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First Time for Everything

Sep 3, 2012, 7:05 PM EDT

When you ask most college athletes when they took up their sport, many will tell you they’ve been playing since they were five or six years old. Occasionally you’ll find a latecomer who latched-on at 10 or 12. And then there’s freshman runner Sydni Meunier, who ran her first cross-country race this past Friday.

Sydni, who ran the 5K Crusader Invitational course in 18:10.2 and finished third overall, was a state champion in track during her years at Gibson City Melvin Sibley High School (Illinois). But the GCMS Falcons only have about 300 students, which isn’t enough to field a cross-country team.

Most distance runners compete in both cross-country and track, but while the goal of both is the same (to put it simply, run faster than everyone else) the two sports are far from identical. Cross-country races tend to cover more miles, cross more surfaces and feature more runners – with more flying elbows. That’s a lot to get used to.

“I think it was smart to have me run this meet first because it was a smaller meet; there were only four teams there, whereas the invites will have a lot more girls on the line,” Sydni said. “But even with not very many [runners] it was still different. I just stuck with the Notre Dame girls through the first curve. I bumped elbows a couple of times – we get a little bit closer than we do on the track, but it was fun. I felt so adventurous.”

Sydni said that the reassurance of running with so many teammates helped her in this first race, but she thinks the next few meets will be even better.

“I love how in cross country the plan is a lot of the time to stick together and work together and finish strong together,” Sydni said. “But I was really satisfied with how it went and having that one under my belt [will make] the next one will be even better. I feel like there’s a lot of room for improvement still, so I can really maximize that in the upcoming races.”

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