Hanover senior Saranda Gerlach shares her goals for her final track & field season. Zach Miller - GameTimePA.com
Chances are you've seen Saranda Gerlach if you've been to a Hanover sporting event in the past four years.
In that span, her bright blonde hair and unswerving smile have become nearly as woven into the fabric of the Nighthawks sports teams as the orange and black colors they wear.
The Hanover senior has been a starter on the volleyball team for four years, helping the team reach the first round of districts every year. She's been a cheerleader for four years, helping energize the crowd through memorable basketball wins in recent seasons. She's been a manager for the wrestling team for four years, and — hailing from a family where she's the lone girl among seven boys — she seems to know everything about the sport.
Now Gerlach is in her fourth season with the track & field team. She helped the 1,600 relay team set a school record as a freshman in 2013.
As she approaches the time to trade in her orange and black for the blue and gold of West Virginia University this summer, she hopes to end her Hanover athletic career by doing something she's never done before: qualifying for the District 3 championships as an individual. She's gone twice as part of a relay team, but she never qualified in an individual event.
"At practice, I push a little harder and go a little longer because I only have one more shot to do it," Gerlach said. "The coaches are pushing me and helping me through that, and I like that a lot. That’s the main goal this season. At practice, we’re thinking about that the whole two-and-a-half hours I’m there.”
It's no mystery why Gerlach's coaches are so invested in helping her achieve an individual accolade to cap her Hawkettes career. She always seems to arrive at practices and meets with a smile and encouraging words for her teammates. And she isn't just an athlete, she's also a member of the National Honor Society and a performer in the school play, just to name a couple of her non-athletic activities.
“She does everything," Hanover athletic director and wrestling coach Kurt Brenner said. "I wrote up a letter of recommendation for her and I asked for a list of things she’s been involved with in the school. I got back about four pages worth of things. It’s pretty cool to see how much she’s done, and she also encourages everyone else to get involved, too.”
Gerlach has been competing in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, long jump and triple jump this season to help the small Hawkettes team score as many points as possible in dual meets. During the postseason, she will likely focus on the long jump and triple jump, her two best events.
“She’s not only a great captain and senior, she’s one of those athletes that we can put wherever we need her to be and she never complains," said Hanover assistant coach Brian Small, who in 2000 won a state title in the 300 hurdles for the Nighthawks. "I wish we had a whole team like her.”
Gerlach's personal best in the long jump is 15 feet, four inches, which is just one inch off the District 3 qualifying standard. Her personal best in the triple jump is 31 feet, which puts her less than two feet off the district qualifying standard of 32-7.
“I do a lot of plyometrics, a lot of jumping over the summer and in the offseason," she said. "I’m short for volleyball, so I’m always trying to get higher up on the net. I like to think cheerleading helps out there, too.”
This May, right around the same time she hopes to compete at the District 3 championships in Shippensburg, Gerlach will try out for the West Virginia cheerleading team. Her busy spring schedule includes tumbling training and play rehearsals along with classwork and track and field practice.
She also hopes to leave her mark on the younger members of the Hanover track and field team, which includes many freshmen.
“She always has a smile on her face, she's always willing to push other people," Brenner said. "She has a certain way about her that she does get more out of some of her teammates and fellow students. It’s just the way she is.
“It’s a long career culminating and it would be really cool for her to end on that kind of a note.”