York, Pa. - Coming out of high school, Laura Rowlands had a decision to make.
The two-sport star at Dover wasn't sure if she would pursue diving or track at the next level. After all, she attracted a fair amount of interest in both sports.
But if her collegiate freshman season is any indicator, Rowlands absolutely made the right choice when she selected York College, where she could jump for the track team and study nursing -- the real key part of her decision.
"I originally wanted to go away to school, but I wanted to do both nursing and track. York was a place I could do both," Rowlands said. "It is actually working really well for me. I am glad I decided on York so I can continue to do both."
On the track this season, Rowlands has high jumped a personal best 1.55 meters, recorded a school record 11.07 meter triple jump and nailed another record with her 6.75 meter long jump to win the Messiah College quad.
She has been named the Capital Athletic Conference Women's Track Athlete of the Week twice and hopes for more success on Saturday when York hosts the CAC championships.
Off the track, the honor student while at Dover, Rowlands is doing fine in the college classroom as well, which is hardly a shock to anyone that knows her.
Spartans track and field coach Erick Camodeca is certainly glad Rowlands made the choice she did.
"She is a Division I athlete and to have her at York College takes our program to the next level," the coach said. "She has absolutely exceeded my expectations. It's neat to see a freshman come in, do a lot and put so much on her shoulders."
As the Daily Record's main swimmer writer for several years, I watched most of Rowlands' diving career at Dover, especially the big meets and she was always very good.
More so, she was always very gracious with a smile that could light up a room. She's a truly great kid.
The only time I recall that smile to be missing was after the District 3 Class AA diving championships her senior year at Dover.
Rowlands dove well that night at Big Spring High School, finishing fourth in her final high school competition.
However, only the top three made it to the state meet and she was beaten out by Eagles teammate Courtney Gress, another former gymnast that Rowlands talked into diving during their senior years.
But even through the tears of realization that she would miss states for the only time in her career, Rowlands knew she had the track season coming and the smile returned.
And what a season that turned out to be.
She won the YAIAA and District 3 Class AAA championships in the high jump and followed those performances with a bronze medal at states, where she also took fourth in the triple jump.
Amazingly, Rowlands is great at all of the jumping events despite her diminutive (5-foot-4) stature, and proved it by medaling against much bigger girls, from much bigger schools.
Her technique is outstanding and she epitomizes shear determination -- just ask Camodeca.
"She has something you don't see in a lot of kids anymore. She has that heart and determination that you don't coach," he said. "She brings that versatility and does it very well. She is very smart and really knows how to adapt."
Rowlands adapts so well that Camodeca placed her on the Spartans' school record-setting 400 relay, something he did to allow her to have a fun event between her jumps.
Plus, he needed someone to step up and being who she is, she asked to do it.
And while she admits to missing some aspects of diving, she knows she has found a home on the track.
"I do miss jumping in the board and doing flips, but it's nice not having to get in the cold water every day," she said. "I am definitely am glad I choose track. diving got to be too scary and too overwhelming.
"I would much rather land on a mat or sandpit. With track I don't have any mental blocks. I just jump or run as fast as I can."
Which is really high and really fast.
Steve Navaroli is a sports reporter for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at 771-2060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.