When Kelly Perzanowski won the Atlantic Sun Conference women's cross country championship, it wasn't just a victory for her, it was a triumph for Florida Gulf Coast University.
See, championships are nice and all for the St. Clairsville High School graduate. But she gets more satisfaction out of helping her school achieve success than winning herself.
Perhaps it's that attitude that's been the reason for Perzanowski's own prosperity the last four years with the Eagles.
Photo Courtesy/FLORIDA GULF COAST
ST. CLAIRSVILLE grad Kelly Perzanowski crosses the finish line as the champion at the Atlantic Sun Cross Country Championships held earlier this month. Perzanowski competes for Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Meyers.
''It was a win for the program,'' Perzanowski said of the Atlantic Sun title via phone from the school's Florida campus. ''My teammates were so happy. We were celebrating together which is exactly how I wanted it.''
Officially, FGCU finished eighth in the team standings. But you wouldn't have known it judging from the squad's reaction to Perzanowski's win.
That's because it was a school first. The former Red Devil broke the tape in 17:21.02, giving the school its first individual cross country Atlantic Sun champion.
The winning time was the sixth-fastest in conference history and gave Perzanowski conference Female Runner of the Year honors.
''Kelly's performance was outstanding,'' Eagles head coach Cassandra Gordon said after the race. ''After working incredibly hard for four years she deserves these results and the praises that are accompanied.
''Her performance builds a great momentum leading into the NCAA regional championships.''
FGCU will participate in the NCAA Division I South Regional on Friday at the University of Alabama's Harry Pritchett Running Course.
''I'm just going to show up and do the best I can and try to run a good time and set a PR (personal record) and have fun,'' Perzanowski said. ''It's regionals and it's a lot less pressure.''
The conference meet presented a completely different mindset.
''That was something I did want to win,'' she said. ''That was something that would mean a lot to the team and the coaches. There were more expectations there.''
It was the culmination of four years of blood, sweat and tears.
''It felt great,'' she said of the feeling of crossing the finish line. ''I did have a lot of things going through my mind.''
Most of all was the fact Florida Gulf Coast University wouldn't be looked upon as a cross country program that couldn't boast a winner. Perzanowski, most of all, wanted to help the school lay the foundation for future success.
''I'm hoping to set the bar higher for the teams in future years and show recruits that if you come here you'll get better and faster and, on top of that, you'll have fun doing it,'' she said.
Former Harrison Central standout Ericka Skinner earned Conference Carolinas All-Conference third team honors recently at the league's cross country meet in High Point, N.C.
Skinner was one of three Barton College juniors that led the Bulldogs to a third-place finish in the event.
Holubeck paces WJU Men
Wheeling Jesuit University's Luke Holubeck raced to a 12th place finish Saturday at the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional at Lock Haven University, but failed to qualify for the national meet in Spokane, Wash.
The Cardinals were eighth in the team standings.