Slaw to continue career at Bucknell
Kaia Slaw of Lehighton, front row, center, is flanked by her parents, Candace and Tim Slaw, after signing a Letter of Intent to attend Bucknell University to continue her track and field career. Also on hand for the signing were, back row, from left, Slaw’s personal coach Brandon Byrd, Lehghton assistant track coach Vanessa Rimbey, Kaia’s brother Ben Slaw, and Lehighton head track coach Jim Blakeslee. For a video, visit www.tnonline.com. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
Kaia Slaw’s biggest meets have produced some of her best moments.
In qualifying for states last season, the Lehighton senior extended her own school record in the triple jump and moved closer to two more in the long jump, and high jump.
The performances highlighted a breakout season for Slaw, who announced on Wednesday she will further her education and continue her track and field career at Bucknell University.
“It’s just awesome,” said Slaw, who will receive athletic merit for 60% of her tuition, and is also being considered for academic aid. “I was really looking for a school that would challenge me both academically and athletically, and Bucknell just fit all those bills. I really wanted to continue to grow in my experiences.”
Slaw continued her development in all three events a year ago, delivering when the pressure was on. A leap of 37-4.75, and a runner-up finish in the Class 3A triple jump at the district meet, guaranteed Slaw a trip to Shippensburg in the event for the second straight year.
Her 5-3 in the high jump hit the state qualifying standard – a height she had cleared just once before during the season – and her 17-9.5 in the long jump was also a personal best and good enough for a second-place finish.
At states, Slaw recorded top-15 finishes in the high jump (tied for 14th) and triple jump (15th), and placed 19th in the long jump.
It was a remarkable postseason that saw Slaw make strides in each of her events.
“That definitely helped to boost my confidence,” said Slaw, who is also a standout field hockey player. “Before, I was questioning if I could compete at the Division 1 level, but I think this year really got my name out there in terms of recruiting, and gave me the confidence I needed to put myself out there.
“I do really well with competition. That’s always when I get my best marks, and I think it’s going to be beneficial for me to have that competition all the time as I continue, and I’m really hoping to just keep going forward.”
Slaw, who will study biochemistry, is also eager to be tested in the classroom at Bucknell.
“That’s going to be challenging, I know, to juggle with time management and track,” she said, “but I think I can do it.”
In addition to Bucknell, Slaw also considered Lehigh University during the recruiting process, something that started to pick up after her showing at states.
“I think it was just the constant momentum,” Slaw said of her strong finish to the season, which also included gold medals in the triple jump and long jump at the Schuylkill League meet, and a fourth-place finish in the high jump.
“I tried to build off of everything, and tried to learn from everything. And I was just really proud that I could do that in order to make it to where I did.”
That Slaw has been able to maintain such a steady progression is something that likely will continue at the next level.
“It’s extremely exciting,” said Lehighton track and field head coach Jim Blakeslee. “She’ll be a contributing member of the team there, and she may very likely find some other areas where she might excel at a Division 1 school.
“She’s a high-caliber athlete. She’s a good worker, a good listener. She works hard and she knows what to do, and she’s going to get even better.”
Slaw has already started to put in the work to take another step forward this spring.
“We already talked about it last year, extending her approach, and that’s what we saw at the state meet,” said Blakeslee. “At the state meet, a lot of the girls had a longer approach and they medaled. All of that put together will make her a stronger person.
“We got her in situations in larger meets to help her with that, and she has the experience of the state meet. That’s a big part of her development, and you go from there. With the strength training, and the technique, she’ll put it all together and that will be it. We’re going to try to continue the improvement.”