Arianna Camel decided that her senior year would be a good year to redshirt.
In 2016-17, the former York-Adams League standout had two straight semesters of 18 credits, which included an internship with Lancaster County Council of Churches.
Additionally, Camel was on pace to graduate with her master's degree from Millersville in the spring of 2019, so she knew she could run track and field in the 2017-18 academic year.
Then the unexpected happened.
"It ended up being the best year to (redshirt)," said Camel about 2016-17. "My mother passed away in the first week of the semester."
Camel already had to overcome an incredibly dense academic and professional semester in the fall. In the spring, she had a much tougher situation to deal with. Her mother was her only parent in the picture at the time.
"It was definitely hard," said Camel of her mother's death. "I actually got the call that she was going downhill on the 22nd (of January, 2017). It was a day or two before the semester started. The entire week was a roller coaster."
On week later, on Jan. 29, 2017, Camel's mother, Adrienne, died at the age of 41.
Somehow, Camel pressed on.
"The following weeks were hard," said Camel, who starred at Gettysburg High School. "I can't even remember what it was like. It was robotic like."
Special bond: Camel had a special bond with her mother. She mentioned that although they didn't always talk about their emotions, there was mutual respect and appreciation for each other.
In the words of Camel: "My mom just gets me."
Their bond was strong. Although they would argue at times, Camel said that her mother was always there for her when she needed someone. Camel's mother provided guidance and advice in any aspect of life that Camel wanted to know more about. Camel said she was glad she was able to ask her mother questions before she died, but there are still countless conversations that will never take place.
"There's so many questions that you want to ask about life," Camel said. "I can't ask my mom 'what was this like' or 'what do I do now.' That's one of the hardest things, just to realize I can't ever call her again."
It was a huge obstacle for Camel, one that will never fully go away. However, she has tried to become better from the experience and she'll never forget the advice her mother has given to her.
"I'm going into the field of social work because she was in that field," Camel said.
In addition to looking to get a master's degree in social work, Camel is also going to graduate school for emergency management. If all goes to plan, she will have a master's degree in two different academic subjects.
Track and field family: With no parents in the picture, Camel had a plethora of support from family and friends. She credits others with helping her stay motivated during the toughest of times. At the same time, many encouraged Camel to take a semester off from school. Camel declined. She pressed on. There was something else pushing her beyond her friends and family: track and field.
When asked what track and field meant to Camel she answered after pausing for a moment: "Track and field … it's been a family to me. A family that understands me. It's loyal, it will always be here for me. It's allowed me to become a stronger person."
The sport provided a getaway from the harshness of reality.
"The one thing that was constant and consistent was track," said Camel of her sometimes-rocky college experience. "Track is the one thing I can come to and relax and be free. Since day one it's been like that for me. Track has been so consistent and my teammates and coaches have been so helpful."
Even before these tough times, the sport has always been cherished by Camel since she started participating in organized track and field in seventh grade.
"It's really just been a stepping stone for me and helped me to get involved and make friends," said Camel. "It's helped me step out of my comfort zone a lot."
"Ari generally is the first one to volunteer to help out with team activities including community service and fundraising," said Camel's head coach, Andy Young. "She also has been a peer educator for alcohol and drug awareness and is now the graduate assistant in charge of the peer educators here at Millersville."
Excelled in basketball and track: Camel didn't have much of a choice when it came to deciding early as the process began for her earlier than for most. Camel began getting recruited as a freshman in high school by Bucknell. Strong in both basketball and track and field, she leaned toward track because she was talented and she enjoyed the sport because of its individuality.
"Once I started getting noticed in track I noticed how much I love this sport," Camel said. "I love the aspect of being individual. Everything you put into is what you get out of it."
Sure enough, Camel put in the effort and certainly got something out of it. After struggling a bit as a freshman she experienced a breakthrough moment in the indoor hurdles. In the spring semester of her freshman year, Camel broke the school indoor hurdle record. She reset it two years later at 8.96 seconds.
"It was definitely surprising," Camel said of her achievement.
It is one of her many contributions to her team.
"Ari is both competitive and a strong leader for the team," Young said. "Those traits have helped our team stay focused along with helping our team culture be a safe and positive one."
Showcasing her talents at Millersville: At Millersville, Camel has showcased a wide range of talents from the track to cross country. She earned PSAC Scholar-Athlete status and has top-three all-time marks in the 100-meter hurdles, heptathlon and pentathlon.
Camel was especially happy about her heptathlon performance considering that it is not necessarily her forte. She finished as the runner-up at the 2016 PSAC Outdoor Championships after a sixth-place finish as a freshman.
"It's tough to compete like that, going back-to-back-to back," she said.
"As an athlete she is all-conference in the heptathlon in 2016," said Young. "She has scored as an individual in the hurdles as well. She has run cross country, and she is an all-around strong athlete which makes her a perfect fit for the heptathlon and pentathlon."
Millersville choice a good decision: Young is clearly happy that Camel runs for Millersville. Camel is too. She said that choosing to go to college at Millersville was one of the best decisions she has ever made.
Camel hopes to stay involved with the sport as a coach after graduation, but that is something down the road as Camel continues to progress as a student-athlete. After a year away from the track, Camel returned with a personal-best total in the indoor pentathlon. Her goal is to make a provisional mark for NCAA Indoor Championships.
She has used her past obstacles to build herself into the best athlete she can possibly be.
"Now I'm taking all that energy from emotional and mental stress and putting it into practice so I can be the best I can be I can be this year," Camel said.
Camel has shown over and over again that the best she can be is an outstanding performer on the track and in the classroom, a caring teammate and resilient in life.
Ethan Hulsey is director of athletic communications for Millersville University.