By Ian McAlister, Sports Editor
The name is Salena Sykes. Most students at UMF might know her as a student. A fan of cross country might know her as a very successful athlete.
Sykes is in her fourth and final year as a cross country runner for UMF. For everyone that does not know, she has been a star runner ever since she stepped foot on campus. She was named to the NAC All-Conference First Team for three years in a row (2009, 2010 and 2011) and last year she won the conference meet and was named the 2011 NAC Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Year. Also, her first two years at Farmington, they placed first in the Conference as a team.
Cross country is a simple sport but consists of hard work, dedication, and a tremendous amount of patience. “What motivates me is knowing that I’m doing everything for a reason. Every workout we do at practice is going to impact our race in some way. As far as overcoming the soreness, we have recovery days where we run 8 or so miles at a slow pace, and we do pool workouts every so often,” said Sykes in a recent email interview.
At what point in time does anyone decide to pursue something competitively?
“I think probably my senior year of high school. I had improved a lot on my times during my junior year, so senior year I went into the season with goals for myself. I realized that I had the potential to continue running in college so I wanted to really put myself out there and see what happened,” said Sykes.
With Sykes having a natural ability to run, it can confuse anyone to think she couldn’t succeed in other sports. But why running? Why not soccer or basketball? “I think the main reason I’m a runner is because it’s such an inviting sport. Anyone can run at anytime, and at meets there’s always a feeling of excitement…everyone’s there to do the best they can.”
Sykes continued, “There’s only one winner, out of hundreds of runners sometimes, so really my biggest competitor is myself. I’m running to beat my times from last year and push myself physically and mentally as far as I can, I’m not necessarily running to win. I’ve never been a competitive person, so running fits me very well.”
It can be difficult for an athlete to do a sport and maintain their academics. It can also be hard for a runner to get in shape so the coach doesn’t think an athlete is rusty. “Off season I just try and run the most that I can. Summer is a busy time and that’s when the training starts to get intense, so it’s really important to try to get the runs in,” said Sykes.
Getting in shape is only half way to success in sports. An important factor is to continue with your training and stay in shape. That’s exactly what Sykes does not slack in. “During the season I’m usually super busy with school, work, and running, so sleep is definitely a must. I try to get a good 8 hours, which isn’t always possible, but it would be ideal.”
With being a dedicated athlete, it not only requires a great deal of exercise but a healthy diet as well. “As far as diet is concerned, I’ve never really focused much on that…I know that carbs are good, and it’s important to stay hydrated. Basically, I eat when I’m hungry…which is most of the time.”
Sykes has been a runner competitively since her 8th grade year. But as all great runs are heard and enjoyed, they eventually have to come to an end. Since it is Sykes final year here at UMF, she’ll continue her love of the sport after graduation.
“I’ve always enjoyed road races and I think I’d like to try some longer distances. Maybe some 10ks or half marathons. It would be awesome to run a marathon and I plan to do so one day,” Sykes said.
This year Sykes was recognized as an athlete of the week for the North Atlantic Conference(NAC). Sykes looks to continue her success with playoffs just around the corner.