Sports Story

by Staff

A thousand miles from home, Jen Stakiw prepares for a race. Shecame to San Diego State University with two dreams: Of earning ascholarship and being the best distance track runner at SDSU.

When she arrived at school, she was given a new task: she wasasked to run cross country.

For those who don’t know, distance running and cross country arevery different. Both are long distance, but cross country is longerin distance and more strenuous.

Instead of running on a smooth track in a stadium as it’s done intrack and field, cross country is run along a course through rivers,mud, and up hills. Needless to say, it brings in all the elements.

Coming to SDSU from Canada, and having never ran cross countrybefore, freshman Jennifer Stakiw, known to most as Jen, made the jumpfrom track to cross country faster than she expected.

“I thought it would take a little longer for me to find my groovein cross country,” Stakiw said. “But the team has made it reallyeasy. They are very welcoming, and we back each other up when we needit most.”

She has made the most of her first few months in the United Statesand has become one of the top runners at San Diego State.

“Cross country isn’t that big of a deal in Canada,” Stakiw said.”People don’t pay much attention to it up there, but I don’t knowwhy. I’m very glad I started running it though; it’s a blast.”

Stakiw began running competitively at age 11, and when high schoolbegan, she started to excel. However, when she reached her senioryear, she started noticing boredom setting in.

“I was tired of racing the same girls every week,” Stakiw said. “Iwanted to see who else was out there. I wanted to push myself to seehow good I could really be.”

Her question was answered in the season’s second race. After theIrvine Invitational, assistant coach Jennifer Nanista was veryimpressed with Stakiw, who finished the course in 19 minutes, 37seconds — good for 58th place.

“The team ran tough considering the competition,” Nanista said.”Jennifer Stakiw ran a great race and made up for some of our runnerswho did not run well today.”

This past week, Stakiw continued to impress her peers and coaches.She ran the course in 19:04, the same time as fellow freshman AliciaStewart, and finished only one place behind her, finishing 17th.

“All season, my goal has been to keep up with Alicia Stewart,”Stakiw said. “This weekend, I stuck with her all the way. It was agreat feeling.”

Said Nanista: “Of all the girls on our team, Jen has the mostpotential. If she could harness her ability, and put it all towardscross country, she’d be unstoppable.”

Head coach Rahn Sheffield couldn’t say enough about Jen Stakiw.

“She is the real deal,” Sheffield said. “She never ran CrossCountry before this season, and has performed marvelously. She andAlicia Stewart are the future of this team, and the way they arerunning, the future looks good.”