Alana Yoder was hoping the track season would serve as a bookend to her stellar career.
Even without a final track campaign, Yoder assembled one of the best resumes in Solanco sports history.
This spring was shaping up to provide an exclamation point.
Yoder and distance coach Craig Ausel had plans they were confident would propel Yoder back to track glory. Then the season ended before it began. "We were going to go back to the 800," said Ausel. "I had been talking to Laney about it. We had a couple struggles that junior and senior year in trying to run a faster 400. That was the focus at that point but this year's season was planned to be a bookend. We were hoping we could get back to the training we wanted so that we could get as close to that peak performance as we did that one year. She made a commitment to working hard to get to that. Then this crazy COVID thing came."
Said Yoder: "Once we started [practice] I remember looking at coach after one of our workouts and I was like, 'Wow, I can do this. I was really excited to get back into it but unfortunately I couldn't...I was definitely excited to come back and finish strong."
Her high school career ended but there is more competitive sports in her future. "It was definitely really disappointing but I know my career is not done yet because I want to continue in college," said Yoder.
She plans to study physical education and play soccer and run track at Lancaster Bible College.
Yoder thinks about returning to her alma mater to one day take over for her father, Ken, Solanco's girls soccer coach.
"That's definitely one of my goals. Coming back and taking over for my dad, that would be awesome."
Mules coaches such as Ausel and her father have had a big impact on Alana. "I look up to them a lot and I want to pass on what they've taught me to other people going through the same things I have," she said.
Despite all of the success, it was a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
The end of Yoder's freshman track season was so spectacular it became difficult to repeat.
Yoder won the USATF Hershey National High School Indoor Nationals in a time of 2:19.31, a national meet record for her age group.
That carried over to the outdoor season and reached a peak at the right time. Yoder first broke the school record with a time of 2:15.68 in a met at Millersville.
"That first year was amazing, We had a lot of fun," Ausel said. "It just sort of came on very surprisingly. It was amazing how she improved so quickly over that season. I'm sure she was as shocked as I was that we grew so much in a season. It was certainly a highlight."
She finished second in the District 3 meet (2:16.31) and third at the PIAA championships in 2:09.98, the fastest-ever time for a Lancaster-Lebanon League girl and good enough to make the national honor roll.
"Qualifying the day before the state meet I ran a 2:13 and that was by far faster than I had ever run," Yoder said. "We were like, 'Can she do this again tomorrow. She should've saved something.' Somehow, my adrenaline kicked in and I ran raster so much faster than I had the day before."
As sophomore, Yoder was seventh in the district meet in the 800 and placed second on the Mules' all-time list with a time of 59.26 in the 400.
"I feel like that's what I struggled with mostly my 10th grade year," said Yoder. "I wondered if I would ever be able to do what I did my 9th grade year so I feel like it was more mentally challenging than a physical challenge.'
In 2019, Yoder qualified for the district meet in the 400. "Last year I was trying to break the 400 record and I think that hurt me," Yoder said. "I was training more for the short stuff. In my 9th grade year, I was in the best shape I could've been in. I could've broken the 400 time if I had focused on it. I thought it would be the best thing for me but looking back, it definitely wasn't."
All signs pointed to an outstanding senior year on the track but Ausel believes something good can come from the season's cancellation.
"The lesson I've talked a lot about with her is you can't take anything for granted, whether it's schoolwork or track or any sport. You may not have an opportunity. You never know what's going to happen," Ausel said. "Things are out of our control this season and it's disappointing, but how do you move on from there?"
Yoder will graduate with her name firmly entrenched among the school's top track athletes.
"There's no doubt," Ausel said. "The fastest 800 time. The second fastest 800 time. The second fastest 400 time. That's saying a lot when Solanco has had so many good ones. There were so many good distance runners and she had the fastest times in those events. Her 800 time is the fastest in the history of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. It's pretty amazing."
Yoder inarguably is the most accomplished player in Solanco girls soccer history. She accumulated 29 goals and 26 assists in her career and is the program's all-time leading scorer. Twice, Yoder was named to the Lancaster-Lebanon League's Top XI. Last season, Yoder and senior goalie Gabi Dolan guided the Mules to a team-record 14 wins and a first-ever district tournament appearance where Solanco was one win away from a state tourney berth.
"I definitely never thought we would've got to where we were," Yoder said. "It was always a dream of ours. Me and my dad used to dream we'd get there and then it just happened and everything fell together."
Yoder also played basketball for three seasons. As a freshman, she led the JV team in scoring. The following season, Yoder earned a letter as the Mules advanced to the state tournament. After sitting out her junior season, Yoder returned and contributed a section championship squad.
She is able to appreciate the legacy she leaves behind. "It's pretty great," Yoder said. "It's the best feeling. I did enjoy it a lot. I owe a lot to Coach Ausel and my dad, and God."
Ausel said her high school experiences will prove beneficial.
"Laney has done a really good job of learning lessons," Ausel said. "She has learned some strong lessons which are going to help her. I told her when she was a freshman the most important thing is preparing yourself for getting an education beyond high school. Your athletic ability can help you do the things you enjoy and get a degree. I think she's found her niche in wanting to be a phys. ed teacher. Everything she has learned will make her a great coach one day if she so chooses."
Added Yoder: "I've learned not to put as much pressure on myself and not try to please others. Just focusing on what God gave me and having fun with it."