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Cekada returns to NCAA Championship

Junior makes second appearance in national meet

November 16, 2011

Annie Cekada will compete in the NCAA Cross Country Championship Saturday.

Annie Cekada will compete in the NCAA Cross Country Championship Saturday.

Annie Cekada will add another chapter to what will surely someday be a Wilmington College Hall of Fame career when she competes in the NCAA Cross Country Championship Saturday.

Cekada (Mineral Point, Pa./Central Cambria) qualified for the national meet with a 14th-place individual finish at the Great Lakes Region Championship Nov. 12. Cekada’s time of 22:14 shattered her own WC 6k record and earned the junior her third straight all-region honor.

Cekada will be making her second appearance at the national level. After becoming the first WC runner to qualify for the NCAA meet in 2009, she missed qualifying for last year’s national meet by one position.

“It was definitely a really good experience my freshman year,” Cekada said. “Missing by a spot last year gave me even more motivation this year, just something to strive for the whole time.”

A self-described work in progress, Cekada said her two-plus years at Wilmington College have given her more succinct short- and long-term focus to living and running.

“I definitely have grown as a runner and a person, being at Wilmington,” Cekada said. “In high school, there were a lot of people to run with, but in college I have become a stronger runner by concentrating on different parts of running. I know I want to keep running after I am out of college. It just grows with you more and more. It has definitely been a great experience.”

At noon Saturday, Cekada will toe the start line at Lake Breeze Golf Course in Winneconne, Wis. She said the course’s layout and other factors are not major sources of concern.

“No, it really doesn’t matter to me. We always get there ahead of time to see or run the course,” Cekada said. “It’s part of cross country — you go to a different place each time. I like running at different places.”

The Wilmington women’s team spent most of the season ranked in the Great Lakes Region’s Top 10. Cekada said the Quakers’ success was the result of group — not individual — efforts.

“I really enjoyed having Jenna Parlette there to push me the whole season,” Cekada said. “Unfortunately, she got sick and didn’t get to finish out the season, but it was definitely helpful to run with her every day. We also had Brittany Gibbons and Tricia Steffen up there with us. It was a lot better for us to have a group to run with this year. There was always somebody there every day to push the whole group.”

Cekada’s season was blended with the perspective of success and family tragedy. The pain of her grandfather’s death was soothed by the support of her family in Pennsylvania and her new family in Wilmington.

“It was hard being away from home, but I still talk to my family every day. Even though they are far away, I know they are thinking about me and I am thinking about them all the time. And to tell you the truth, the team is like my second family. When stuff happened this season, I really realized how great of a team we do have and how close we all are. We are a family together,” Cekada said.