Shady Side Academy’s Melissa Riggins ready to end high school career on high note

Saturday, April 3, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Shady Side Academy senior Melissa Riggins had her sights set on becoming the first girl to win state medals in the 800- and 1600-meter races in four straight years.

She was halfway there heading into her junior season when the coronavirus pandemic brought an end to that goal after the spring sports season was canceled.

Riggins also didn’t get much of an opportunity to compete in the summer either.

“It’s still crazy to think about it, and I was so excited going into the season,” Riggins said. “I felt so strong. I was running faster times in my workouts than I had ever run and I really thought that I was going to make a statement out on the track, but obviously that didn’t happen and I wasn’t really even able to run summer meets either. So that was really tough.”

As a freshman, Riggins won her first pair of PIAA Class AA titles when she finished the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 56.66 seconds, beating the field by more than 12 seconds. Later in the day, she topped Freeport’s Sidney Shemanski by .17 seconds for the state title in the 800.

She repeated in 2019, recording a 4:57.86 in the 1600 to beat the field by 17 seconds. In the 800, she clocked a 2:15.38 for her fourth individual PIAA title.

Heading into her senior season, Riggins feels as strong as a year ago.

In January, Riggins competed in the SPIRE Ohio Championship Preview Meet in Geneva, Ohio, and won her signature events, clocking a 4:55.33 (1,600) and a 2:10.47 (800), respectively.

“It was my first time racing in almost two years because I didn’t run indoor my junior season,” Riggins said. “I put down some pretty fast times, especially for my first meet in two years, so I was really happy about that I feel really good going into this season.”

Riggins said she won’t know how her performance at an indoor meet will translate ouside, but it gave her a little bit of confidence heading into this season.

She’s trained throughout the year and another season on the soccer field helped het to stay in shape, but the races also gave her a good indication of where she stood.

“I’ve been running, and I hoped it was going to be enough because you’re running a race and you haven’t raced in so long, so it’s a little scary going out fast,” Riggins said. “Trying to gauge how much energy you have left in the race and things like that. But it went really well and it definitely makes me feel really confident that I have the fitness and I have the capability to break my PR’s.”

Missing her junior season made Riggins’ college recruitment a little more difficult, as it did for high school athletes around the country. But Riggins ended up signing with Georgetown to run track and play soccer.

Now, heading into her final year of high school track, Riggins is ready to have a little fun.

“There are so many different things that I want to try and I think I want to have a little fun with it,” Riggins said. “In the past, I’ve been very focused on my events and I’m still going to be very focused on my events, but I want to enjoy time with the team too and maybe branch out with a few other events, maybe grab a quick school record or two. Just for fun.”

It’s been a successful run for Riggins in multiple sports. She helped the girls soccer team win a PIAA title as a freshman and a WPIAL title as a junior. Riggins also helped Shady Side Academy make another PIAA championship appearance.

Now, she’s looking to end her career on a high-note.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .


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