Some athletes fill out their academic calendar with a third sport just to stay busy. Some find ways to contribute to their teams even as their focus is on fitness in that third season.
Almost none can make the same claim as Haverford’s Mollie Carpenter: That in her third-best sport, she’s a district champion.
Carpenter was an All-Delco center back on the soccer field. She was the starting center for the Fords’ Central League championship basketball team, the sport she’ll play in college at Catholic University.
And the spring? Oh, just a District 1 champion in the discus and state medal contender in two field events.
“It’s crazy because I grew up playing soccer, and basketball took a lot of time the last couple of years,” Carpenter said this week. “No one really knew I did track, so to be able to prove myself again and show people how I compete in the sport, it’s really nice. It’s nice to be able to have this final season at Haverford and to be able to play three sports.”
Carpenter’s final installment in a sensational senior season will take place at Shippensburg this weekend, where she’ll compete in the PIAA Class 3A championships in the discus and shot put. She emerged from the District 1 meet last week with a gold medal in the discus and silver in the shot put.
Not bad for someone who only started competing in the throws toward the end of her sophomore season, who didn’t pick up the disc or the shot this spring until the season was already underway thanks to a state tournament run in hoops.
Her progress has been precipitous. The Haverford coaching staff saw her potential as a freshman, with a big frame and quick feet that could be molded to the throws. But that season got wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. The spring of 2021 was also mostly a wash, Carpenter unable to compete regularly through quarantines and other challenges.
As a junior, she qualified for districts in the discus but opted out of the event at Coatesville, attending a basketball tournament that Saturday instead. (She reasoned that she wouldn’t place high enough to justify missing a college recruiting opportunity.) She did take part in the shot put on the Friday of districts, finishing seventh.
This year’s progress has been significant. She won the discus at Delcos (125 feet, 8 inches), Centrals (130-8) and Districts (123-1). She was second to Strath Haven’s Alexa Brown in the shot put at all three meets, topping 41-4 at Centrals. She’s seeded fourth in the shot put and 10th in the discus at states.
“It’s just nice because I work hard toward every sport, and it’s easier to put in more work if you see the results like that and buy into it, which I think has helped me improve a lot,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter has benefited from the cross-training. Though she’s not able to do work on her technique during basketball season, her weight-training regimen applies for all three sports. The emphasis on footwork and precise, explosive movements in the throwing circle translates directly to the lane.
The team culture is much different in track but remains important to Carpenter. The Fords authored a legendary basketball season, going unbeaten until the District 1 Class 6A final. Haverford was the District 1 Class 3A runner-up last week, three points behind West Chester Rustin, and figures to contend for a state trophy.
The dynamics between a cohesive five-person basketball unit and individual performers being scored together in track and field are very different, Carpenter cautions, especially since vocal leadership is her calling card on the court and soccer pitch. But chasing championships with friends remains similarly special regardless of season, as is cementing a reputation for Haverford girls sports.
“Basketball, especially for me, it was a team sport in every aspect,” she said. “Half of the game was just making sure you were supporting your teammates and getting supported. In track, there’s relays, but most of it us just focusing on yourself performing for your teammates. So it’s a little bit different. The work ethic is just for yourself, whereas basketball you know you’re working for each other to perform as a team. …
“It’s so special to see myself and some of my best friends being able to compete at such a high level. And being able to do it with each other and seeing each other succeed is special.”
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