When Dhane Schmelyun decided to give up playing baseball two years ago, his mom gave two choices.
Choice No. 1: Get a job. Choice No. 2: Start running track.
Schmelyun picked the second option. It turned out to be a very good decision.
Despite having picked up the sport less than two years ago, Schmelyun will soon be competing in it at the Division I level. The South Western senior recently accepted a track and field scholarship to Mount St. Mary's University, where he will focus on running the 400-meter hurdles.
"Never in a million years did I think I'd do anything in track," Schmelyun said. "My whole life I was a baseball player and envisioned myself as an MLB superstar. I had no idea I'd be this good at track."
Throughout his first season as a sophomore, he also had no idea that the hurdles would end up being his top event. While the South Western coaching staff thought he had the potential to compete there, the Mustangs already had a number of seniors running in those events. So Schmelyun spent his entire first season competing in the 400- and 800-meter dash instead.
But he worked on hurdling during practice, and tried to improve his flexibility so that he'd be ready to compete there as a junior. When the opportunity came last season, he responded by finishing third in the 300-meter hurdles at the league meet and eighth at the District 3 Class 3A meet with a time of 40.50 seconds.
While Schmelyun will compete in the longer 400-meter hurdles in college, South Western track and field head coach Bruce Lee said he thinks the senior will be able to make the transition. Lee added that Mount St. Mary's should be a great fit for Schmelyun.
"He's got a lot of guts, loves the event, runs hard and when you put that together it's a good mix," Lee said. "He’s nice and tall and we’ll get him in some 110 hurdles this season, very similar to what we did with (former South Western girls' track star) Lynne Mooradian. The same approach."
Before he started looking at colleges, Schmelyun admitted he knew very little about Mount St. Mary's. He said the school appealed to him because of its smaller size, proximity to Hanover and its focus on academics.
Schmelyun also looked at Lafayette and Shippensburg for track, but decided that Mount St. Mary's was the best fit. He's planning to study biology and enter a pre-medical program.
"When I visited this summer I really liked the atmosphere and the coaching staff," he said. "They want to work with athletes not just in track, but in their futures so they can go somewhere after. It's not too big a campus so I can get to know a lot of people."
Before he starts competing for the Mountaineers, Schmelyun has one more season of basketball and track at South Western. He said his goal for this spring is to finish first in the 300-meter hurdles at the league meet and qualify for the state championships.
"I love competing against other runners; there's something about running next to someone and knowing you’re ahead of them that's great," Schmelyun said.