College Sports

Sickman makes leap to No. 1 on Lady Eagles' cross country team

Winthrop's Lisa Sickman is expected to become the Eagles' No. 1 runner this season.
Winthrop's Lisa Sickman is expected to become the Eagles' No. 1 runner this season.

There were times during her days at Clarkston (Mich.) High School when Lisa Sickman got overlooked or lost in the shuffle.

But that's going to happen when you have the bevy of talented runners needed to field a team ranked No. 1 in the nation in indoor and outdoor track.

"We had eight girls the same team who would have been the top runner at any other school in the state," Sickman said just before heading out to cross country practice at the Winthrop golf course. "It was an outstanding team, and I was just happy to be a part of it."

Winthrop coach Ben Paxton is happy that Sickman is part of his program and said she won't get overlooked or lost in the shuffle this year.

Sickman ran No. 4 for the Lady Eagles last year as a freshman, but Paxton expects the psychology major to be his No. 1 runner when the season starts at Appalachian State on Friday.

"I'm not sure if Lisa had taken cross country as seriously as she should have until last season," Paxton said. "Now she's finally beginning to see how important cross country is to getting better at indoor and outdoor track."

And that's where Sickman has always done her best. She earned indoor and outdoor All-America recognition in three relays -- the 4x800 meter, 4x1600 and the distance medley.

The Lady Eagles were one of the youngest teams in the country last season, which caused an up-and-down season, according to Paxton.

"We got off to a fast start but our youth caught up with us," he said. "This year I think we'll run smarter."

That's something Sickman knows she has to do to finish at the front consistently. Last year there were times she would get nervous and go out too fast, tire and have nothing in the tank down the stretch.

"It just takes getting use to it and staying focused," she said.

Another thing she must adjust to is the blistering South Carolina heat. Coming from Michigan, Sickman never had to deal with 100 degree-plus days.

"I'd complain if I had to run when it was 85," Sickman said, laughing. "There were some mornings during the summer that I had to decide if I needed a sweatshirt."

Sickman changed her at-home training regimen in the weeks leading up to her return to Rock Hill.

"I made myself run in the heat of the day," she said.

Paxton has high hopes for the Lady Eagles this season, even though there are no seniors on the roster. The Lady Eagles were picked fifth in the preseason Big South Conference poll.

One big addition is former Northwestern standout Theresa Verostek, who started her college career at South Carolina.

"We recruited her hard when she was in high school," Paxton said, "but she went to South Carolina. We're glad to have her."

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