Cross Country |
Sept. 14, 2011
By Mario Cannon
The beginning of an athletic season represents a fresh start, new beginnings and new opportunities for the athletes of its sport. As many coaches know, opportunity is like potential, it means nothing unless it is capitalized on. Alison Zukowski, a University of Cincinnati women's cross country runner, is a transfer from the University of Delaware who knows about fresh starts and preparing to make the best of them. She has ranked the highest on the women's cross country team the last two meets. Credit for her newly acquired success can be given to her good work ethic, a new focus, change of scenery and good friends.
A great amount of her summer preparation is the reason for Zukowski's performance thus far. She gradually eased into her summer training due to suffering a stress fracture to her right tibia in March. She was released by the doctors to start running in April. As a mature and wiser athlete from her previous injuries, she was aware the best thing for her to do was pace herself in order to avoid reinjuring herself. She began to train heavily in July.
"I was just listening to my body and seeing how it felt," Zukowski said about training and pacing herself during workouts. "If I knew I was hurting, I'd just take a day off, instead of just running through it."
That same month Zukowski began a month long tour across America with other former (Dave Berry, Tommy Morgan and Brian Berling) and current (Courtney Staurch) University of Cincinnati cross country teammates. It was July 18 through August 15, with Henderson, Nevada the destination (about 15 minutes from Las Vegas) where Morgan had a job opportunity. During that period they traveled through more than 15 states. Every morning Staurch and Zukowski ran in the different locations and on many occasions, the other three ran as well. They took the indirect traveling route in order to see many of this nation's great sites like the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and went as far California, which is what made it a month-long trip, Zukowski explained.
"That helped because I got out of running the same things every day," a determined Zukowski said. "It motivated me more because I wanted to get out there and explore and run. The trip wasn't meant for training. Some mornings Courtney and I had to get up early to run while everyone else got to sleep in. It was hard sometimes, but we made it work."
Head coach Bill Schnier and Zukowski feel the change of scenery while training benefited and motivated her to train well this summer. As tourists, running allowed them to see the sites of the places they visited up close and personal. Scenery aside, Zukowski has always had an excellent work ethic.
"She had a good cross country season last year and vastly improved," Schnier said. "Unfortunately her training was too great so she acquired a stress fracture for the outdoor season. This year her training started under control. A little cautious to prevent a stress fracture, then it became very good. That's really why she is doing so well now. Good summer training."
Change of scenery for Zukowski over the last 2 years has become common as a University of Delaware transfer in addition to traveling the country this summer. The change has up to this point been good. Zukowski is now a leader with the UC team and has finally acquired her first collegiate cross country win.
"I feel like the team here is so much more close-knit, including the track team," Zukowski said. "At Delaware we were always separated. Sprinters did their own warm up, distance runners did their own warm up, throwers, jumpers. I really liked here how we all warmed up as a team. I got to know people of different events. At Delaware I didn't know anyone accept the distance runners."
This whole experience has been new for Zukowski. It has brought new life and opportunities. And she plans to make the best of them.