Pressley a quick study in track

Neshaminy's Dasia Pressley (right) raced to victory ahead of Amy Hicks of Swenson during the Haverford Invitational last April at Haverford High.
Neshaminy's Dasia Pressley (right) raced to victory ahead of Amy Hicks of Swenson during the Haverford Invitational last April at Haverford High. (               LOU RABITO / Staff)
Posted: April 20, 2014

When she decided to join her middle school's track team in seventh grade, Dasia Pressley did it only for the social benefit.

"Getting into a sport is the best way to meet friends," Pressley said. "I definitely wasn't one of the faster girls then."

In fact, Neshaminy coach Margie Taylor had not heard of the young sprinter before her graduation to the high-school ranks.

"Sometimes, if they have a good runner, the middle-school coaches will contact me and let me know she's coming up," Taylor said. "I didn't hear from them with Dasia."

The young sprinter was a virtual unknown when she came up to the high school team at Neshaminy last winter, and she started out running times in the 200 meters that were respectable, but nowhere near elite.

After working on her start and her in-race form, Pressley began to tap a talent she never knew she had.

"Before track, I wasn't thinking about sports at all," the sophomore said. "I didn't know I was fast. My parents joke about it all the time. I just wanted to make friends at first."

Pressley cut her 200 time at a rather timely rate, dropping up to a second off her time with every weekend meet in the winter season last year. Her rookie indoor season culminated in a sixth-place medal at the Pennsylvania Track & Field Coaches Association Meet of Champions; a fifth-place, 25.28-second finish in the state championships; and an appearance at the New Balance Indoor Nationals meet at the New York City Armory.

After medaling in the PIAA District 1 and state Championships in the 200 last spring, she enjoyed a productive winter season in 2013-14, winning the state title in the 200 (24.42) and taking bronze in the 60.

That winter season catapulted Pressley to a fifth-place ranking in the nation in the 200.

"I didn't know I had a talent in this until I started working harder," Pressley said. "I started gaining confidence, and then placing in states in indoor last year was a big wake-up call."

Already holding school records in the 200 (24.2), 60 (7.14) and 100 (11.7), Pressley likely will take aim at her first outdoor state titles next month in Shippensburg.

"She's very coachable, and everything I have her try to work on, she does it right away," Taylor said. "Her only downfall is she gets so nervous about everyone else.

"She thinks a two-second gap is close."

Russell excels. West Chester Henderson senior Tony Russell took to the line for the 1,600 meters at the Warrior Classic on April 11, and blew away the field with a time of 4 minutes, 9 seconds.

The finish marked Pennsylvania's fastest time in the event this spring, and it ranked him fourth in the nation.

Russell won the state title in the indoor mile in March and looks poised to earn his first outdoor 1,600 gold.

Freshman watch. With her brother, Christian, a junior at Cheltenham, already having established himself as a top sprinter in the state, Cheltenham's Chanel Brissett turned heads with a runner-up finish in the 60 final in the indoor state meet in March.

The silver-medal ending to her indoor season capped a freshman campaign that included placing at the Millrose Games and a gold medal at the Hispanic Games at the Armory in New York.

Thus far this spring, Brissett has posted District 1 qualifying times in the 100 and 200 dashes and 100 hurdles, and figures to pose a challenge for other district and state competitors in the 100 hurdles along with Cheltenham teammate Ciara Leonard.


aparent@philly.com

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