Hampton’s Schepner: Hines Ward Positive Athlete Award ‘pretty special’

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Thursday, August 1, 2019 | 9:59 PM


Hampton junior Hannah Schepner found out she won the Hines Ward Positive Athlete Award this spring, but her journey started at age 13 during one of her career’s lowest moments.

At a gymnastics competition in Philadelphia, she fell awkwardly during a dismount, breaking her ankle in several places. At first, the doctor said she might not be able to participate again in the sport she loves.

Not only did she return, she excelled. Earlier this summer, Schepner was the WPIAL gymnast selection for the Hines Ward Positive Athlete Award.

She was treated to a banquet June 17 at the Sen. John Heinz History Center, a meet-and-greet with former Pittsburgh Steelers great Hines Ward and recognition at PNC Park during a Pittsburgh Pirates game the next evening.

“I thought it was cool that I was nominated, and my coach thought I was a candidate for it,” said Schepner, who was nominated by Jewart’s Gymnastics coach Lainy Carslaw.

“I found out by my teammate texting me … ‘Hey positive athlete,’ and I was like, ‘What?’ It was pretty special.”

Schepner was in Virginia Beach, Va., for the USA Gymnastics Regionals when she got the news. Positive Pittsburgh officials said approximately 1,000 nominations were received from coaches, principals, athletic directors, teachers and parents. The Positive Athlete Award seeks to honor high school athletes based on character over performance.

Schepner was gracious during her acceptance speech.

“At the gym is my second home, and next to my teammates is when I’m happiest,” she said.

As a sophomore, Schepner took fifth for Hampton in the all-around at the WPIAL championships. But her willpower to stay active also keeps her committed to track and field, where she finished seventh in the high jump at WPIALs, narrowly missing a trip to the state championships.

Such dedication to two sports is a rarity with the rigors teen gymnasts face. But Schepner was able to work out a schedule with track coach Derek Brinkley that fit both parties.

“I was not sure about track this year because I really wanted to focus on making nationals,” she said. “But I excelled the last couple years, and he still wanted me on the team.”

She said her success in track shows she made the correct choice, even if her primary focus is gymnastics. Perhaps such a dedication to stay involved comes from her mother, Karen, who was a gymnast.

“She’s always pushing me and saying, ‘Oh I never got to do that, and you’re so much better than I ever was,’ ” Schepner said.

She finished ninth in her division in April at the USA Gymnastics Region 7 Level 9 Championships at Virginia Beach, which included a first-place tie on the floor routine. She practices five days a week at Jewart’s during the summer and is gearing up for competition in November.

“I just love being as active as possible and pushing myself to being the busiest I can be with still keeping school in mind,” said Schepner, who carries a 4.3 GPA. “I just love to push myself and keep going.”

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