MERCERSBURG - Mercersburg Academy track and field standout Sarah Firestone has set her goals high.
"My ultimate dream is to be in Rio (Brazil) in four years for the 2016 Olympics," Firestone said.
She took a big step toward that goal on Friday when she committed Friday to attend the University of Nebraska on half of a full scholarship.
"It was the right school for me," Firestone said. "It's a great fit academically and athletically. I felt I not only wanted to go there, but that it was the perfect fit."
Firestone was also recruited by Penn State, Minnesota, Purdue and Western Kentucky and she took visits to all five campuses.
It was Nebraska coach Carrie Lane's visit to Firestone's hometown and school that compelled the Blue Storm's three-sport athlete to become a Cornhusker.
"Coach Lane did a home visit a few days before I made the decision, meeting me to see how I was doing and to meet my coaches," Firestone said. "The half-ride played a part (in the choice) but not a huge part. It helps a lot just to know they've put that out there for me knowing I'm a one-season, one-sport and one-event athlete. For the coach to have that much faith in me, considering that, it stuck in my head when it got down to (deciding)."
Firestone's resume of accomplishments is impressive, including two national Punt, Pass & Kick championships.
In the javelin, Firestone is a two-time AAU national champion and holds the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA) and Mid-Atlantic Prep League records.
Last year she was named USA Track and Field's Mid-Atlantic Athlete of the Year in the intermediate girls' field division. At the Penn Relays in April, she threw 144-10 for her personal best, and placed third at the event.
Despite working on and off with coaches and attending clinics, Firestone hasn't had the benefit of a full-time coach until now.
Firestone said, "I'm really excited to see what I can do and how far I can get in my first year, given her experience pushing the Junior National Team, working with the Olympics and Jamaican U.S. trials. I'm excited to see what I can do with what she can offer."
Although Firestone has set records throwing discus, she and Lane agreed she will focus all of her attention on the javelin at Nebraska.
"Coach Lane wants to work on that with me," Firestone said. "It's going to be a lot of hard work and a tough road to take, but she's ready to take me every step of the way as long as I put in the hard work."
That hard work will consist of seven or eight weightlifting sessions per week, as well as alternating days of running and medicine ball workouts.
Mixed in between, of course, will be class.
"One thing that stuck in my mind was the study area for the athletes only," said Firestone of her Nebraska visit. "It's just a really good atmosphere. I know I can get my work done and go right to the gym, field or to see coach right there when I need to."
Firestone will have one advantage adjusting to the life of a Division I student-athlete.
Her brother A.J. - a 2010 Mercersburg Academy graduate - punted for the Penn State football team before transfering to Wagner College.
During the process, Firestone has kept in touch with him for advice on making the right choice.
"I've talked to him a lot about the whole behind-the-scenes of (college) athletics at a big school," she said. "He's weighed in a lot after every visit."
Jeff Kolb can be reached at 262-4819 or firstname.lastname@example.org.