Digging in

Nate Stuart

Blackstone leads women’s cross country team to MAC Championships

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY GAVIN JACKSON | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

Senior Stephanie Blackstone doesn’t only lead the Kent State women’s cross country team with the best times this season. She leads it with experience and a desire to win.

Blackstone had an unusual high school cross country career, which didn’t begin until her junior year. Most of the girls on Kent State’s team have been running most of their lives.

She was the first and only girl from her high school in the small town of Everett, Pa., who wanted to run cross country. So she had to practice and travel with nearby Bedford High School. She competed independently, which she said was difficult at times. The hardest moment she recalls was watching the Bedford team huddle up and do a cheer while she stretched by herself.

Blackstone remains the only girl from her high school to run cross country. She dominated the competition in her division, despite not running for a team.

Now that she runs with Kent State’s team, Blackstone said she is ecstatic.

The Flashes’ cross country program is improving because they are in a “honeymoon” stage with new coaches, she said. The coaches are doing a much better job recruiting for the program, she said, and the team should continue to improve during the next few years.

“You can tell that they’re going places,” Blackstone said.

Blackstone said her role on the team is “mom.” The team is young, and a lot of the girls ask her questions. She said she sees a lot of enthusiasm in the young runners and their hearts are in the right places.

“Running isn’t rocket science,” Blackstone said. “They need to trust their training and do what they need to when it comes to meet time.”

As a photojournalism major, Blackstone’s goal is to work for a major magazine such as Sports Illustrated. She said she would love to mix her interests of running and taking pictures.

Blackstone does photography on the side to make money. She has shot weddings, as well as senior portraits, that she said have been in high demand in Pennsylvania.

Blackstone plans to continue running after she graduates. She said she will compete in at least one marathon, she points out that many runners who have graduated from Kent State run in marathons now.

“I never see myself not running,” Blackstone said.

She said she enjoys running cross country more than track and field, pointing out that in cross country, running is healthier. Running on a track increases the amount of weight on your feet up to eight times, she said, whereas running in grass adds three times your body weight. On top of that, she said running on a track is monotonous and she enjoys different scenery when she runs.

Blackstone thinks Kent State will do well in the Mid-American Conference Championships next week. She said in years past it was pretty obvious who was going to win the MAC Championships, but this year is different. She thinks the girls are capable of winning it all, despite being picked to finish low.

Blackstone said the breakthrough moment in her career was during her freshman year when she filled in for the injured No. 1 runner at the MAC Championships. The coach wasn’t expecting much from her, she said, but Blackstone exceeded expectations by finishing sixth. She said she used the race as inspiration and has continued to improve every year.

Contact sports correspondent Nate Stuart at [email protected]