Sun Sports Contributor
Sports Editor’s note: Meghan Komendarek of Norwich, earned All-State honors as a Second Team selection for Class B girls high school basketball back in May of 2017. This article is the third of four articles in a series, individually recognizing these athletes. Stay tuned in a future edition of The Evening Sun for the fourth and final article on Abigail Selfridge of Bainbridge-Guilford.
NORWICH – Tornadoes have historically and commonly been spotted across the Midwestern United States, dotting themselves across Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.
While tornadoes are usually born from thunderstorms in the heat of summer, one tornado – a Purple Tornado to be exact was born on a winter’s day in a place where she would call home for the rest of her incredible high school basketball career. None other than Norwich High School’s Jack Jones Gymnasium.
December 4, 2013 is a day that might not be remembered or looked back on often by Meghan Komendarek, but brewing in the distance was a thunder storm that would later be named to a second and two first team All-State selections by the New York State Sportswriters Association, began. Amassing a total of two points, in her varsity debut to the reigning Section IV Class B champion in the Yellow Jackets of Oneonta.
But it wasn’t long before the funnel clouds began to form overtop the young post player. As the season progressed she began an important piece of a Purple Tornado team that would reach a Section IV finale – the programs third appearance in a four year stretch. However, similar to how the season began, the Tornado were stung by the Yellowjackets – who went onto win their sixth straight sectional title.
Komendarek, improved against the tough Oneonta team, scoring 11 in the setback. It wasn’t long before the young role player in Komendarek, soon became an immense force to be reckoned with.
This loss was different, and so was the mindset of Komendarek. In adversity, character often bleeds through and looking back on her time in the section IV playoffs as a bonafide rookie, Komendarek recognized her hoop filled surroundings all while growing into her 6’2” frame.
“In each of my years playing in the Section IV playoffs, we face some of the best teams in New York State,” reflected Komendarek.
And with that elusive Section IV title just out of grasp – Komendarek went on a rampage.
“By far what separates her on the court is she has a motor that never stops. Literally never stops,” said Norwich varsity girls head coach Josh Bennett. “I think that’s a big thing that sets her apart.”
In her sophomore season, Komendarek did something unprecedented going from a role player to a state class player receiving a first team all-state selection. While averaging nearly a double-double in her second year campaign, Komendarek’s importance to a Norwich team that was within striking range of a Section IV Class B title against the eventual State Champion Susquehanna Valley Sabers.
“We knew that two years ago that whoever won the Norwich vs. Sus. Valley (Section IV final) game would go on to win a state championship that year,” said Komendarek. “The games between Norwich and Sus. Valley in my four-year career have always been a war.”
Something that wouldn’t change as the clash of the STAC titans continued for the remainder of Komendarek’s career.
Despite two early exits in the sectional playoffs during her junior and senior campaigns, Komendarek’s work ethic never slowed and was awarded for her athletic advances earning another first team selection, followed by a second team election after the 2016-17 season.
However, as her impressive play on the hardwood continued to raise eyebrows as a coveted prospective athlete. Along the way, Komendarek’s play not only caught college recruiters nationally but those within Section IV basketball.
After her junior season, Meghan was named to the Press & Sun Bulletin’s Elite 10 team, immediately staking her claim as one of the top high school prospects within the Southern Tier.
A feat that Komendarek later repeated after her final basketball season as she averaged a colossal double-decker stuffed stat line of 14.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. An accomplishment that is not only physically taxing, but rather mentally exhausting as well.
“The mindset I have is simply play to the best of my ability and leave everything I have out on the floor,” said Komendarek.
Taking pieces from each of the three sports she plays has allowed Komendarek to feel, focus, and concentrate every ounce of her talent and energy into the way she has played and righteously excel in the game of basketball.
“I have played basketball 11-12 months out of each year. From playing travel ball through the YMCA, Norwich High School basketball and AAU National basketball, my regular season and off-seasons have been filled with competition and skill work that has improved my abilities as a player,” said Komendarek.
Based upon her accolades alone, one would imagine she’s the best of the best, but her performances – if you’ve ever seen her in action – don’t even get to the top of it. To put it in perspective, Section IV Class B basketball is the best girls’ basketball in New York State. Yes, two out of the last three State and Federation Champions have come out of Section IV and with Komendarek and the NHS girls going tit for tat on a nightly basis during the winter sports season – it is truly a spectacle to behold.
As Komendarek’s high school career academically and athletically ended this past Saturday, June 24, a new adventure awaits for her, post-graduation.
Komendarek’s next stop is Erie, Pennsylvania as she will enroll at the Mercyhurst University in the fall. Along with her educational goal of becoming an Early Childhood Education teacher, Komendarek will continue her exploits on the basketball court joining the Lakers on a full athletic scholarship – adding depth at the center position to a Laker line-up that went 24-8 this past season.
“She deserves everything she gets,” said coach Bennett. “Her work ethic is as good as anyone you will see. From a character standpoint she is as solid as any girl I have ever coached. She is responsible, loyal, dedicated to the team and the program first before anything else.”
As the summer between high school and college is just beginning for the new NHS graduate, Komendarek has a lot to reflect on and give many praises to coaches, friends and family that have helped her throughout her high school career.
“My four years playing basketball at NHS have been unforgettable and I am so blessed to have been given the opportunities and accolades that I have been awarded. I would like to thank my dad for always encouraging me to follow my dreams and do what I love,” said Komendarek, “To Coach Bennett, thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking a chance with me. Coach Bennett has always dedicated his time to help me and my teammates improve our game. He has spent countless hours with me working on fundamentals and in the weight room to help me become a better player.” Komendarek concluded by saying “I am very fortunate to have had the influence of my dad and my coaches (Josh Bennett and Mike Huggler) in my development as a basketball player.”
The passion and will to succeed that Komendarek has expressed and shown throughout her career as a Purple Tornado athlete is inspiring – something that will surely impact the next generation of NHS basketball players as they each begin to forge their own paths.
The journey that Komendarek navigated herself is nothing short of unique, the best part is that she’s succeeded in the only way she has known how by smiling, being charismatic, and always full of passion for her personal pursuits.
She’s an all-state athlete in her own right, but most importantly she’s all original and will always and forever be a Purple Tornado basketball player at heart.