NC grad has Ivy League success

When Janae Dunchack came to Dartmouth, it was her versatility that attracted her track and field coaches.

While attending Northern Cambria High School, Dunchack was a four-year letterman playing volleyball, basketball and track and field. She made it to the PIAA championship in all three sports, winning gold in volleyball and track.

But when the Big Green coaches approached Dunchack four years ago, they had an event in mind for her that she wasn’t even completely familiar with.

“I didn’t know how to do three quarters of the events they talked to me about, and the coaches here had to teach me some from scratch,” Dunchack said. “Knowing myself personally, I knew I was good at several different things as opposed to being phenomenal at one.”

One of those events turned out to be the pentathlon.

And just like in high school, when she won a gold medal in each of her four years in the PIAA championships, Dunchack excelled immediately.

This past spring, Dunchack became only the second athlete in Ivy League history to win the Heptagonal Indoor Championship’s pentathlon in each of her four years competing.

Her total of 3,895 points during her senior year was the fourth-highest total in the event’s history.

“It was very overwhelming, and I’m really proud of it,” Dunchack said. “It took some luck, a lot of hard work and help from teammates and coaches, but it was outstanding and meant a lot.”

Dunchack didn’t just win the title every year – she also improved her score each time. When she won earlier this year, Dunchack won the 60-meter hurdles in 8.79 seconds and took second place in both the high jump and the shot put.

“Each year was special,” Dunchack said. “My freshman and senior year, I had some injuries, but every year the scores kept getting better and better. I had to improve and keep working hard each year to get where I wanted to.”

During her time at Dartmouth, Dunchack set seven school records and three Ivy League marks.

Along with her versatility in whatever sport she’s playing, Dunchack had to demonstrate even more when balancing her athletic schedule with the academic demands of an Ivy League school.

“It’s really ridiculous. Sports are a full-time job at a Division I school when you look at the hours you put in,” said Dunchack, who graduated with a major in neuroscience and a minor in chemistry on Sunday. “It’s very difficult academically. It’s always a ton of work, studying on buses, taking tests earlier, doing homework early and it really becomes a juggling act.

“Even after four years, you never really figure it out. It’s really hard.”

The Dartmouth women’s team enjoyed a successful outdoor season this year, and coach Sandra Ford-Centonze gave some of that credit to Dunchack.

“Janae has made a mark on the Dartmouth track and field program,” Ford-Centonze said. “Her quest for athletic success started her freshman year, and she hasn’t looked back.

“She was captain both her junior and senior year, and she was a quiet leader who led by example with her tenacity and determination.”

Dunchack may have enjoyed her teammates’ success even more than her own.

“I think this year’s outdoor season was one of my favorite memories,” Dunchack said. “We had a lot of successes as a group. People who had been really struggling really stepped up, and we had an incredible time. Getting to see everyone compete for the last time will be something I remember a long time.”

Following her graduation, Dunchack plans on attending medical school and becoming a psychiatrist.

“Janae will be deeply missed,” Ford-Centonze said. “She’s set the bar high for the crew that follows.”