Shaler Area’s Keenan balances basketball, indoor track

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Sunday, February 14, 2021 | 9:01 AM


Jack Keenan didn’t seek an opportunity to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

When the Shaler Area junior hurdler landed on the hurdles as his primary event in middle school track and field, the idea was to try and exceed his dad’s accomplishments.

“I started in middle school because my dad did it,” Keenan said. “I picked it because I wanted to be faster than him.”

While opportunities to compete this winter have been sparse for Keenan, he’s made the most of his time on the track. At the Youngstown State Open in January, Keenan hit a personal-best time of 9.35 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles. At the SPIRE Scholastic Showcase Meet Feb. 7 in Ohio, he came in with a time of 9.38.

Keenan has felt confident about his times because of the limited number of participants during the pandemic. When he goes to meets, Keenan expects the top competitors.

“It feels good,” Keenan said. “It’s strange with limited spectators and no coaches, but I’ve gotten used to it. It’s actually a good atmosphere because I know I’m going up against good people. Everyone who is competing now is serious about track.”

Staying in shape is something Keenan hasn’t had an issue with.

Keenan has filled the rest of his time playing for the Titans’ basketball team. Shaler indoor track coach Shawn Ryan believes doing both sports will make him more well rounded.

“Getting to the first hurdle is like him running from the baseline in basketball to the half-court line,” said Ryan, who noted it’s the same distance. “We have been doing all of our work right on the court, so it fits his training well.”

Titans coach Rob Niederberger appreciates the hustle. Keenan balances his time to meet all expectations.

“He does a good job of it,” Niederberger said. “He goes to indoor tournaments on days we have off. He has never missed a basketball workout for it.”

One major focus for Keenan as the season goes on is to get all of the fundamentals down. An area he struggles with is with flexibility.

“I want to be quicker on my feet,” Keenan said. “I did think about doing yoga, but I would have to do that in the summer because I don’t have time now.”

Keenan continually has found ways to push himself. Balancing both sports and looking for ways to improve will allow him to get better times and try to earn household bragging rights.

“In Jack’s case, he needs to run over hurdles,” Ryan said. “The main focus is working on his mobility and hip explosiveness, getting out of the blocks as quickly as possible and getting over the first hurdle.”

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