Christina Warren rose to the top of the podium, flashing her genuine smile as she stood above her fellow competitors, a PIAA champion as a sophomore. Then came the hard part: staying there.
Thankfully for the Perkiomen Valley track and field supertalent, her personal drive isn’t interested in staying in one spot. It’s intent on progress.
Progress can be measured in many forms. Warren checked all the boxes in her junior season this spring. She claimed two gold medals at the PIAA Championships, a more-than-meets-the-eye repeat in the Class 3A triple jump before running away with the 100-meter hurdles title. She also took sixth in the long jump for good measure.
Just as she designed, times dropped and distances gained as Warren continued to build one of the finest careers in area history while garnering a second straight Mercury All-Area Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year honor.
As shiny and tangible as medals are, Warren isn’t driven by hardware. Instead of something to throw a party for, the 16-year-old is still chasing the goals she set for the outdoor season, following a winter indoor season where she was state champ in her two speciality events.
“I’m closer to my goals than I maybe hoped for, but they’re definitely not there yet,” Warren said after targeting 13 meters (42-6½) in the triple jump and 13 seconds in the 100 hurdles. “I definitely feel semi-satisfied though, and hopefully this summer I’ll be able to keep improving. I didn’t think I’d be that consistently sub-14 (seconds in the 100 hurdles) and didn’t think I’d jump so many 40s (more than 40 feet in the triple jump) but now that I’m consistently doing these things, I think to myself, ‘Shouldn’t I be doing even better?’
“I’m being consistent rather than popping off one good one and then going back to my sophomore-season marks, so I’m grateful for that.”
She set personal-best marks in triple jump with a 41-1½ at the West Chester Henderson Invitational on May 4 and in the 100 hurdles with a 13.71 at the season-ending PIAA Championships.
— CRW (@celeste_12_24) May 26, 2018
Warren makes for an interesting study: she isn’t the tall, long-limbed presence one might presume considering her credentials. She’s pleasant with a humble smile, thoughtful and down-to-Earth in a way that masks her drive and determination.
Those closer to her, like Perkiomen Valley jumping coach Ron Livers, know what’s inside though.
“It’s inner drive. She’s highly motivated to be the best athlete she can be. Her dedication and work ethic are impeccable,” Livers said. “She’s willing to do anything you ask her to do to reach her goals: training-wise, mentally, psychologically, the whole 360 degrees of being an athlete. She never takes days off and that’s all you can ask of an athlete.
“She’s a generational athlete. An athlete like her comes along once a generation. Her drive, her positives and outlook on the sport, they only come along once in a while.”
Livers would know: he is a “generational athlete” himself. The Norristown legend still holds the state triple jump record of 51-7¾ from 1973, and was a three-time NCAA triple jump champion at San Jose State before competing internationally for Team USA.
As Livers sees it, Warren’s improvement simply came down to the natural progression of an athlete with pure ability who puts in the work it takes to be great.
“Her sophomore year we went to a double-arm technique which is much harder to do. But we dedicated the time from early June and worked all the way through into indoor season and she got the hang of it. It’s basically been refining that technique and getting stronger and faster,” Livers said.
“She’s gotten so much stronger and faster between last year and this year it’s ridiculous. She’s grown as an athlete, which is what you expect as an elite athlete.”
That doesn’t mean everything came easily though.
Warren, who only started triple-jumping as a ninth-grader, got better and better in the event during the regular season. She was the top American finisher in the triple jump at the Penn Relays (4th place, 41-0½) for the second consecutive year on April 26 and eight days later hit her top mark at the Hoka Invitational.
But the first two postseason events — the Pioneer Athletic Conference Championships and the District 1 Championships — weren’t as successful. Warren settled for second behind Pottsgrove’s Miazziah Rose in the PACs at Pope John Paul II, then was bested by Upper Dublin’s Madison Langley-Walker in districts at rain-soaked Coatesville.
There was plenty of room for doubt entering states, but Warren wisely chose to trust the process.
“Those two weeks before states weren’t anywhere near my best marks so I was feeling some doubt,” she said. “But it was possible to overcome that … You can’t stop the emotions from happening. You have to let it happen, but at the same time trusting your practice, your coach, trusting everything you’ve worked on. You focus on executing what you’ve worked on and if you do that it doesn’t leave much room for doubt.”
Put that way it made perfect sense to see Warren rise above the rest at Shippensburg University, her 40-11¼ more than a foot better than runner-up Ayanna Burrell of Stroudsburg (39-10¾).
Congrats to Perk Valleys Christina Warren. 2-time PIAA Triple Jump Champion. pic.twitter.com/rsK4edUG6F
— CRW (@celeste_12_24) May 25, 2018
“Her response was spectacular. She had some doubt in her mind, but I never had doubt in my mind,” Livers said. “She faced some tough conditions at PACs and districts … but we just said, ‘It’s going to be beautiful weather at states, let’s show them the real Christina Warren.’ And she showed up big time.”
The 100 hurdles were less volatile: Warren didn’t lose in the event all spring but saved her best for last with a 13.71 clocking that was the only time in the field better than 14 seconds, a one-place improvement from 2017 when she was second behind Cheltenham’s Chanel Brissett (now at USC).
“The triple jump medal was more of a relief,” Warren said. “In the hurdles, I didn’t have doubt that I would move on and perform well. The only thing that could mess it up was some kind of freak injury or hurdle hit. But other than those very normal doubts, I was very confident in my ability to perform and I even PRed, so I was happy with that. It was more like an expected happiness, but in the triple I was so worried that I wasn’t entirely sure what I would come out with so it was a relief.”
You won’t get the euphoric reactions you may get from other athletes even after her biggest wins. But Warren’s love appears to be rooted in things beyond wins.
“I love track. I love the team aspect; all my closest friends are from track and most of my childhood has revolved around my club team, Ambler Olympic Club. It’s a major part of my life that I love.
“I watch track meets with my mother (Celeste, who played volleyball at the University of Kentucky), my grandfather was a coach, so it’s deeply-rooted in my life. I always feel enjoyment that I’m able to participate at this level.”
In Warren’s case, it’s a level most can only wish to reach … but one she isn’t satisfied staying at.
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