Skodis makes unprecedented move from Syracuse’s middle-distance team to varsity

first_imgRebecca Skodis started too quickly, got tired and mentally checked out.At an indoor race at Cornell her freshman year, the rough beginning derailed the walk-on’s race — one of the worst in her collegiate career.Skodis was left thinking about what could’ve been. She had turned down multiple Division III offers to run. There, the schools had said she’d be their best runner.Instead, she was as a walk-on to Syracuse’s middle-distance indoor track and field team, essentially a practice squad. Skodis couldn’t help but wonder if she had made a mistake.“I thought, ‘Am I really good enough for this team?’” she said. “I questioned if I did deserve to be here because so many girls were out-performing me.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut Skodis, now a redshirt sophomore, has worked her way up from the middle-distance squad to the varsity level — a promotion head coach Chris Fox had never made before.She ran in last Friday’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship for the Orange, finishing third for the team and 49th overall. Skodis will race in the NCAA Northeast Regional — a pivotal race to qualify for the NCAA meet — on Nov. 14 in the Bronx, New York.This season, on a 23-woman roster, she is one of only four to run in all of the Syracuse women’s cross-country team’s races.“We did not expect her to do this,” Fox said.It’s a far cry from doubting herself at Cornell.After that race, Skodis returned to Cornell less than one month later for the Kane Invitational during the winter of her freshman year. She shaved 20 seconds off her time to finish in 10:48.6 seconds, a personal best, stoking SU assistant coach Adam Smith’s hopes.The ability to forget a bad performance and crush the next race came as no surprise to Mike O’Malley, Skodis’ track coach at Wachusett (Massachusetts) High School.“You could always count on her mental toughness,” he said. “She was always even-keeled in her approach.”She advanced from the middle-distance group to a separate group Smith led, which met at a separate time.Fox and Smith let her race at this season’s Penn State and Boston meets. Her seventh-place finishes for her team in both meets raised eyebrows.In the decade of Fox’s SU coaching tenure, there has never been another runner who’s been pulled up, but that didn’t stop the head coach.“To have the confidence to keep going, it’s inspirational,” said Margo Malone, SU’s top runner.Socially, Skodis got to know her varsity teammates through food-related activities, she said with a laugh. Coffee shops, like Recess on Westcott Street or Strong Hearts have been regular spots.On days when the Orange works out, a group of about 10 girls meet at 7:30 a.m. at Barry Park, at the corner of Brock Street and Meadowbrook, to do a 25–30 minute run to keep their mileage up.From there, Skodis goes to class, eats a light lunch and goes to the team’s regularly scheduled practice. Skodis does everything asked of her there, but not a lot more.“It’s about listening to what your body’s saying,” Skodis said.She’ll use the rollers if she’s feeling tight, or utilize the ice bath after practice. Sleeping, eating right and not over-exerting herself are what she’s best at. Skodis’ high school cross-country coach, Lawrence Jaquith, did SU a favor by not running her too hard.But two years ago, at the indoor Cornell meet, few could’ve guessed that Skodis would still been running in college now.Fox has watched her get fitter and improve, particularly in September. She’s moved from the back of the pack to the middle, he said, and now past the middle.“Some people are afraid of racing, but she’s not,” Fox said. “And she’s beating a lot of girls that weren’t walk-ons.” Comments Published on November 5, 2014 at 12:05 am Contact Sam: [email protected] | @Sam4TR Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

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