Multi-sport Quaker Valley athlete brings giant medal collection into school’s hall of fame

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Sunday, August 27, 2023 | 11:01 AM


To say Tabitha Bemis was a multiple medalist at Quaker Valley would be a vast understatement.

She actually ranks as one of the all-time leading medal winners in WPIAL and PIAA history.

Between all of her postseason qualifications, Bemis reeled in 43 total medals — including 18 gold — in a sensational high school athletic career.

“Tabitha will certainly go down in Quaker Valley sports history as one of our most accomplished athletes,” said athletic director Mike Mastroianni. “It is not surprising she continued her extraordinary athletic accomplishments at the collegiate level as well.”

Bemis will be inducted into the Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame on the weekend of Oct. 13-14. The 2023 class will be recognized Oct. 13 at the Quakers’ home football game against West Mifflin.

“I am incredibly honored and excited,” Bemis said. “Quaker Valley has a rich history of talented athletes, and I am humbled to be considered amongst them.

“I was very blessed throughout my athletic career by my coaches and support system. I am so grateful to have been surrounded and lifted up by such wonderful people. Truly, this honor is just as much theirs as it is mine.”

A banquet will be held to applaud QV’s newest HOF members at 11 a.m. Oct. 14 at Edgeworth Club. For ticket information, email Christina Johns at johnsc@qvsd.org.

Bemis currently is an assistant track and field coach at Slippery Rock University, where she coaches the jumps and combined-event athletes.

She was hired as a fulltime assistant in September 2021 and mentors athletes in the horizontal jumps, multis, sprints and hurdles. She previously served as a grad assistant from 2015-17.

Bemis, naturally, was at an invitational when she found out about her Hall of Fame selection.

“It was actually very special,” she said. “I was recruiting at the Butler Invitational this spring, and Jerry Veshio, my high school track and field coach, former athletic director and physical education teacher, was at the meet. He was able to share the news with me. I immediately called my sister and family to let them know.

“I’m excited to be inducted with my former teammate, Christa Rogers, and my cousin Aaron Vescio will be honored with his basketball team.”

Bemis, a Slippery Rock resident, was an accomplished three-sport athlete as well as cheerleader at Quaker Valley from 2006-2010.

She earned 14 varsity letters, including four in track and field and cheerleading and three in gymnastics and diving.

Bemis grew from a 5-foot, 98-pound freshman to a 5-5, 130-pound senior.

She was a two-time champion and runner-up at the PIAA track and field finals as a senior and earned first-team all-state laurels in the long jump. She also was a two-time WPIAL and PIAA medalist in diving.

Earlier in her career, Bemis represented the Quakers in gymnastics, winning all-around championships at the WPIAL and state levels as a freshman and sophomore.

“I was always very athletic and played multiple youth sports, but every sport was a little different for high school,” Bemis said. “I fell in love with gymnastics early in my life.”

Bemis dislocated an elbow during a gymnastics competition in January 2009 in her junior season at QV. In essence, her 13-year gymnastics career was over.

“I tore my ulnar collateral ligament and experienced challenges with rehab afterwards,” she said. “Ultimately, I couldn’t fully straighten my arm for seven months post-injury and ended up having surgery to correct that in August of 2009.

Bemis was recognized in the district as the female athlete of the year in 2010.

“I remember winning races at my dad’s company picnics and knew I wanted to run track as soon as I was old enough,” Bemis said. “It was my seventh-grade Spanish teacher, Michael Haboush, who coached the jumps and convinced me to try the triple jump. My hurdles coach, Bill Viccari, worked with me throughout my high school career.

“My diving coach, Lydia Holley, was the parent of a classmate who encouraged me to get into diving my sophomore year. Lastly, I began cheering in middle school and stuck with it. I always loved tumbling and stunting for the football squad.”

And of course, a highly decorated athletic career produces a boatload of outstanding, great memories.

An important one for Bemis was being able to continue QV’s tradition of hurdling excellence at states.

She finished first in the long jump and 100 hurdles and second in the triple jump at the PIAA meet as a senior. It marked the 10th year in a row that a Viccari-trained athlete was a state medalist.

“I remember finding my coaches and parents in the stands after that race and giving them a huge smile and thumbs up,” Bemis said. “It meant so much to do that for my coach and honor the athletes who came before me.”

Other fond memories for the vivacious Bemis include:

• Winning the PIAA long jump event by a quarter-inch in 2010 with a PR on her last jump of the competition.

• Scurrying between the hurdles and long jump events at a WPIAL qualifier in her senior year. It was a rainy day and Bemis logged what she described as a mediocre long jump. “I went on to win at WPIALs and states,” she said. “It is wild to think I almost missed the opportunity to compete.”

• Overcoming a career-ending gymnastics injury — physically, mentally and emotionally — to find success in track and field as well as diving.

• Contributing to QV’s WPIAL team championship in 2008.

• Breaking the WPIAL triple jump record as a sophomore.

After high school, the Quaker Valley product continued her extraordinary athletic career at Edinboro, where she was a six-time All-American, national qualifier (14 times), PSAC titlist (15 times), all-region selection (18 times) and all-conference honoree (26 times).

Bemis competed in the long jump, triple jump, sprints, hurdles, sprint relays and combined events while at Edinboro. She broke 11 school records and was an Academic All-American.

Two of her college highlights were:

• Eclipsing the 20-foot barrier in the long jump to capture the PSAC championship as a sophomore.

• Winning at the PSAC finals by one-hundredth of a second and tying the all-time and championship meet records in the 60-meter hurdles as a junior.

Bemis was the long jump runner-up at indoor nationals, broke the 14-second mark (13.97) in the 100 hurdles and twice earned All-American honors in the long and triple jumps.

“I remember feeling so relieved being able to retire from a sport having given it my all,” Bemis said. “After a career-ending injury in gymnastics, I really struggled with the what ifs and loss of a sport that contributed significantly to my identity.

“To be able to walk away on my own terms brought up a lot of strong emotions.”

Now 31, Bemis spent four years (2018-2021) as an assistant at Susquehanna. She was a career counselor and served as an advisor to the student-athlete advisory committee.

Bemis enjoys traveling, being active and spending time with friends and family. She has one sister, Amanda, who is married and recently gave birth to her first son, Isaac.

“I went to New Mexico (in mid-August) to visit my sister, her husband and my nephew,” Bemis said. “Isaac was born in June, and I wanted to spend some more time with them before my semester started.”

The two siblings’ mom, Robin, passed away in 2020 after a five-year battle with cancer.

Their dad, Frank, was one of 11 children — all Quaker Valley graduates.

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