FLCC Hosts National Cross Country Championship

Finger Lakes Community College’s lineup for next weekend’s cross country championships includes seasoned competitors and one woman plucked from a college gym class after a coach saw her run.FLCC will host the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 7.“How many people can say they’ve been in a national competition? It’s a big deal for our runners,” said Rob Wink of Canandaigua, the college’s cross country coach.FLCC expects more than 200 runners representing about 30 colleges from as far away as Illinois. This is the fourth national cross country competition at FLCC since 1992.The college’s combined men’s and women’s cross country team has 17 runners. Of that number, seven men and six women will compete in nationals. Currently, the team ranks 10th out of 35 colleges in the NJCAA Division III.Wink, also an assistant professor of environmental conservation and horticulture, has coached the FLCC team for five years. “I’m fortunate to have very positive people on the team who give their all. At a recent meet, six of our runners bested their personal times,” he said.David Cook, 28, of Canandaigua is the team’s top runner, Wink said. “He has terrific focus and is dedicated as a runner. He’s a natural leader, a good role model,” the coach added.“I’m pretty excited about having nationals here. It will be the culmination of my experiences at FLCC,” said Cook, who speaks highly of his fellow runners. “We have a great, cohesive team. We push each other and have a healthy sense of competition, but without rivalries.”Casey Johnston, 19, of Shortsville, broke her personal record at nationals last year, taking 5 minutes off her time. “I never expected to be able to run this fast,” Johnston said. She plans to continue running when she graduates from FLCC in the spring, whether it’s on a college team or on her own. After trying football, wrestling, lacrosse and track in high school, Jeff Hudson, 19, of Brockport, discovered he liked running better. So he focused on track. However, Hudson didn’t run during his first year at FLCC, “That was a big mistake,” he said. “Running helps me keep on schedule, and I’m more energized.” Wink praised Hudson’s work ethic – and his infectious sense of humor.“Yeah,” Hudson chuckled. “I’m the jokester of the team, but I know when to be serious. I like to help keep the others focused and encourage them. It’s not about being good; it’s about being better.“The team sees nationals as the end of the tunnel for all the hard work we’ve done this season,” added Hudson.Danielle DiSalvo, 20, of Williamson, had never run before joining the FLCC team this year. Wink saw her in an FLCC walk and jog class, pulled her aside and asked whether she had ever thought of running competitively. “I didn’t think I could do it, but I thought it would be great to be a part of a team. I was very nervous when I started,” DiSalvo said. “Now I love competitive running. It feels great, and I get such a sense of accomplishment, even in a practice.”FLCC’s cross country course has a reputation as a challenging one due to its diverse terrain, which includes gradual slopes, hills and blind corners.“This is a true cross country course. It’s technical, with lots of turns and different surfaces. It’s a big plus that our runners are familiar with the course. They understand the focus needed to run it,” said Wink. “A runner has to know how to run hills at the end of a race. Our team has the experience of doing that.”The 8-kilometer (almost 5 miles) men’s race begins at 10 a.m., and the women’s 5-kilometer (just over 3 miles) race starts at 11 a.m.Spectators can view the start and the finish of the races at the athletic fields behind the main FLCC building, 3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua. Parking will be available in Lot D at the top of the hill.The national championship will close with an awards ceremony at noon.

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