Nadia Lape

Nadia Lape

Athletes of the Year: Laurel's Miles, Wilmington's Vass-Gal excel in multiple sports

Fall, winter and spring, there was one color that always looked good on Nadia Lape — gold.

The Mohawk graduate won WPIAL championships in cross country, basketball and track and field during the 2020-21 school year, the rare athlete to complete a seasonal sweep. That left no doubt that she’d repeat as Lawrence County’s Female Athlete of the Year as voted upon by the New Castle News sports staff. She is a daughter of Kirk and Jenn Lape.

“It definitely is very impressive. To be a three-time in WPIAL champ in one year alone is incredible,” Mohawk girls track and field coach Cameron Schirmer said. “When you consider it, it was her fourth consecutive WPIAL championship since there was no track and field season (in 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions). It’s pretty cool what she accomplished.”

Lape was unavailable for comment because she is going through Cadet Basic Training at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she will compete for the track and field team. However, her actions throughout her career spoke volumes.

“I have been around at Mohawk coaching since 1976 and I was a student there before that and I have never seen a better all-around athlete come out of that school like that young cadet,” Mohawk girls cross country coach Dave Bredl said. “What I saw is a tremendous leader, which, when a team does that well, there’s more than the coach involved in that. It takes individuals among the athletes to rally up the team to do what they did. Aside from her academics and athletics, she is just a tremendous leader and doing exactly what this country needs. She is representing our country well.

“I have a son who is a lieutenant in the Navy and I know the type of people they look for. They want smart people, academically, and people who are athletic, but, most of all, they want leaders. That’s exactly what they got with Nadia.”

CROSS COUNTRY GOLD

Lape started off the school year with a WPIAL Class A team championship in cross country. Led by her younger sister, freshman Natalie, the Lady Warriors won the title with 63 points.

Like most, Bredl, who also coached Nadia as a freshman in track and field, is amazed at Lape’s athleticism. However, the trait that stands out most is her leadership. It’s something instilled in her from her father, Kirk, a former Mohawk sports star and current principal at Ellwood City Lincoln High and her grandfather, Ron Lape, a legendary cross country and track and field coach at Mohawk.

“In our school, we’ve never had more than one WPIAL team champion in a year. This year, we had three. If you look at it, Nadia and Natalie were on all three teams. That’s the leadership they developed when they were young,” Bredl said. “I give Kirk a lot of credit. All the years I have been coaching, I realize more and more, it’s more of the kids than the coach that drives a team. It’s the right chemistry that has to be there. Kirk has groomed his daughters to be leaders and his daughters have groomed their friends. This is the result of this. This is his doing, what’s happening at Mohawk. It’s what he has done over the years.

“For me, it was more of an honor to have had the opportunity to coach someone like Nadia. I have had many, many great kids over my career. But, to have somebody that special, I am glad I had it in my lifetime.”

ANOTHER BASKETBALL RUN

In the winter, Mohawk set out on a daunting task to defend its WPIAL Class 3A girls basketball title. In a rugged, new-look Section 1 that featured defending WPIAL 4A champ and 2020 WPIAL Class 2A finalist Laurel, the Lady Warriors finished third.

However, they responded in the postseason and knocked off North Catholic, 54-48, to win the program’s second district crown. Mohawk began the PIAA tournament with a chip on its shoulder after having its run stopped in the quarterfinals in ‘20 after the rest of that tournament was postponed and later canceled because of COVID-19 precautions.

The Lady Warriors won two games in the state tournament to reach the title game in Hershey. They fell to Philadelphia West Catholic, 67-56, but left a lasting legacy with their run. They finished 19-5 and went 43-8 the past two years.

Lape averaged 14.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and added 54 3-pointers. She finished her career with 1,202 points. However, her contributions went way past statistics.

“As great of an athlete as she has proven herself to be, she is equally as good a leader to those kids,” said Mike O’Lare, who coached Mohawk’s girls basketball team and is now the boys coach. “Sometimes, it’s hard to do it all over again once you’ve been successful the first time. And that goes for all her sports. Having the success she did as a junior and then to come back and do it as senior, I don’t know how many athletes who have been through this county have done what she’s done.”

O’Lare credits Lape’s dedication to her sports while maintaining a high level in the classroom. She was Mohawk’s valedictorian this year as well as Homecoming queen.

“I have known Nadia since she was really young. Some kids just have ‘it’. She had an incredible work ethic in all of her sports from the time she was little. Nobody was ever going to outwork her,” he said. “She could shoot, dribble and play defense. I think that all started years ago. She was working hard at home, getting extra shots up, lifting and running. She has an incredible work ethic. I don’t know anyone who outworks her. I think that is what separated her from the rest. I’ve never seen anybody work harder at doing three sports.”

WELCOME BACK, TRACK

Lape was eager to get back on the track this spring after missing out in ‘20. She won three events at the WPIAL Class 2A team championship meet to help Mohawk secure the program’s first district title since 1989. Lape won the triple jump, while competing on the victorious 400 relay and 1600 relay squads.

She added more gold at the WPIAL Class 2A individual championship meet at Slippery Rock University. She claimed titles in the long jump and the triple jump. She participated on the winning 400 relay team as well. Lape and the Lady Warriors’ 400 relay team took sixth at the state championship meet.

“Her career speaks volumes of what she has done as an athlete. She has the school record in the triple jump and tied the record in the long jump. She scored more than 1,000 points in basketball,” Schirmer said. “It takes a lot of discipline for her to do what she did throughout the year. She has a discipline you don’t find in a lot of athletes. She has a lot of self-motivation. That’s how she operated at the highest level. She never wavered. She was always full throttle. It’s hard to do that because something could go wrong here or there, but it never bothered her. If she fouled a jump, she’d come back and have a better jump. That carries into school. She was at the highest level for academics. She never wavered in any aspect. She was always 100 percent.”

Schirmer believes those traits will help her thrive during her basic training — and beyond — at West Point.

“I believe she is going to excel very well there. You don’t find many leaders like her. That leadership carried through all three sports she played,” he said. “It’s a good step for her at West Point. I know this is going to be a tougher part, but she is going to excel at every point. When they ask her to do something, it’ll be at the highest level of effort from her.”

ncsports@ncnewsonline.com

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Joe Sager is a former full-time sports writer for the New Castle News and currently freelances for the News and other Western Pennsylvania newspapers.

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