Tuesday, July 4, 2017

FAITH, FAMILY, FORTITUDE

Following is my column from the Republican Herald newspaper, which was published today.
Paige Stoner is a very talented, dedicated runner. The sky's the limit for this young  athlete.

Faith, family and fortitude.
Pottsville’s Paige Stoner has been guided by these beliefs throughout her stellar running career.
Stoner began running at the Hershey Youth Track and Field competition at the age of 10. By the time she reached eighth grade, she had won the state championship in both the 800- and 1,600-meter races. At Pottsville Area she won the Schuylkill League Cross Country championship all four years, earned the District 11 championship twice, and placed second at states as a freshman.
Her high school track credentials include league championships in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races from freshman to senior year, a 3,200-meter relay team championship at the District 11 meet as a sophomore, and a 1,600- and 3,200-meter first-place medal as a senior.
At states, she placed third in the 3,200 as a senior with a time of 10:41. In her senior year at leagues she ran her personal-best 1,600-meter time of 4:56.
She credits the high level of competition in Pennsylvania as excellent preparation for collegiate running.
Stoner began her college career at Lipscomb University, a private Christian college in Nashville, Tennessee, where she competed for a year and a half. During that time, after turning in grueling months of high mileage training, she placed second in the Atlantic Sun Conference Cross Country Championships, as well as second in the 5K and steeplechase at the conference track and field championships. Unfortunately the mega-miles took their toll, and she suffered a stress fracture of her foot during her sophomore year.
Stoner decided to transfer to Syracuse University. Today, however, she still maintains friendships with many of her Lipscomb teammates, who share her deep Christian faith.
Syracuse head track and cross country coach Chris Fox knows a little something about running. He has run a 2:13 marathon and enjoyed a very successful 18-year professional running career.
Stoner credits the rigorous but sensible coaching of Fox and assistant coach Brien Bell as the reason for her success and her good running health at Syracuse. Intense six-mile hilly tempo runs, workouts that simulate the steady pace of racing, speedy track interval sessions and weekly long runs, as well as easy rest days, comprise her 60- to 65-mile training weeks.
During the 2016 cross country season, Stoner earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors, placing 17th in the ACC and 11th at regionals. She achieved a personal best of 20:32 in the 6K and missed nationals by a mere .02 of a second.
After a successful indoor track season in which she ran a personal best time of 16:05 in the 5K — good enough to place third in the ACC Indoor Championships — she set her sights on outdoor track.
Her 2017 outdoor track achievements include a personal-best time of 33:55 in the 10K and qualifying times for nationals in the 5K, 10K and the steeplechase.
At the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, in June, Stoner placed fourth in her heat in the steeplechase and 15th overall with a Syracuse school record time of 10:02. She missed qualifying for the finals by two seconds.
Stoner’s immediate goals include placing in the top three at the ACC Cross Country Championships and advancing to Nationals. In track, she is not sure if she will run the steeplechase or the 5K, but she would like to place in the top 10 at nationals.
For the long term, she would like to compete as a professional runner and earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
Although they are extremely proud of their daughter, Stoner says her parents “never pressured me.” Her deceased grandfather, Bob Stoner, a member of the Pottsville Area High School Football Hall of Fame and a track runner, was, according to Paige, “her biggest fan.”
Paige Stoner is a humble champion. Faith, family and fortitude will always be the keys to her success.