West Xtra: Fort Cherry's Lucas gets to the point

Female High School Athlete of the Year

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There was very little doubt that someone as athletic and versatile as Jenna Lucas would be remembered as a good athlete at Fort Cherry High School.

She exceled on the golf course, volleyball court, basketball court and softball diamond.

But for Lucas to leave a legacy as one of the best athletes in Fort Cherry history, it would require some convincing and trial and error.

It was March of her freshman year and Lucas had just completed a golf season in the fall and a lengthy 29-game basketball season that saw the Rangers advance to the WPIAL Class AA and PIAA quarterfinals.

"Basketball season dragged on forever and I just wanted to be done with sports and go into summer," Lucas recalls.

Fort Cherry track and field coach Ben Maxin had other ideas.

Maxin convinced Lucas to come out for the track and field team -- and be a runner.

He was getting close to discovering her true talent.

"I hate running. I was like: That sounds like an awful idea," Lucas said.

Lucas countered and said she wanted to try long jump.

She was getting warmer.

One day at practice Lucas saw her friend, Jessie Merckle, a future PIAA champion and ACC champion at Wake Forest, throwing the javelin at practice. Maxin said Lucas, a 5-foot-3 freshman, was too small to compete in the javelin but she found time on her own to practice and with that decision she forever altered her athletic career.

Things did not come easy at first.

"I was a shrimp, the javelin was so much bigger than me," Lucas recalled.

She made an agreement with her coach if she could throw 80 feet in practice, he would allow her to throw javelin in a meet.

She hit 80 feet. Later that year it would be 118 feet and by her sophomore year 141 feet and 151 feet as a junior. She hit a growth spurt eventually and now Lucas is 5-7½.

This year as a senior she recorded a throw of 157-5 at the WPIAL Class AA south qualifier at South Side Beaver to break the school record of 156-8 held by Merckle.

"I didn't know if I was going to do it to be honest," Lucas said. "My goal was 155 and when I hit 157-5 to break the school record, it was a shock. It didn't even click right away until my coach told me I did."

Lucas, a McDonald resident, captured a PIAA Class AA title in the javelin as a junior and this year with a throw of 153-5 she made it back-to-back state titles becoming the first Fort Cherry athlete to ever win a PIAA championship two years in a row.

For her notable achievements, Lucas has been named the Post-Gazette West Xtra Female High School Athlete of the Year.

She finished her high school career with four letters in golf, four letters in track, two letters in volleyball and three letters in basketball.

She will attend the University of Central Florida on a track scholarship. She is already in Florida training and preparing for the fall semester.

"I never in a million years thought I would be going to college for javelin," Lucas said. "When I was a freshman or sophomore, I thought I would be going to golf. It really started clicking after my freshman year when I was getting these letters from colleges."

About 15 letters arrived for Lucas after her freshman year and by the time she had graduated, Lucas counted 58 letters from colleges. Narrowing her sport to javelin became easier but Lucas is just happy to be able to keep playing a sport, any sport.

"I cannot live without playing a sport," Lucas said. "I love basketball to death, I love softball, I love volleyball, I honestly like any sport. I've never played soccer in my life but if you threw me a soccer ball I would be content."

She would also probably be pretty darned good.

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