North/West Xtra: Quaker Valley grad cited as PSAC's best
Tabitha Bemis, a Quaker Valley High School grad who competes in track and field at Edinboro University, competes in the long jump at the NCAA Division II championship meet in Pueblo, Colo., last month.
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Edinboro's Tabitha Bemis was recently announced as the 2012 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Field Athlete of the Year for the outdoor track and field season.
Bemis, a resident of the Fair Oaks section of Leet Township and a Quaker Valley High School graduate, has piled on the awards and honors throughout her sophomore year.
She was named to the Capital One District II Cross Country/Track & Field All-Academic Team and also was named USTFCCCA Atlantic Region Field Athlete of the Year for both the indoor and outdoor season, to name a few.
Only to hear Bemis tell it, the awards do not mean as much as the enjoyment she gets out of competing in her sport.
"Well, I don't know. When I think about it, obviously, the award was great," she said when discussing the 2012 PSAC Field Athlete of the Year award. "But I do this for me."
She cited achieving personal bests in events such as the hurdles and long and triple jumps as more important to her.
But before the members of the award committee take back her award, Bemis does have someone in her life who really appreciates the honor -- her mother.
"My mom's the one who's like 'Oh, yay!' and she's all gung-ho about it," she said.
Edinboro coach Doug Watts, who has coached track and field for 42 years, praised Bemis for being "the total package."
"She's a former gymnast and diver, so her body control is probably the best I've ever coached in that regard," he said. "She's able to analyze very well, and she has a thing inside her you can't coach. Under pressure, she goes out there and performs."
Both Watts and Bemis credit Bemis' strong sophomore season in part to new assistant coach Anne Carleson, who provided Bemis with year-round coaching.
"She was a really big factor in putting me where I am right now," Bemis said. "She's very good with pushing me, getting me more reps and helping me to get a better base as a runner."
Bemis also credits a connection with Watts as a reason for success.
"He's a great influence in my life. He's more of a mental coach for me," she said. "He knows me mentally, so it helps. He's very aware of how I function."
The two are so in sync that they tell the same story when talking about the past year.
"At the conference championships, I was not doing well. I made it to the finals, but not by much," Bemis said.
"The girl who eventually finished second did the same thing. But when she got up there in the finals, she jumped and popped a huge jump. I wasn't sure I could beat it."
After her opponent, IUP's Laurie Ajavon, completed her long jump, Bemis was up.
"She has this innate ability to channel it all inside her and go after it. Her last jump, something emanates from her. It's not confidence, it's not cockiness, but boom, she goes and you know it's a personal record."
Bemis won the event and qualified for the NCAA Division II championships.
There, she finished 11th in the long jump and 15th in the triple jump, results she was disappointed in.
"I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason," she said, "and I had to keep telling myself that, especially after Nationals."
A rising junior, she will have two more years to compete, and said that she wants to at least repeat what she did last year, if not exceed it.
Watts said he believes she can.
"She'll improve and someday challenge, probably in the long jump, for the national [title]," he said.
Watts finished by discussing Bemis as a person, not just as an athlete.
"In today's world, with every kid being 'I, I ,I,' she's 'we, we, we,'" he said. "She's going to be a really special person. She has characteristics that few of us do."
First Published June 28, 2012 12:00 am