The stands at Shippensburg University were flooded with enthusiastic fans.
The track at Seth Grove Stadium was packed with Pennsylvania’s premier talent.
And for the first time in her life, Bree Bednarski was right in the middle of it all.
“It was crazy, just seeing all the people there and all the other athletes,” Bednarski said. “I’m happy with how I finished and how my team finished in the relay.
“I’m just really happy with how things ended this year.”
It was as if all the electricity Bednarski created through her star-studded, multi-sport career at Wyoming Area converged to set off a breathtaking fireworks display in one of her final high school performances.
Talk about going out with a bang.
Bednarski won three gold medals and one silver at the District 2 Class 3A Track and Field Championships, sending her to Shippensburg to compete in four different events during the PIAA championships and earning Bednarski the Times Leader’s 2016 Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year Award.
“I’ve never had an athlete, ever, who finished with three gold medals and a silver medal (at districts),” Wyoming Area’s 19-year coach Joe Pizano said. “I just think it shows you what kind of competitor she is and what kind of athlete she is.”
And to think track wasn’t even her main sport.
Bednarski is heading to the University of Michigan this fall on a full field hockey scholarship after leading the nation in prep scoring for most of the 2015 season before finishing third, while carrying the Warriors to their first-ever District 2 playoff victory.
A speedy outfielder in softball, she also batted leadoff as one of the top hitters in the Wyoming Valley Conference while helping the Warriors become a consistent District 2 playoff threat. Then Bednarski finished her career in that sport by reaching over the fence to rob a home run and finishing with three hits in the league’s Senior All-Star Game last Sunday.
And in her spare time, she ran track, proving to be a phenomenal sprinter who sparked what is believed to be Wyoming Area’s first girls WVC league title with the 2015 Division 2 crown. Bednarski’s steady stream of regular-season victories on the track helped the Warriors boost their unbeaten streak to 12 consecutive regular-season meets before the Warriors finished second to Holy Redeemer in a nail-biting, late-season battle that went down to the meet’s final event.
“She’s just a natural athlete,” admired Pizano, who is also the school’s athletic director. “Obviously, the pure speed is what the key was to her career. But it’s also the competitor in her. You could be the fastest person, but if you really don’t care, it’s not going to push you to have a three gold medal day and a silver.
“Anything she competes in, she goes 100 percent to win. All the time.”
Wyoming Area’s track and field staff noticed that when they talked Bednarski into giving the sport a try when she was a sophomore.
“My history teacher is the javelin coach,” Bednarski said. “He knew I played outfield for softball. I started throwing the javelin, and then the running coach saw me. I never really expected to do much (in track).”
But before long, a triple-gold medal-winning track and field star blossomed.
Last year, Bednarski set the pace for Wyoming Area’s first girls league title in the two decades Pizano has been coaching the sport — and the first championship anyone at Wyoming Area can remember — by regularly winning three or four meets nightly.
When she did it at this year’s districts, she made history again.
By winning the 100 and 200 dashes and running anchor for the winning 400 relay team at districts, Bednarski became the first Warriors girls track athlete to represent the school as a District 2 Class 3A champion in three events. She added a fourth event at states when the daughter of Joe and Lynn Bednarski of Wyoming captured a silver medal in the district javelin throw — her weakest event.
“Making it to states in four events, I’m really happy I did that,” said Bednarski, who passed up the opportunity to compete at states as a junior because she was busy leading the Warriors deep into the 2015 District 2 softball playoffs. “I really didn’t expect it.”
By now, Wyoming Area fans have come to expect the unexpected from Bednarski.
She didn’t quite make it to the state medal stand and really wasn’t favored to, based on her seedings going into the PIAA championships. But Bednarski gave it a run and came awfully close.
She was slotted at No. 24 in the 200 dash and finished 12th, making the PIAA semifinals and winding up just over four-tenths of a second shy of running in the medal race. Bednarski also sparked the Wyoming Area 400-meter relay team to a 13th-place state finish off a No. 23 seed.
She finished in the javelin throw where she was seeded at No. 11 — and six feet shy of earning an eight-place PIAA medal — and even moved up four spots from her seeding to come in 22nd in the 100 meter dash.
Her favorite event, she said, as the relay. Simply because it gave her the chance to share some of her wealth of success with her teammates.
“That’s the kind of person she is,” Pizano said. “It’s never about herself. She was all about the team.
“Hopefully, that’s going to carry on with a successful career at Michigan.”