Catholic Invitational at Schenley Park, finishing fifth.
"He'll go the extra mile," Peters Township coach Tim Wu said. "He never gives up. He'll keep working, working, working and do whatever you ask of him. I don't think I've ever had a harder worker."
Hay's success isn't surprising considering his work ethic and his lineage.
Hay's mother, Kathy Hay (formerly Kathy Knabb, Peters Township Class of 1991), won WPIAL titles in both cross country and track. Her banners still hang in the school gymnasium. She went on to run at North Carolina State University, where she was a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer.
Shaun Hay's father, Tom (Peters Class of 1989), won five WPIAL titles and five PIAA titles as a swimmer. He still holds the school records in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard freestyle events, and held the state record in the butterfly for 21 years.
Tom Hay went on to swim at the University of Michigan, where he received four All-American awards.
"I'm very inspired by my parents," said Shaun Hay, who lives in the McMurray section of Peters Township. "I walk through the gym and see my mom's banners or the pool and see my dad's records and it's fun to say to my friends that that's my parents."
The Hays lived in Chicago and Michigan during Shaun's earlier years, but moved back to Peters Township toward the end of Hay's elementary school days. When the family settled down in Tom and Kathy's old stomping grounds, that's when Shaun Hay began to take up running.
He started running at the Pacer Track Club in Upper St. Clair, and took to the sport very quickly. When his enthusiasm increased, he started to be trained by his grandfather, John Knabb, who also trained Kathy.
"He follows the same training that I did," Kathy Hay said. "He's a smart kid, and now he's growing and learning."
Hay also has swum in the past during the winter and summer months and said the sport helped him mentally. But right now he said he is concentrating solely on cross country.
Hay started the season with a 38th-place finish at the Red, White & Blue Classic at Schenley Park on Sept. 7, and followed that up the next week by placing 13th at the Slippery Rock University Invitational.
But last Saturday was by far his best showing. On the same Schenley Park course he ran in early September, Hay bettered his time by nine seconds to finish in the top five.
"It's been good," Hay said of his freshman season. "I'm really enjoying it so far."
In two weeks, Hay will compete in his first WPIAL cross country championship meet. Wu believes Hay has the ability to finish in the top 15, which would qualify Hay for the PIAA cross country championships.
"The goal is to make states," Wu said. "I think in the long term, he'll be one of the top kids in the state. Right now, we're just taking it one step a time."
Down the road, maybe Hay will have his own banner hanging from the rafters inside the Peters Township High School gymnasium.
First Published October 10, 2013 8:00 PM