One of Shadyside's most decorated distance runners has cast her college lot.
Tara Tollett, the defending Division III state runnerup in the 3200 meters, signed her National Letter of Intent during a brief ceremony at the high school Wednesday morning, the first day of the signing period, to continue her running and academic careers at Ohio University.
In Athens, Tollett will be a member of the Bobcats' cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams.
SHADYSIDE’S Tara Tollett (front row, second from left) signed her National Letter of Intent to continue her track and cross country careers at Ohio University Wednesday morning. Front row, from left, are Tara’s father Tom, Tara, Troy Tollett and Tina Tollett. Back row, from left, are Athletic Director John Triveri, Principal John Haswell, head girls’ track coach Jenna Coyne and Guidance Counselor Ken Steiner.
"I am really excited and excited about this opportunity," Tollett said. "I can't wait to get started. Being able to run and compete at the Division I level has been a dream of mine for a long time, but until recently, I really didn't see it happening for me. It took a lot of hardwork."
Actually, for Tollett, running, training and studying never ends. Confirmed as the salutatorian for the Shadyside Class of 2013, Tollett has been logging plenty of miles during the winter months after she placed seventh in the state CC meet to prepare for the rigors of the upcoming track season.
"I am definitely ready for track season," Tollett said. "I can't wait for a chance to get back to the state meet and hopefully get to the top of the podium."
Shadyside head girls' track coach Jenna Coyne couldn't be more excited for Tollett and believe she's primed for yet another big season.
"Even though she's had a great career already, I really believe this is going to be the season that people are talking about for her," Coyne said. "We told Tara all along what she could do and last year it kind of clicked for her. She runs every day, logs 50 miles a week and lifts. I am thrilled for Tara and OU because I know they're getting not just a great athlete, but a great person."
Tollett, who also considered Bowling Green before settling on Ohio because she "had a better feel for it," owns the Shadyside High School records in both the 1600 (5:13) and 3200 (11:00.80) meter runs.
The Lady Tigers' standout has etched her name into other record books along the way. She owns the district and regional meet records after winning the 3200 meter at both levels. En route to claiming the overall OVAC title last spring, she set that record as well.
The recruiting process really picked up in the summer for Tollett, who kind of burst onto the scene in the fall of 2011 when she punched her ticket to her first state cross country meet.
She obviously carried that momentum into the track season.
"I guess I definitely had the potential all along, but I just didn't take advantage of it," Tollett said.
"My coaches and my family encouraged me to work hard to make the best of my ability, so that's what I did."
In cross country, Tollett was the bronze medalist at the district and OVAC, won the gold in the regional before earning her first all-Ohio acclaim as a harrier. Tollett owns a personal record of 18:24.63 in cross, which she posted at the OVAC.
"I was satisfied with how cross country went," Tollett said. "I got 33rd in the state as a junior, so anything above that would have been really good for me, so finishing seventh was a great way to finish."
Obviously, Tollett hopes to make an impact immediately for the Lady Bobcats, but she realizes she won't be able to rest on her accolades.
"They have a fantastic program with a lot of talented runners," Tollett said. "I know I'll have to continue to improve, but I definitely think I'll be in good hands."
Away from athletics, Tollett also shines. She's president of the National Honor Society, member of the Chemistry Club, Yearbook staff, JETS, student council, Who's Who Among American High School Students and is a little sister for football and basketball.
Tara, who is the daughter of Tom Tollett, plans on studying nutrition with hopes to become a registered dietician.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org