Freeport cross country coach Melissa Schaeffer inducted into Carnegie Mellon Hall of Fame

Monday, November 14, 2022 | 3:58 PM

Melissa Schaeffer had to wait a year to be officially inducted into Carnegie Mellon’s sports Hall of Fame, but it was well worth it.

A four-time All-American in track and field at CMU, Schaeffer, a Kiski Area grad and the current cross country coach at Freeport, was part of the 2021 class and was honored along with the 2022 class in a combined induction ceremony.

The 2021 event was postponed because of covid-19. It was the second class of the CMU Hall of Fame.

“It was overwhelming and a huge honor to be inducted,” Schaeffer said.

“They had an unveiling of the Wall of Fame at the Cohon Center with pictures of all the inductees on the wall, which was pretty cool. I got to meet a lot of people that I didn’t know before because they weren’t there when I was there. There were athletes that were there way before me and some that graduated after me in the 2000s. The banquet was beautiful. I was inducted with my college coach, Dario Donatelli, which made it perfect because he is an awesome guy.”

Donatelli had a major impact on Schaeffer’s college career.

Schaeffer was a sprinter and a state medalist in hurdles in high school, but once she got to college Donatelli helped her transition to distance running.

She also participated in cross country with the Tartans, helping them qualify for the NCAA championships for the first time in 1995.

Schaeffer holds the school record in the indoor 800-meter run with a time of 2 minutes, 15.79 seconds, a mark she set in 1996.

“I did not know that record was still standing until they told me at the induction,” Schaeffer said.

“We’ll see how long it holds. I was a hurdler at Carnegie Mellon at the beginning, and Dario was a distance coach and he turned me into a distance runner, which suited me better. I went to nationals in the 400 hurdles my sophomore year, but I felt like I maxed out in that event. I felt like I couldn’t go any faster. So, I started doing some middle distance events and found success. I enjoyed the training for it.”

The inductees were honored during halftime of the Tartans football game Oct. 29.

Schaeffer was happy her family could attend, including her parents, Dennis and Deborah Baustert.

She credited her parents with making many sacrifices to pay for her to attend CMU.

Now, Schaeffer is paying forward what she learned in her time with the Spartans as Freeport’s cross country coach. She also spent time coaching at Kiski Area before she had children and is a math and computer science teacher in the Kiski Area School District.

“Knowing how much my coaches meant to me, I am very cognizant of the impression I have on kids and how I can impact them, which is why I love coaching,” Schaeffer said.

“It’s also why I love teaching. I kind of knew I wanted to be a coach and a teacher when I was in high school. I wanted to give back because I had amazing teachers in high school and college.”

Hart Coleman, the current boys basketball coach at St. Joseph, also was a part of the 2021 class.

He is the all-time leader in blocked shots for the Tartans and had 1,246 career points, which ranks sixth all-time in school history.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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