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Coconino athlete changes direction, it works out for best

Athletes work hard and spend a lot of time preparing to try out for a team. But it doesn’t always work out and they are not selected.

As deflating as that might be, all is not lost. There can be alternatives to which the energy can be directed, and sometimes things can work out after all.

One can look to Flagstaff Coconino junior Sydney Gingrich as an example.

She had played club volleyball around northern Arizona and elsewhere, but was not on the final roster at Coconino.

So what did she do?

She made a run for it, joining the Panthers’ cross-country team.

Cross-country coach Mary Cozby had her girls ready to run six miles when Gingrich showed up. What happened next came straight from a storybook. Gingrich had done a bit of distance work while training for volleyball, but had not run competitively.

But by the end of the run, Gingrich was at the front of the pack, and she has continued to improve since that day.

“She was in front the whole way. I guess she thought that was normal, but it really isn’t. I was impressed,’’ said Cozby, in her first year after coaching more than a decade in Tucson, where she coached at Catalina Foothills, Sunnyside and Tucson highs.

Gingrich has dropped nearly a minute off her average mile time (now about 7:35) and is looking forward to competing in Saturday’s (Sept. 28) Jack Boehle Invitational (both girls and boys competition) hosted by Coconino.

In addition to Coconino, participating teams are Flagstaff, Flagstaff Northland Prep, Tuba City Greyhills, Ganado, Tuba City and Winslow.

Other top girls runners for Coconino are senior Natalya Gage and sophomore Jo-Lynsie Begay. Coconino’s top boys are sophomore Kendrick Holmes, freshman Reid Hatch and senior Ty Crowther.

Gingrich acknowledged that making the switch to cross country was difficult at first.

“It was a lot different than volleyball,’’ she said. “I had been around volleyball people for a long time. I was going to have all new teammates. I had never run before. Coach and the girls were good to me, and I have made some new friends.’’

And she has excelled in the classroom. Gingrich has a 3.8 grade-point average and enjoys learning physics because it has many applications in many areas.

Before joining the team, she ran a mile during a training session and had a decent time.

“I thought that I maybe could work on that more,’’ she said. “My mom had always wanted to get me to try it (cross country), but it was always at the same time as volleyball.’’

She still loves volleyball and admits, “There are some days when I still really miss it.’’

There still are some things about cross country that she is trying to get used to.

One of them is the start.

“There are a lot of people, particularly at the bigger meets, and that kind of freaks me out a little,’’ she said.

She tries not to be influenced too much about the pace of the other runners, be it fast or slow.

“I try to run at my own pace, be consistent as much as I can,’’ she said.

She said she “has no idea’’ how her times have come down.

“I am still surprised,’’ she said. “I just try to keep working at it.’’

Her story is a true testament to never giving up.

 

 

 

 

 

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