Neumann-Goretti senior Sydni Townsend might need a little nudge just before her races this weekend at the PIAA track and field championships at Shippensburg University.

Townsend, who will compete in the Class 2A 100- and 300-meter hurdles and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays, has been known to get a little shut-eye just before big races.

"Usually when I'm really calm, I kind of go to sleep at check-ins," she said at the Penn Relays in April. "I just doze off. My dad says that shows how relaxed I am. I calm myself to the point where I'm about to fall asleep."

Townsend, whose father, Lincoln, was a track star at Overbrook (1986) and is the  Neumann-Goretti track coach, will compete at the University of Pittsburgh next season. Her cool under pressure, curious spirit, interest in the Holocaust, and ability as a writer will push her toward journalism there.

"I want to be a war correspondent," she said.

Her older brother, Todd, is a senior track athlete at North Carolina A&T and a former standout at Neumann-Goretti.

Todd Townsend plans to join the military after graduation, but in addition to her brother, Sydni was also influenced by a literary classic.

"It started with [The Diary of] Anne Frank in fourth grade and kind of blossomed into all of Europe," she said.

Townsend said she independently began to study the Holocaust in sixth grade, even asking her parents for a dry-erase board, where, her father said, she charted facts about concentration camps across Europe.

Sydni Townsend used a dry-erase board to chart facts about death camps during the Holocaust.
The Townsend family
Sydni Townsend used a dry-erase board to chart facts about death camps during the Holocaust.

Her ability to calm her nerves, she said, could serve her well as a war correspondent.

Most recently, Townsend said she has been reading a book about a death camp in Chelmno, in what was then German-occupied Poland.

"Syd is all about the Holocaust," Lincoln Townsend said.

Later, with a smile, he added: "She's a nerd who runs!"

"I'm proud that she is so well-rounded, and it's just not about track," he said.

But about that whole war correspondent thing …

"If that's what she wants then I'm behind her," her father said, adding quickly, "I may go with her.

"I just want her to be happy, bottom line."

On the track, she's on her own.

Townsend will defend her crown in the 300-meter hurdles (43.03 seconds), which she claimed last year despite lingering injuries. She also finished third in the 100 hurdles last year.

She also won the 400 and 200 as a freshman, when she was also a member of the Saints' PIAA record-holding 4×400 team.

Last year, the Saints' 4×100 squad didn't qualify for the PIAA finals but should be strong this year, along with the 4×400 squad.

Townsend and teammates Kami Joi Hickson, Mykala Perry, and Dasia Wilson finished second in the 4×800 at the Penn Relays with the state's No. 1 time of 8 minutes, 57.09 seconds, besting their goal of 9 minutes flat and earning a personal best.