PORTAGE | Usually when a standout cross country runner also competes in track, the transition from fall to spring is made easier by sticking with distance events.
It’s what the runner is used to, and it saves coaches from worrying about the mile or two-mile events.
But Portage senior Paige Pizer is one of the exceptions to the rule. Despite running and succeeding in cross country since her freshman year — she was the top Portage runner at the 2010 state finals in 94th place — Pizer doesn’t run the 1,600-meter or 3,200 events regularly in the spring.
Instead, Pizer runs the 800 and runs a leg in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays. She made it to state last year in the 800 (25th place) and 3,200 relay (20th).
“Ever since starting track in eighth grade, I’ve always loved the 800,” Pizer said. “It’s just come easier. It’s short, but not too short, and long enough.”
Portage’s depth helps facilitate Pizer’s running preference. The Indians’ girls cross country team has reached the state finals all four years Pizer has competed, so there’s an abundance of distance runners for the longer events.
“We have a good group of girls who can fill in those distance spots,” Pizer said.
She filled in as a 1,600 participant last week, but that was due to necessity for the team.
“She won’t run the mile a lot, but if we need her to run the mile or two-mile, she’s that kind of kid,” Portage distance coach Jay White said.
It also helps that Pizer earned the distinction of being the fastest girl in the school two years ago at Portage’s Fastest Student contest held every January.
“It’s nice to see a distance runner able to generate the leg speed to run shorter events,” Portage head coach Earl Coleman said.
“It was actually a joke among the distance runners,” White said.
White also commended Pizer on her endurance, which makes completing three runs of 400 to 800 meters in a meet a piece of cake for her.
What’s also easy for Pizer is leadership. Being an athlete that has been on varsity ever since ninth grade, she remembers all the good senior leaders she looked up to over the years in track and cross country, including a talented group her sophomore year with Sierra King, Megan Cassidy and Bri Cipich.
“I was really close to Bri,” said Pizer, who was a team captain as a junior. “I always looked up to seniors and we’ve always had a good group to provide a good example.”
It makes Coleman’s job so much easier when all he has to do is point toward Pizer if an underclassmen needs to know the right way to do things.
“Whatever workout we throw out there, she’s willing to do it without complaint,” White said.
Coleman added: “I’m most impressed with her work ethic and attitude. She’s a great mentor for our younger athletes. I’m excited to see what she can accomplish this season.”
Pizer would like the completion of her senior season to include a trip to state finals in three events instead of the two from last year, meaning she will work hard to help that 1,600 relay team to advance.