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September 26, 2013

Cross country team's legs carry them and their records

By Brendan Samsa

The Cleveland State University Cross Country team placed in the top five for the third week in a row Saturday. Over that span the lady Vikings showcased their talents with numerous season-best times and four lifetime-best times.

Before Saturday’s Friendship Invitational in Cedarville, the team had placed sixth, fourth and second in the first three races of the season. On Saturday, the team was able to bring home a third place finish with Dayton and Tiffin being the only two schools that outran the Vikings.

Head Coach Joe Jaketic stressed how proud he was to see the “team unity” that these girls have expressed this season. Having eight freshmen on the team this year, he is very pleased with the energy and anticipation he has seen.

“It’s very gratifying to see them improve and achieve their goals, and make new goals after achieving previous ones,” said Jaketic. “They hang in there together as a team, always encouraging each other.”

Last weekend in route to a second place finish in Athens, the lady Vikings had four lifetime-best performances. Of the four girls who broke lifetime-best times, Ashlyn Woods led the pack with a time of 19:14, finishing fifth overall in the race. She was followed closely by Erin Pavick with a time of 19:15, which was good for a seventh place finish. Not far off were Amelia Holt, who ran a time of 20:26 and Shannon Kruger with a time of 21:30 finishing 18th and 29th respectively. All four girls are freshman this year.

After improving not only individually but as a team in the first four races, capturing a first place finish is on the girl’s minds, but growing and continuing to get better is their main focus.

“I think we are capable of it, we just need to keep improving week by week,” said Amelia Holt.

Ashlyn Woods has placed in all four races so far this year, which is the first time a Freshman has done so since Allison Craine placed in all eight races in 2007.

“My teammates keep me going, in practice they are very encouraging and that carries into the races,” said Woods. “I am just very blessed to have such awesome teammates.”

As if the high level of performance his team demonstrates in their races isn’t enough, coach Jaketic’s girls perform in the classroom as well. Being known as a coach that puts academics before athletics Jaketic regularly checks on his runners to make sure they keep up with their studies.

“We talk about academics before and after every practice,” Jaketic said. “I also regularly check to make sure the girls are going to their study tables as well. Education is very important to me.”

With the combination of hard work and determination on and off the field these girls seem to have all the intangibles. Showing vast improvement each week there is no telling how far their drive and ambition will take them.

The team will take a break from competition this coming week as they prepare for the All-Ohio Championship coming up on Oct, 4.