SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — Katie Dammer saved her best performance for the last meet of the season.
The Abington Heights sophomore placed second in the girls 1600 meter race at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Track and Field Championships on May 28 at Shippensburg University while running her fastest time of the year, finishing in 4:56.47.
“I wanted to set my PR (personal record) because I had been improving a lot in the weeks leading up to the race,” Dammer said. “I didn’t know what the competition would be like so I just wanted to run a good race and medal. I was pleasantly surprised with how well it went.
“It was nice to see it all come together on that day. My coaches did a great job helping me peak at the right time.”
Abington Heights head coach Mike Ludka, who also coaches Dammer during the cross country season, believes a strong commitment to training has played a big role in her success.
“Katie has the rare combination of natural ability and a determination and drive to win that is off the charts,” Ludka said. “She’s always trying to find the next workout that will make her better.
“She has such confidence in herself and when she puts her mind to something, she figures out a way to make it happen. She’s also one of the top (students) in her class and volunteers her time. She’s an all-around great person.”
Ludka thinks Dammer’s willingness to follow instructions and adapt to new techniques has also helped her improve as a runner.
“During her freshman year, she made some mistakes in races,” he said. “We talked about them and she learned from them. Together, we developed a strategy of how to approach races to maximize her talent. She practiced that approach throughout the season, put it on display at districts and was confident going to the state meet. We weren’t trying anything new, she was doing what we worked on all year long.”
Dammer was instrumental in helping the Lady Comets claim the top spot in two team competitions.
She finished first in the 800 and 1600 meter runs to help Abington Heights win the Robert Spagna Championship Meet. She was also a part of the team’s second place 4 x 400 relay and finished first in the 800 and 1600 meter runs to lead the Lady Comets to the District 2 Class 3A Championship.
“It was our goal throughout the year,” Dammer said of winning those meets. “Everyone performed at their best and a lot of girls surpassed their expectations. We all worked so hard, sacrificed and it paid off in the end.”
Ludka feels although Dammer experienced success early in her high school career, she has room to grow and improve.
“We sat down and mapped out our hopes for where we think she’s headed and we believe she’s about a year ahead of schedule,” he said. “We’re hoping to take a couple more seconds off her time next year, but the sky is the limit.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.