This is the fourth in a series of feature stories on the 2015 inductees into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame.
Nicole Downing Pauline was faced with a tough decision.
The Laurel High star and then-Robert Morris two-sport athlete had to choose between volleyball and track and field, between which she had split her time during her first two collegiate years.
Downing Pauline chose track and field and walked away knowing that she had made the right decision.
“I would not have had the same success,” Downing Pauline said. “In the two years I was on it, the volleyball team won the section title and went to the NCAA tournament. But I wouldn’t have found individual success in track, so that did allow me to branch off on my own.”
A three-sport athlete with the Lady Spartans, Downing Pauline was a first-team all-section selection in volleyball and basketball and holds the school’s shot put record and was the 2001 WPIAL champion in the javelin and shot put.
Yet it was volleyball, where Laurel was crowned the 2000-2001 WPIAL champion, Downing Pauline’s senior year, that sticks in her mind the most.
“I liked volleyball the best, our team had the most success than any other team that I was on,” Downing Pauline said. “Winning the WPIAL my senior year was my best memory, we went pretty far considering what we had on the team. We had a lot of younger players and I don’t think anybody picked us to go that far. So we had a new coach in (Terry) Watters, young players and we just kept rolling. It was awesome, went right into basketball season. That was tough because I was doing both at the same time.”
Less than two decades after her high school graduation, Downing Pauline is set to become a member of the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame.
The banquet will be held April 26 at the New Englander banquet facility. The social hour starts at 1:30 p.m., with dinner at 3. Tickets are available at the historical society annex from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays or online at www.lawrencehs.com.
Downing Pauline also is a member of the Robert Morris Hall of Fame, inducted in 2010, and was named to Laurel’s Hall of Fame this year.
At Robert Morris, Downing Pauline was the 2004-05 Northeast Conference MVP in both outdoor and indoor throwing. She also was a 13-time All-NEC selection and set records in the outdoor shot put (45-2), indoor shot put (47-6), hammer throw (188-11) and weight throw (61-6 1/4), where she was an NCAA qualifier.
Terry Watters, who coached Downing Pauline in all three sports at Laurel, knew that she would be successful at the next level of competition, based solely on her drive and desire to be better.
“Nicole is one of these people that a coach dreams about having,” Watters said. “She was so well-rounded and competitive. It makes your life so much easier. She was very knowledgeable about every sport she was in and she always pursued it to perfection. She knew what she was doing and knew what needed to be done.”
Downing Pauline, now 32, was under scholarship at Robert Morris to play volleyball, but was convinced to split her time between the two teams and, eventually, make the switch to the track and field team full-time.
“I went there on scholarship to play volleyball. The track team had also recruited me and, what happened was, a couple meets came up and they were short throwers. He went to the volleyball and soccer coach and asked if there were people who could fill in for a couple of meets. So I thought I’d fill in, I had just got done doing it. So I did it, without any practice with the team, new event and new weight, and I came out and won the event. Then they wanted to get me on board and that was a problem, because I’m on scholarship to play volleyball and I really like volleyball.
“But they worked it out where I did it half-and-half. Once I did find success and I knew that I could compete at the collegiate level at track, I thought it wasn’t so bad. Plus we did have meets further away so, when it snowed outside, I was in the Carolinas and Georgia.”
Downing Pauline, who stepped down as Laurel volleyball coach last year following the birth of her daughter, Brooklyn, currently is a teacher at Laurel and lives in New Castle with husband Nick Pauline and Brooklyn.
She doesn’t mind teaming up with former assistant and current Laurel volleyball coach Joe Maslyk for a 2-on-6 matchup against current Laurel players in a pickup-style game.
And, of course, the duo usually walk as winners.
“I wish I knew back then what I know now,” Downing Pauline said. “Especially volleyball, it’s so much of a thinking-type game. I don’t think high school players ever get that aspect until they step off the court and get to watch what goes on. The coaching really helped me learn the game.”
TOMORROW: Rob Nogay