Gracious Watson credits many for D-I scholarship

By Jim Lane

For the Mirror

Altoona Area High School track and field standout Daiquain Watson is headed to Youngstown State University on a Division I athletic scholarship and he owes a lot of thanks to coach Mike Adams and former teammate Eli Mencer.

Watson was one of nine AAHS student-athletes who officially signed college scholarships during a ceremony Tuesday morning in the school’s William P. Kimmel Board Room.

“It means a lot to me to know that all my work and dedication has paid off and I’ll be able to continue the sport I love for the next four years of my life,” said Watson, whose mother and grandmother attended the ceremony.

Both Watson and Mountain Lions veteran coach Adams said Daiquain wasn’t always a hard worker in the classroom.

“During my 10th grade year, our 4-by-1 (400 meters) relay team made it to states,” Watson recalled. “One of my teammates, Eli Mencer, came to me and said I could do good things if I kept working hard athletically and academically.”

“We always knew Daiquain had the athletic ability to be a D1 athlete,” said Adams, “but what has really impressed me is how he turned his academics around the past two years to be eligible for D1.

“He had his toughest schedule this year and had his highest GPA,” Adams noted. “He really wanted this and worked hard, especially in the classroom, to get it. I’m very proud of him.”

A four-year track and field athlete, Watson honed his skills under Adams and jump coaches Damon Luciano and Tom Fox. A three-time PIAA state championship qualifier, Watson has earned five District 6 championships — two each in the 4×100 relay and high jump and one in the long jump.

Watson, who hopes to become an athletic trainer, also considered Rhode Island University, Duquesne and Bryant before deciding on Youngstown State where he will be coached by Brian Gorby and jumps coach Katrina Brumfield.

“He’s going to do well at Youngstown,” Adams said. “I’ve talked to the coaches and they think he’s going to be a point scorer and conference champion in the next couple of years.”

Watson also played football for three years and basketball for two at AAHS, but track was always his first love.

“I started running varsity track as a 9th grader,” Watson said. “Coach Adams showed me what I can become. He’s a wonderful coach and I loved having him coach me.

“Coach and Eli were always on my case about my academics. Eli was a wonderful teammate,” Watson said of Mencer, who plays football at Division I Albany.

Watson is looking forward to his final District 6 meet and the PIAA championships, too.

“It’s been a journey, and it’s sad that it’s about to end,” he said of his high school career, “but I’m ready for the next challenge.”

AAHS athletic director Phil Riccio was in charge of the program and introduced the other athletes and their coaches.

Division II and Division III signees included Alayna Biesecker and Paige Whitfield, who will play basketball at Mansfield University; Lindsey Fasolo, softball, Elizabethtown College; Alexa Young, softball, LaRoche College; Kyle Good, football, Susquehanna University; J.P. Duffy, golf, St. Vincent College; Jacob Deterline, soccer, Lancaster Bible College; Elliot Mast, baseball, Chesapeake Junior College.