Jackie Arthur wasn’t planning to be track star
While Jackie Arthur was making plans for her future as most teenagers do, something else was happening.
“I felt like basketball was it, mainly because that’s all I ever wanted to do, and then track happened,” said Arthur. “Sophomore year, I was so set on going to Penn State, but then track happened.”
Arthur, Bethlehem Press’s Female Athlete of the Year from Liberty High School, had not intended on being a track and field thrower, nor had she intended on enrolling at Shippensburg University, but that’s what happened.
“She was fantastic, a natural, which helps a lot,” said Liberty track and field coach Chris D’Emilio. “She tried sprints and jumps first, but one day, she was hanging out with the throwers when I needed someone to step in during a meet for one of our girls who wasn’t there. I said to her, ‘You look like you could throw,’ and I literally taught her in 13 seconds, and she beat everybody in the shot put that day.”
That happened in Arthur’s sophomore year.
“I didn’t know throwing was so much fun. Everyone told me I should run, but I stepped in for her that day, and I found my love for throwing,” said Arthur. “Just something about throwing makes me really happy.”
Arthur won the 2017 District XI Class 3A gold medal in shot put with a throw of 39-00.50, the 2017 District XI Class 3A silver medal in discus with a throw of 126-03, and the 2017 District XI Class 3A bronze medal in javelin with a throw of 123-05.
“It’s an incredible feeling. Actually, all I could think about was all the hard work I had done,” Arthur said. “Chris D’Emilio, oh my God, he was a huge person in my life. He always backed me up. Even when I cried, he always supported me and said we could fix it if I believed in myself as much as he did, even though I didn’t.”
While it took only 13 seconds for D’Emilio to believe in Arthur, it would take Arthur longer to believe in herself.
“She’s such a quick learner, and she picked up on things so quickly just because she’s a great athlete. She dominated the shot put,” said D’Emilio. “Shot put and discus are my expertise, but she would make suggestions too. She watches YouTube videos, and she made friends with elite throwers in the state.
“She was definitely more confident this year. She was one of only two in the state who qualified for states in all three throwing events, so basically, in two-and-a-half years, she went from nothing to pretty astounding.”
There was also the mental aspect of the sport that Arthur and D’Emilio would discuss.
“She’s a perfectionist, and we talked about adversity a lot, and what’s next,” said D’Emilio. “She didn’t know how good she really was. I’m not joking, she is the best thrower I’ve coached. I told her, ‘You have both shot put and discus. You’re good. Now go show everybody.’”
Arthur got the undivided attention of Dave Osanitsch, the head track and field coach at Shippensburg University.
“When I was at states my junior year, I automatically fell in love with Shippensburg, and I didn’t want anything else,” Arthur said. “David was funny, and asked me a lot about what I wanted to do and how to better me. He actually connected nicely to me, and I got to meet the whole team.”
Osanitsch’s gain will be D’Emilio’s loss in a few ways.
“I will miss her smile. It was infectious. She’s just a great kid, and she became a leader very quickly, and she has a very big personality,” said D’Emilio. “I’ll definitely miss her point scoring ability. She pretty much dominated the league and the district, and with her around, that was an average of 25 of 27 points our team would score.”
Liberty girls’ basketball coach Becky Soto also said it took Arthur awhile to realize her athletic ability.
“Two years ago I pulled her up from JV. I knew she would play varsity, but she didn’t know it, even though she was crushing people in JV.,” Soto said.
Arthur was one of the Hurricanes’ captains, along with Kristina Polak and T’anna Morales this past season. She was also a starting forward, and the pressure was on. Arthur had played with the strong senior squad that had graduated, leaving her and the other captains behind with a much younger team.
“Kristina and I became the closest friends ever that last season. She trusted me more than I trusted myself. On and off the court, we talked a lot about how to better each other,” said Arthur.
Arthur’s strengths were her foul shots and her driving to the basket.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete when she plays natural and doesn’t think about it, and she’s a natural fighter,” Soto said. “Her smile is contagious, and every day, I got a hug. I am so excited to see where her life is going.”
Liberty tennis coach Leo Schnalzer said he would take 10 Jackies if he could.
“I really enjoyed having her on the team. She would stay after practice and ask what she could do. She was very receptive to my ideas, tactics, and the technical part of tennis,” said Schnalzer.
Accustomed to doubles play, Arthur became the Hurricanes’ number one singles player this past year.
“She knew what she was getting into, but I think Jackie really, really liked tennis. She had a pretty good grasp on what she could and couldn’t do,” Schnalzer said. “She could dominate the net more at doubles, so she had to adapt to singles which is more of a baseline game. She certainly had the ability, and she never gave up.”
Arthur did like playing tennis, and she also liked the team.
“I was used to using the whole court in doubles, so singles was a massive challenge for me. My coach had me practice, and he helped a lot. He was always positive and telling me not to look down on myself, and telling me I was doing good in a game, even if I thought I was doing bad,” she said. “The team bonding was really strong, and I loved hanging out with my friends.”
Schnalzer even suggested Arthur play tennis at Shippensburg, but right now, her mind is on track.
“I am looking forward to throwing again. I haven’t thrown in awhile,” said Arthur, who plans to major in math and become an actuary, while track happens.