GIRLS TRACK

Soccer star Violanti returns to Valpo track as a distance runner

2013-05-06T18:30:00Z 2013-05-13T21:56:50Z Soccer star Violanti returns to Valpo track as a distance runnerJim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com

Baking cookies, going to the beach or simply relaxing.

With her soccer scholarship to Wright State secured, Andrea Violanti could've passed the time of her final semester at Valparaiso in a variety of ways.

Rather than take the easier route, she chose track, specifically distance running.

"My dad (Steve) started running and I figured, if he can do it, I can do it," Violanti said. "It gives us a fun time to bond and it really keeps me in good shape for soccer. If I wasn't on the team, I'd be doing it on my own, and being part of the team's more fun. It keeps me involved in the school."

After Boomer Nellessen was named head coach, Violanti let him know she was interested in joining the ranks.

"I loved the change, the whole philosophy," she said. "It was a big difference."

Even if Violanti lacked the background, the first-year head coach was glad to have a veteran presence on a team laden with freshmen and sophomores.

"Being so young, it was really good to see her come out, to have an older girl with the distance group," Nellessen said. "They're such a tight group because of cross country, she brought a breath of fresh air."

Involved in track and cross country in middle school, Violanti ran track as a sophomore and was in the sectional lineup, running the 200. After focusing on soccer as a junior to put her college plans in order, she returned to the oval, this time doing the 3,200.

"The training's definitely different," she said. "Before I was running a lap or half a lap, now I'm running eight. It's more mental. You can psych yourself out of the race. It happens in (other races), but I've seen it more in longer distance. I came in with an open mind. My dad kept telling me, 'Be happy. You're a soccer player. You're not a total runner.' I'm pleased with how I've done."

Though she's inexperienced as a distance runner, Violanti has embraced the leadership role that comes with being a senior.

"Most of them are better than me, but I could still guide them in the right direction," she said. "They have a lot of talent. I didn't want them to be treated how I was when I was younger. I felt like I wasn't able to talk, like I didn’t matter. I was new to the group, but the girls were very welcoming. They didn't make me feel like an outsider at all. It's another reason I'm glad I did it. I've met a lot of new girls."

Violanti continues to play soccer, teaming with the Indianapolis-based club, FC Pride, and enjoys the contrast in sports that track brings.

"Track, it's all on you," she said. "It's why I like to do both. It keeps me in between."

Nellessen believes Violanti's soccer will also benefit from the running experience, as his did from swimming in high school.

"It's not always sports specific," he said. "She's definitely helped the younger girls. I think it has really made them think about the opportunities they have in front of them and doing things because they love to do them, not because they are told they have to."

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