ST. MARYS — Every athlete has a reason they enjoy competing in sports, and those reasons can be a wide range of things.
For St. Marys senior Samantha Hayes, it’s all about pushing herself to be the best she can be — a drive that has allowed her to excel as a four-sport athlete who competes in tennis, cross country, basketball and track and field. By the time she graduates, Hayes will have earned 15 varsity letters in those four sports.
“One of my favorite parts about playing sports is constantly pushing myself and staying active,” said Hayes. “I also love the team aspect of sports and love being able to play with my best friends. I’m also very fortunate to have coaches that have pushed and challenged me.
“I truly don’t have a favorite sport. I love how all of my sports are different, and I enjoy working on a variety of skills.”
Those skills have helped Hayes do things no other athlete in District 9 history has, particularly as a dual-sport athlete in the fall playing tennis and running cross country.
She made that pretty clear as a sophomore when she made the decision to do both sports simultaneously.
All she did that fall in 2018 was become the first athlete to capture individual titles in both tennis (winning her second straight D-9 Class A singles crown) and cross country (capturing gold at D-9 Class 2A Championships).
Her success only grew from there in the two fall sports.
She went on to become the first tennis player, boy or girl, in District 9 history to capture four singles titles on the court. She also helped the Lady Dutch win four straight D-9 team titles and was part of two state victories in the sport this fall.
Hayes beat Bedford’s Josie Shuke, 6-3, 6-4, in the opening round of the PIAA Class 2A Singles Tournament and also helped the Lady Dutch blank Bedford, 5-0, in the opening round of team states.
Hayes credits her success not in tennis, but all her sports, to her grandfather Denny Posteraro, who is her role model.
“He was the one who introduced me to tennis, and he put the time in to train me each summer,” she said. “He pushes me to do better in all of my sports and taught me from a young age to give my all in everything I do.”
In cross country, Hayes added a pair of silver medals to the D-9 gold he won as a sophomore, all while helping St. Marys capture the district team crown all three years she ran.
Her success didn’t end at the district level in her secondary sport though, as she collected medals (Top 25) in all three trips to the PIAA Cross Championships. She placed 16th and 20th as a sophomore and junior, respectively, before posting a career-best 13th-place finish this past fall.
“The accomplishment I’m most proud of in tennis is becoming a four-time district singles champion,” she said. “This accomplishment showed me that the work I put in during the summers had paid off. The accomplishment I’m most proud of from cross country is receiving a 13th place state medal my senior year.”
The toll of competing at two sports at such a high level might be too much for some athletes to handle, but Hayes’ desire to push herself eventually helped her push through to accomplish everything she has.
“My first year of dual-sporting (sophomore year) was the year I struggled the most to balance my school work and sports,” she said. “Another challenge that I faced while playing two sports was fatigue.
“I practiced everyday 3-7 with cross country meets twice a week and tennis matches twice a week. Sometimes it was a lot, and I would feel overwhelmed, but my mom (Erica) always helped me anytime I felt like that and I’m grateful for her.”
Hayes’ fall sports accomplishments, which would be more than career full for most athletes, are only half the tale of her athletic career at St. Marys. She also plays basketball in the winter and runs track in the spring for the Lady Dutch.
Hayes has been a mainstay in the varsity lineup on the court since she was a freshman, doing a little bit of everything for the Lady Dutch who have finished as the District 9 Class 4A runner-up each of those three seasons.
She has played in all 72 of St. Marys’ games the past three years, scoring at least 100 points and pulling down at least 100 rebounds each of those seasons despite being a 5-foot, 3-inch guard.
Overall, Hayes has 336 points and pulled down 372 rebounds — setting career highs as a sophomore with 128 and 135, respectively — to go along 163 assists, 223 steals and 11 blocked shots.
When it comes to track, she has only been able to compete for two years, as her junior campaign was wiped out at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, those two years proved to be highly successful as she collected seven medals, including three golds.
Hayes won four of those as a freshman, including her first gold in the 4x800 relay. She added a bronze in the 4x400 relay, as well as fourth and fifth-place medals in in the 1,600 and 400, respectively.
She won two golds as a sophomore in the 4x400 and 4x800 relays and added a silver in the 800 run. The Lady Dutch’s 4x800 relay squad reached the state finals that year but fell short of a state medal with a 12th-place finish.
Hayes hopes to return to the track this spring, as well as the basketball court this winter for her final seasons in both sports. St. Marys has currently delayed the start of all its winter sport activities until at least Jan. 18 because of COVID-19.
“Playing sports during this time has shown me how important it is to put in the time to practice and get better,” said Hayes. “This year, there were no structured practices or open gyms in the offseason for my sports, and it was up to me to practice on my own time. I was able to focus on putting in time to get better because it was what I wanted to do, not because it was required of me.”
Hayes isn’t just an athlete, though, as she is heavily involved in other activities at St. Marys. She is a member Spanish Club, Police Academy, Renaissance Club and the math competition team. She is involved with the Youth Activities Commission, which is unaffiliated with the school.
Outside of her her school activities, Hayes enjoys reading, backpacking and exploring national parks.
The daughter of Erica Hayes and Robert Hayes, the senior has two younger siblings. Her brother Nicholas runs cross country and track, while younger sister Lucia is in 8th grade and excited to play high school sports next year.
After graduation, Hayes plans to attend college but is undecided where at this point. She said she is strongly considering pursing the medical field. Hayes also said she may continue her running career in college but that her academics will come first when choosing a college.