Stoner’s de­ci­sion re­sults in medal

Pottsville grad­u­ate takes 3rd in NCAA steeplechase race

The Republican Herald - - SPORTS - JOE MULDOWNEY Run­ning Colum­nist

EU­GENE, Ore. — Prior to the fi­nals of the women’s 3,000-me­ter steeplechase at Satur­day’s NCAA Division I Track and Field Cham­pi­onships held at his­toric Hayward Field, Pottsville Area grad­u­ate Paige Stoner had to make a bold de­ci­sion.

Her choices were to sit back and let the fa­vorite, Boise State’s Al­lie Os­tran­der, dic­tate the pace, or go for broke and chal­lenge the reign­ing steeplechase cham­pion.

Like she has all sea­son, Stoner chose the lat­ter and went for the win.

The 3,000-me­ter steeplechase, which de­rives its name from the horse rac­ing steeplechase, is a bru­tal event. The dis­tance is a lit­tle less than two miles, within which run­ners must hur­dle a to­tal of 28 im­mov­able, 30-inch high bar­ri­ers as well as a 12-foot wide wa­ter jump on all seven laps. Af­ter the legs fa­tigue, hur­dling the bar­ri­ers be­comes in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult, caus­ing many a run­ner to trip and fall to the track.

The Syra­cuse Univer­sity ju­nior placed third in the event in a per­sonal-best time of 9 min­utes, 46 sec­onds. It was the per­fect cap to what has been a su­perb sea­son for Stoner in nearly every race she has run.

In the fall, Stoner proved her­self to be one of the top har­ri­ers in the coun­try in her fi­nal year of el­i­gi­bil­ity in cross coun­try.

At the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onships in Louisville, Ken­tucky, she bat­tled

Dor­cas Wasike, a Kenyan na­tive run­ning for the Univer­sity of Louisville. Stoner found an­other gear in the last 100 me­ters of the race and pre­vailed in a time of 19:52 on the 6-kilo­me­ter course, cap­tur­ing the ACC cham­pi­onship.

In mis­er­able con­di­tions, she placed sec­ond at re­gion­als in Buf­falo, New York, then she went on to run the ex­act same time of 19:52 to earn a 17th-place fin­ish at the NCAA Cham­pi­onships.

Stoner’s suc­cess con­tin­ued through­out her in­door sea­son, when she raced at dis­tances of 3K and 5K. In her own words, Stoner prefers an “hon­est” race over a tac­ti­cal one. In a tac­ti­cal race, com­peti­tors tend to bunch to­gether at a re­laxed pace, then as the race winds down, the run­ner with the fastest sprint usu­ally pre­vails.

At In­door Na­tion­als held at Texas A&M, the race was a slower, tac­ti­cal race, but Stoner placed 8th in a time of 16:02 for 5 kilo­me­ters, earn­ing All-Amer­ica hon­ors.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing an ac­com­plished run­ner, Stoner par­tic­i­pated in soc­cer, gym­nas­tics and swim­ming dur­ing her youth. She en­joys run­ning the steeplechase be­cause it ap­peals to her al­laround ath­letic abil­i­ties.

She won her first steeplechase race of the sea­son at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia in late April, clock­ing a time of 9:57. Once again, she earned an ACC cham­pi­onship, win­ning the event and drop­ping her time to 9:50. A time of 9:48 at re­gion­als earned her a spot at na­tion­als.

Thurs­day even­ing, she ran eas­ily in her qual­i­fy­ing heat, land­ing her in the steeplechase fi­nals.

Af­ter the first lap of the fi­nals race, Stoner’s face dis­played grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion, as she re­mained right on the heels of Os­tran­der. Glanc­ing side to side, and look­ing up at the large screen, she was sur­prised that the rest of the field was not brave enough to go for the win, as she and Os­tran­der were run­ning far ahead of the pack.

With about 600 me­ters to go, how­ever, the scorch­ing pace took its toll. She could feel the strength leave her legs, and with 300 me­ters re­main­ing she sur­ren­dered sec­ond place. In the end, Os­tran­der de­fended her ti­tle with an out­stand­ing time of 9:29. Stoner fin­ished third, 17 sec­onds back.

True to her hard­scrab­ble Penn­syl­va­nia roots, Stoner ran a Rocky Bal­boa-style race. She chal­lenged the cham­pion, she made her work for the vic­tory and she left noth­ing on the track. Stoner is the third best col­le­giate steeplechase run­ner in the na­tion.

Over the sum­mer, Stoner will work as a coun­selor at a Chris­tian cross coun­try camp. Faith is a ma­jor part of her run­ning. She will then travel to Switzer­land with a group of run­ners from Ath­letes in Ac­tion to com­pete against elite Euro­pean run­ners.

Stoner has a year of track el­i­gi­bil­ity re­main­ing. Al­though she en­joys run­ning the steeplechase, she said she needs to work harder on her hur­dling tech­nique if she is to im­prove. She has the speed and strength to run the steeplechase, the 5,000 me­ters or the 10,000 me­ters.

What­ever long dis­tance race Stoner elects to run, she will com­pete with a deep faith, gritty de­ter­mi­na­tion and a foun­da­tion of hard work.

PAIge sTONeR syra­cuse ju­nior

ERIC ESPADA / THEACC.COM

Syra­cuse’s Paige Stoner runs dur­ing the fi­nal of the 3,000-me­ter steeplechase dur­ing the 2018 ACC Out­door Track and Field Cham­pi­onships.

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