ST. MARYS — The current graduting class at St. Marys High School was filled with female athletes who excelled at their given sports, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more decorated than Tessa Grotzinger.
The Lady Dutch senior was a three-sport athlete — competing in track and softball each spring — who racked up 15 District 9 medals, five D-9 team championships and went to states seven different times. Grotzinger also ran cross country each fall.
She began playing softball in third grade, then added track and cross country to her sports resume in seventh and eighth grade, respectively.
“The best thing about sports is the bond that you gain from your team,” said Grotzinger. “Most of my best friends came from sports. Sharing that love for the sport, and then adding in the competitiveness that I also love, just allows for such an awesome thing to happen.
“My favorite sport is track because it is an individual sport that still affects your team overall. So, you still have the team aspect, but also can’t let other people do all the work. I absolutely love running middle distance events and relays.”
Grotzinger was a mainstay in the Lady Dutch cross country lineup since she was a freshman and helped St. Marys capture four straight District 9 Class AA team crowns at the Francis S. Grandinetti Elementary School course in Ridgway. Those district titles are the only ones in school history in the sport.
Individually, she placed eighth as a freshman, fifth as a sophomore and seventh in both her junior and senior years. Running in different weather elements each time, Grotzinger’s best time at districts was 21:14.10 as a sophomore, although she wasn’t far behind that time with a 21:32 this past fall.
At the state level, Grotzinger placed 159th or better all four years in Hershey with her best finish being 107th as a junior.
Grotzinger’s activity really ramped up in the spring, as she made a big impact in both softball and track and field at the same time.
On the diamond, Grotzinger was on her way to earning her third varsity letter if the season had not been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She took a year off from the sport as a sophomore in 2018.
She split her time between the outfield and first base in softball, but largely played first in her return to the sport as a junior.
Grotzinger hit .345 (10-for-29) with three RBIs and 13 runs in 17 games as a freshman and didn’t miss a beat after the year off. She hit .439 (17-for-39) with six doubles, eight RBIs and 18 runs as a junior in the games she was available to play when there wasn’t a track meet.
On the track is where Grotzinger really excelled the best though, capturing 11 District 9 Class AAA medals in three years and helping the Lady Dutch win the team crow her junior season.
She went to the PIAA Track and Field Championships all three years in track as a member of the Lady Dutch’s 4x800 relay squad that struck gold each season. She added a second gold medal as a junior (fourth overall) in the 4x400 relay.
Grotzinger just wasn’t a strong relay runner though, as she won seven individual district medals.
She burst on to the D-9 track scene as a freshman and won two silver medals (400 dash, 4x400 relay) on top of a gold in the 4x800. She competed at states in the 400, as well as the 4x80 relay, after the D-9 champ in the 400 that year decided to scratch to focus on other events.
Grotzinger then medaled in four events as a sophomore. On top of winning gold in the 4x800 relay, she took home a bronze in the 4x400, a fourth-place medal in the 400 and a fifth in the 800.
In what ultimately proved to be her final season of high school track, Grotzinger again was a four-time medalist as a junior. She added a pair of bronze medals (800 & 1,600 runs) on top of her two golds in the relay events that year.
Grotzinger and her relay teammates never landed on the podium at state track, but she reached the 4x800 relay finals her junior year as she and her teammates (Samantha Hayes, Kyla Johnson, Megan Quesenberry) posted a school-record time of 9:32.44 in the prelims before placing 12th in the finals with a time of 9:42.74. They entered the finals seeded eighth.
She said breaking the school record to reach the 4x800 finals is her favorite memory of her high school sports career.
Grotzinger just wasn’t a great athlete at St. Marys, though, as she was heavily involved in other activities at the school. She is the Senior Class Vice President as well as being a member of the National Honor Society, HOSA, DECA, German Club, Foreign Language Day and Indoor Track Club.
“It’s definitely a bit of a struggle balancing everything, but I wouldn’t want it any other way,” said the Lady Dutch senior. “I absolutely love all of the sports I do, and of course school means a lot to me as well. And, I can’t forget about having a social life (I love my friends so much).”
Missing out on her final seasons of track and softball, as well as her final months of her senior year of high school, has been tough for Grotzinger.
“I know the decision on closing schools and cancelling sports was for the good of the country, but it’s hit me pretty hard,” she said. “Softball and track have been my two favorite sports, so not being able to have one last season in them is very tough to handle.
“Also, I got to watch all of the planning of the class trip to Tennessee that I spent, get taken away. Of course, prom was also a big event as well. COVID-19 definitely hit at the wrong time for my life.
“I want to thank everyone for getting me to this point in my life academically and athletically, along with everyone sending their wishes to the seniors. It really does mean a lot to know that people care about us.”
The daughter of Jennifer and Dave Grotzinger, the Lady Dutch senior has a younger sister Brianna (junior) who also competes in cross country, softball and track.
After graduation, Grotzinger will attend Nova Southeastern University, in Fort Lauderdale Fla., to major in biology. She also plan to run cross country and track for the Sharks.