The calm expression belies the fiery personality boiling just below the surface.
Ephrata's Mary Witmer, a true Jill-of-all-trades in a track uniform, may appear quite tranquil when she steps onto the track (or runway), but as soon as she gets in motion, she's all business.
"She can hardly fathom the thought of losing," Ephrata coach John Keller said of Witmer. "She can get upset if she does not (set a personal record) each time she competes."
Witmer, a junior who can sprint, jump and hurdle with the best of the best in the L-L Girls' Track and Field League, doesn't lose too often. At least not this season.
She is currently ranked at the top in the L-L in the 100-meter high hurdles (15.3 seconds), 300 intermediate hurdles (46.5) and triple jump (37-10 3/4) and second in the 400 at 58.1 behind Hempfield's standout sophomore Sarah Helgeson (56.6), the reigning L-L League Meet champ in that event.
"Mary uses her length well, her long powerful legs certainly help in the triple jump and hurdles, and she is sneaky fast with a PR in the 200 down around 27 flat," said Keller. "She covers so much ground when she runs, while it may not look like she is moving that fast, she really is. I could also bump her up to the 800 if needed; she ran a 2:26 indoor this past winter."
Witmer has a hurdler's build, being tall and lanky. When going over the hurdle, she flows quite smoothly. Her stamina is quite evident in the longer hurdles race, as she clears the latter obstacles with as much ease as she does the first few hurdles.
She's also quite a student of her events, according to Keller.
"In her technique events, if Coach (Matt) White or Coach (Todd) Ream suggests a change or sees a flaw in something she is doing, she automatically makes the correction," said Keller. "She has the feel to know what she is doing at all times. She is very coachable, and on her runs at practice, is very precise with hitting the times I set for her."
Witmer knows that she will be rewarded for her efforts, and has already seen her times drop and her distances improve from a breakout sophomore season. She took third in leagues in the 400 at 58.01 last year, and has already run a 58.1, so she's well ahead of her training pace from a year ago.
Plus, she's really excelled in the triple jump, where her season-best leap is almost three feet farther than her nearest competitor's best effort thus far.
Keller was not kidding when he talked about using Witmer in a variety of events. Not only does that cross-training help her out, it also makes it a little bit harder for opposing coaches to know to form a lineup when facing Ephrata because they won't know which events Witmer will compete in on any given day.
That may come into play on Monday, when Ephrata (3-0 L-L) travels to face Conestoga Valley (3-0) in a battle of unbeaten Section Two girls' squads.
"She is asked to do a lot in a dual meet, and I have noticed the more she has to do at a higher level, the higher her level seems to go," Keller said. "It's nothing for her to run a sub-60 400, then within 10 minutes put out a triple jump over 34, 35 or even 36 feet."
Her versatility brings back memories of 2009 graduate Brynn Lyons, who could sprint, run distance, jump and even throw the javelin. Witmer, like Lyons, is feared by opponents but beloved by Keller and the Mountaineers.
Asked to describe what makes Witmer tick, Keller had volumes to say:
"It's the drive to be the best athlete in the league in all her events, then the dedication and commitment to back it up with hard work and a lifestyle that one needs to compete at her level. She is an excellent student and a great teammate for the girls. With Mary, it is team first, then Mary. She loves the sport, and the challenge it brings. She wants to face the other teams' best girls."
She truly embodies the traits of a winner. After all, that's what she goes after every time she steps onto the track or begins her approach on the runway.
"She's an amazing athlete, one that is any coach's dream and one that, when the day comes she is done at Ephrata, I will certainly never forget," Keller said.
Hempfield, Manheim Township, Conestoga Valley and Ephrata appear to have the most dominant girls' squads in the league.
Among other top-flight athletes to watch for this spring include:
The sprinters: Donegal's Karlee Farr; Elizabethtown's Courtney Ingold; Ephrata's Kelly Liebl; Hempfield's Claire Davis, Makella Garrett and Danielle Bond; Lampeter-Strasburg's Erin Dombach; Lancaster Mennonite's Jada Dunsen and Lindsey Kreider; Manheim Central's Morgan Mummau and McCaskey's Ciara Lily.
The distance runners: Conestoga Valley's Brianna Heikkinen and Rebekah Stoltzfus; Elizabethtown's Olivia Esbenshade; Ephrata's Melynda Beam, Nicole Wilkerson and Vanessa Hurst; Hempfield's Kelsey Nolan and Maria Yoder; Manheim Central's Danae Peter; Manheim Township's Caitlin Cloonan; McCaskey's Elsie Thompson; Penn Manor's Greta Lindsley and Breanna Funk and Warwick's Rachel Mueller, Maddie Class and Kristi Reidenbaugh.
The hurdlers: Annville-Cleona's Tricia Light and Alena Gardyan; CV's Kirsten Bass; Garden Spot's Hannah Williams; Lancaster Catholic's Georgia Cleary; MT's Toria Melville and PM's Emily Novak.
The jumpers and vaulters: A-C's Brittany Lewis; CV's Audra Ortiz, Savanna Stauffer and Bass; Elco's Kathleen Gilbertson; E-town's Rachel Romano; Ephrata's Liebl; Hempfield's Danielle Poletti, Kayla Garpstas and Davis; Lampeter-Strasburg's Dombach; Lancaster Catholic's Rebecca Swisher; Lebanon's Jeannie Showers and Erin Showers; MC's Brianna Barber and Mummau; MT's Bridget Neslund and Solanco's Emily Allport.
The throwers: E-town's Sarah Fairbanks and Tiffany Heisey; Ephrata's Crystal Hartman; Garden Spot's Maddy George; Hempfield's Chrissy Rickert; McCaskey's Kadajah Bishop; PM's Laura Wissler and Jess Huber and Warwick's Bailey Groves.