New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
All the miles paid off for Diane Kukich Bucknum during her time at Mohawk High.
They served her well during her cross country and track and field careers at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
And, they continue to benefit her throughout her life.
This year, they led her to induction into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame on April 28 at the New Englander.
“I was very surprised. I had no idea that it would be coming,” she said. “When you spend most of your life running and competing, you’re never really sure where it’s going to lead or if you’re going to get tired of it. Fortunately, it was a good base for a lot to the things in my life.
“I am still running and it not only keeps me fit, but keeps me sane as well,” she added with a laugh.
The 1991 Mohawk graduate ended her Lady Warriors cross country career with a 26-0 dual-meet record.
“It’s hard to believe there were no losses for me in individual meets. It was a good accomplishment,” she said. “At the time, you don’t really think it’ll be something important, but it’s not something many people have accomplished. I am very proud of that.”
Bucknum’s cross country career kicked into high gear during her sophomore year. She placed first out of 120 runners at the Neshannock Invitational. She placed second at the WPIAL championship meet and was sixth out of 179 runners in the PIAA championship meet.
“Freshman year, I thought I did well. Sophomore year was probably one of my most successful years I had consistently throughout the whole year,” she said. “Getting to the state meet was big. The year before, I didn’t qualify to make it.
“I remember going and all my friends writing letters and wishing me good luck,” she continued. “I remember being really nervous and walking the course just to make sure I knew where I was going.”
Her junior year, Bucknum placed 15th out of 175 runners at the PIAA meet. She finished sixth in the WPIAL and 10th in the PIAA meet her senior year.
“There were a lot more runners coming up. There were more girls I was aware of in the state. Unfortunately for me, there were a couple really good ones who were in the same time I was. It all goes by so quickly during those three miles,” she said. “Being older, I had been there and I kind of knew the expectation and wanted to continue to experience being close to the top. Even though I didn’t make it higher, I still thought it was a very successful run.
“My last year, I knew I really wanted to try to break into the top 10. I remember sprinting to the end and someone yelling out places. It was sad because I finished my high school career. It was such a good experience, though,” she continued. “I was always happy with how I did. Fortunately for myself, I don’t think I had a big state race where I felt bad, so I really did well for those.”
Bucknum was a standout in track and field for Mohawk as well. She had school records in the 1600 and 3200 runs, but participated in a variety of events.
“Cross country was always my favorite. Track, we had done so well as a team over the years. I wanted to do so well in individual events, but I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team do well,” she said. “We had such a well-rounded track team that everyone was able to contribute.”
As a sophomore, she held the county’s best times in the 400, 800, 1600 and 3200, while participating on the 1600 relay team, which held the area’s top time. She won four events and was named the MVP at the Tri-County championship. She finished third at the state meet in the 1600.
“I really started to push how quickly I could run that mile,” she said. “There were some really good state-wide people those years and in the WPIAL, too. I ran some really good times because there were some really good people there.”
Bucknum, who played two years of basketball at Mohawk as well, won three events at the WPIAL qualifier as a junior. She was sixth in the 800 and second in the 1600 and 1600 relay at the WPIAL championships. She claimed fifth in the 1600 relay in the PIAA meet.
As a senior, Bucknum was on the county’s honor roll in the 400, 800, 1600, 3200 and triple jump. She placed in fifth in 1600 at the PIAA meet.
“It was a good year. I was happy to end it with a medal individually since I hadn’t the year before,” she said. “I was glad to have a good ending for the track and field year.”
Bucknum continued her running careers at IUP. She placed 14th in the PSAC cross country championship meet as a junior and sixth as a senior.
“College was definitely a little different experience. Still, I really enjoyed running. We had a good team and it was everyone pushing each other,” she said. “I was much more successful in cross country than track. In track, I’d place in meets, but that’s all.”
Bucknum, 40, is the Director of Food Service at the Riverside School District. She and her husband, John, live in Evans City. They have two daughters, Sydney and Sophia.
However, Bucknum still finds time to run.
“I am training for the Pittsburgh half-marathon. It’s the second year I am running it. I am at about 20 miles per week,” she said. “I am not an obsessive runner. I pick a couple races and train for them. It’s harder to find time to train now. I still enjoy going out and running. It clears your mind and relaxes you. I am glad I am still able to do that. I am having fun competing again. When the girls were really little, I didn’t compete; I just ran to keep in shape. The last three years, I’ve been able to get back into races and it’s been good.”
TOMORROW: Todd Atkins.