Northland girls track and field coach Tom Fast believes that 2020 graduate Shaniya Samuel was set to have a strong senior season.

Unfortunately for Samuel and the Vikings, spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, Samuel competed on two relays at the Division I regional meet and helped Northland capture its fourth consecutive City League championship by winning the long jump (16 feet, 6 inches) and running on the runner-up 1,600-meter relay (4 minutes, 15.99 seconds), the third-place 400 relay (52.19) and the third-place 800 relay (1:50.93).

"She was one that is really hard (to lose) because she showed up motivated and in shape," Fast said. "This was the first year she started off the season not being injured and she was such a good leader. We had a really good supporting cast for her on relays and we had a really good chance to win (the City title) again this year.

"We wanted to get some relays to state this year and she wanted to win the City and get to state in the long jump. The first three weeks (of the preseason), she just trained so well and was a good leader. To have that suddenly taken from you, it's just a shame. I wish there could have been something they could have done. That'll hurt me for a long time."

Despite battling a hip flexor injury, Samuel helped the 400 relay place 13th (51.1) and the 800 relay finish 14th (1:47.17) at regional last year.

As a sophomore, she placed fourth in the 300 hurdles (51.4) and sixth in the 200 (27.24) and ran on two relays at the City meet.

"I felt pretty good (entering this season)," Samuel said. "(My hip) was bothering me a little bit, but since it was earlier, I was making sure I wouldn't be out. Our school doesn't have indoor track (during the winter season), but we were training a couple weeks before. Being with the track team every day always is positive. We're all like a family together.

"Staying in shape and working out really helps me relieve stress or any type of anger. It was actually relaxing this spring working out for me. Sometimes I run around my neighborhood. I also work at Dick's Sporting Goods, so it's been kind of busy."

One of the unintended outcomes of going through physical therapy for her hip is that Samuel developed an interest in studying exercise science in college.

She will be attending Indiana Tech, an NAIA school in Fort Wayne, and likely will compete for both the women's volleyball and track teams.

Indiana Tech's volleyball team went 26-10 last fall and its women's track team finished third at the NAIA indoor national meet this past winter, with Destinee McGrady, a Pickerington Central graduate, being a key contributor for the Warriors.

"I do plan on running in college," Samuel said. "My scholarship for (Indiana Tech) ended up being in volleyball, but the track coach has been texting and emailing me. We went on a visit there and I really liked it.

"When I had to go to physical therapy, it just really seemed interesting to me how (exercise science) would help me and how I could help injured athletes. I do enjoy helping people, so why not be helping people and then also be dealing with sports injuries?"

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek