A dream come true as MU set for Nationals
From the time they started at Mansfield University twin sisters Jess and Kristy Scordino had a dream.
The two of them imagined what it would be like to both get to nationals, running together in the biggest meet in Division II with their parents watching.
Over the past couple of years Jess Scordino has made the trip to nationals in both cross country and track and field, bringing home All-America honors in both sports, while Kristy has battled injuries that at times left her just short of joining her sister at nationals.
This weekend all of that changes. The two sisters are on their way to Spokane, Washington, getting ready to join their Mansfield University teammates Lauren Norton (of Troy), Destiny Foster (of Towanda), Savannah Boucher, Allison McCurry and Lauren Orosz at cross country nationals.
"My sister," Jess Scordino said. "There are no words to explain how proud I am of that girl. To have battled injury for so long and to be in pain from running on more days than feeling good. I admire her push to keep going. She's kind of in the same situation I was last year where she has to cross-train more days than running, so I know exactly what she's probably feeling. I just love that we can finally share this experience together, both as competitors and not as a competitor and watcher."
For Kristy getting a chance to make the trip with her sister is something she has always been hoping for.
"We talked about it the other day," Kristy said. "We haven't talked about it too much, but we are looking forward to being there together. We are each other's support system. Sometimes we don't talk some days because we are so busy, but just being together helps a lot. I am happy and excited to share this with her.
"My dad said to me you can be at nationals to, you have just got to get healthy. You have got the potential to be there and I wanted nothing more than to be at nationals and to have my dad watch me and Jess compete. I'm so happy I get to do that this year. I am happy to see I am good enough, I was really happy that we made it. I wouldn't want it any other way than to run with her. I am happy to be able to share this together. If she had made it and I didn't I would have done anything to get money to go. I'm happy we are both able to be there running together."
For both sisters just getting to nationals, no matter the result, is a big achievement.
"The feeling we get when we get to the start is going to be a feeling of accomplishment no matter what the results of the actual race are," Jess said. "We have dreamed of making it to a national race together for so long that it's just awesome that we finally made it. We can finally look at each other and know that every heart ache, every sweat drop, all the ups and downs were worth it along the way.
"So many times we've wanted to give up and give in to injury but we just pushed each other to keep going because in the end racing and running is just what we love to do. It's more than just our hobby, it's our life and without it we would be totally different than we are today. So, when we get to the start line, it's going to take a lot for me to hold back tears of happiness because I know that without each other, neither one of us would have come so far."
What will make the experience more special is that the Scordino's parents will be able to make the trip to watch them run.
"My parents are able to make the trip and are so proud of both of us - and the team," Jess said. "My parents have been so supportive and dealt with having to listen to all the complaints and all the struggles we have gone through and just have been such good sports throughout our whole career as Mansfield runners. Aside from having a great support from our teammates, coaching staff and Mansfield fans, I would say that my parents are our biggest supporters and every race they can make it to they are there no matter what and I love and thank them for that."
No matter where the twins finish, they are just excited for the chance to be at nationals together.
"I've been telling myself no matter what happens at nationals, I'm going to take it as a great experience," Kristy said. "I'm going to make it a positive memory, I'm happy to be able to be there. I'm not going to look at it in any negative ways at all."
While the Scordino twins get their first chance to head to nationals together, it's also a first trip to D2 nationals for the other members of the team.
"They are really excited," Mansfield coach Mike Rohl said. "It's really nice, we have a kind of positive energy. Everyone is focused on the same goal."
For the runners getting a chance to go to nationals is something they have creamed about.
"Obviously we are very excited," Jess Scordino said. "I love each and every girl on this team and to share an experience such as this with the people you love and have progressed with throughout the season is truly special. I know what it's like to cross the line and just feel pure joy and see the joy and excitement from those supporting you and to know that my teammates are now going to be able to experience the same feeling, I just can't help but smile to myself every time."
The runners know what it took to get to this point and they know what they have to do at nationals.
"It's beyond words," Boucher said. "We have to work together and stay focused."
This year's top seven is a mix of four seniors (Jess and Kristy Scordino, Boucher and Norton) and three freshman (Orosz, McCurry and Foster).
"It's exciting, it's a good experience," freshman Allison McCurry said. "It will make us less nervous when we are older because we will have been to big meets."
"We have been doing great," Foster said. "We have worked together as a team. This was our goal and we worked hard for it."
For the seniors this is the way they wanted to end their time at Mansfield.
"We are excited to end our senior year like this," Boucher said. "It's great to be able to do this."
"It's going to be great to get there," Norton said. "We push each other a lot. We really run well together."
Injuries during her time at the University of Rochester granted Norton this extra year and now she is getting a chance to go to nationals.
"Regardless of what we do it's been a great year and a great decision," Norton said. "I wouldn't have ever dreamt of this."
As she battled through the injuries she's happy she kept going and got to this point.
"As I have been running there have been a lot of injuries and I had to come back and keep going," she said. "I am glad I kept pushing through."
Kristy Scordino is happy to finish her senior year at nationals and she's also happy to see the freshmen get a chance to run there.
"I keep saying I'm so happy my senior year I get to do this with this group of girls and to end my senior season in such a positive way," she said. "We haven't talked too much about it with them (the freshmen) and the atmosphere, but they are more excited than nervous. That's really good. They aren't nervous about the race, it won't affect them. They look at it as a positive experience. I hope they say they want to work to get back and do this again."
Rohl knows that his team has earned the chance to be at nationals.
"The kids on the team are wonderful kids," Rohl said. "They do work hard and they have earned the opportunity to compete, I'm glad they are fortunate enough to get to where they are at."
The Mansfield coach has watched these runners grow since they started at Mansfield and he's excited to see how much better they have gotten.
"My first goal is to make each athlete I coach better," Rohl said. "If every athlete is getting better, that's my benchmark of did I do a good job. My second is to do well as a team and the third is to have a good experience."
Mansfield has had some good teams in recent years, but Kristy knows this was the right one to make nationals.
"If it wasn't for the team I honestly don't know how I would have felt about nationals," she said. "With this team finishing workouts, finishing runs, there is positiveness every single day. We have never had any drama the entire season. I had 100% confidence in them at regionals, I never questioned it. At regionals I didn't think about it once, I just knew the girls were going to do what they needed to do.
"It's going to be amazing (at nationals), I think we will have a really good time. I'm glad to get to share it with a group of freshmen. The fact that I get to go with the freshmen will be good. I think if I had this experience as a freshman it would have been more beneficial for me, it would have given me more confidence, motivation and determination."
Jess Scordino made the trip to nationals last year, but it is a change going with her team.
"This year has been different preparing for nationals," she said. "Not only because we are going as a team, but because unlike last year, I'm not trying to deal with an injury that caused me to be cross-training most days rather than running. So, this year the works to prepare are different because I can actually run. But, preparing as a team has really helped to pull me along because where I might be lacking confidence they help to build you back up and keep the happy atmosphere that should be there going into something like this."
Rohl thinks that having the team there can help Jess and the experience Jess has had at nationals can help the rest of the team.
"I think having a group there, it provides really nice distractions for them," Rohl said. "Jess is pretty good at staying relaxed at a national championships and having fun and I think she will help the group to remember to have fun and goof around a little."
ONE HAPPY COACH
For Mike Rohl taking a team to nationals is something he has dreamed of throughout his time at Mansfield.
"Coach is in his glory," Jess Scordino said. "This is what he's dreamed of for so long. We all share the same excitement and joy in what this team has been able to accomplish this year and I don't think anyone has more confidence in us than coach Rohl.
"You can see it in his face, the way it lights up when we talk about travel plans or what we want to do when we get out to Spokane and where we want to explore for a run or something so small, but so exciting. It's going to be a very rewarding trip for him and he deserves to be there with his team. This has been an overall exciting season and I'm so happy for him."
Planning a trip to nationals takes some work, but it's something Rohl has been happy to do.
"It's complicated to try and get preparations made," Rohl said. "But, it's all pleasant problems."
While his runners are racing this weekend, Rohl is planning to do some running of his own to watch them.
"I've been running every day since the Hamilton meet," he said. "I'm in shape and plan on being all over that course."
The coach isn't the only one excited about the trip as many of the runners have never been out West.
"We know this Is the first time Destiny Foster has every flown and it's the first time many have ever been to Utah, Idaho and Washington states, so that's some new places for them."
Making it is also good motivation for the future.
"I think definitely the freshmen want to go through this next year," he said. "I think the upperclassmen are seizing the moment. I think this is going to help recruiting and it will help confidence of the team as a whole and it's great for the university."
This is also something that will motivate the men's team to want to accomplish what the women have done.
"They are already pretty motivated," Rohl said. "I'm glad to see the women get rewards for their work. What a lot of people don't realize is that whether you are in the top 10 or 100th every team, every runner is working hard. They all deserve recognition for working hard."
Jess Scordino knows what making it to nationals can do for those young runners.
"Hopefully they are taking these experiences as modest and as rewarding as they can," she said. "As someone who always had a role model such as Brenae (Edwards), I saw what it was like at such a young age, but didn't experience it for myself until I was older; so I can't say from their point of view what they are feeling. But, I can say that I am pretty sure this opportunity and experience definitely is letting them see what their future careers can hold.
"It makes the 'idea' of actually being able to make it to a national race and winning other races more realistic. As a freshman, when I came in coach told me about how he thought this would all be possible someday, and you think to yourself 'yeah, okay, maybe' but until it happens it never seems truly realistic. I have as much confidence in what these girls' futures hold, so I hope they never lose sight of the possibilities and always push themselves."
SOME BIG GOALS
For the Mansfield runners just being at nationals is something they have dreamed of, but that doesn't mean they don't have some big expectations when they get there.
"We will do what we do for every competition," Rohl said. "We will have a first goal, a second goal and an if everything goes great goal. We've been pretty consistent with the kids in the postseason, I'm fairly confident things will go well."
Rohl believes that not only could Jess Scordino repeat as an All-American, but she could have some others earn the honor as well.
"I think we might have more than one All-American," he said. "We will just have to wait and see what happens."
While Jess Scordino ran a good race at regionals, it wasn't as good as she wanted, now she is looking for an even better showing at nationals and she thinks some of her teammates can do big things to.
"No, regionals was not my best race, but it's in the past and I can move on very quickly, and I have," Jess said. "I actually found out that my iron was very low and that's why I have been plateauing, so having some kind of explanation for why I have not been feeling like I should is a little mind easing. So, I am back on the right path and can only hope for the best.
"I'm someone who goes out to these types of things with no expected outcome because every day and every experience is different. Another All-American would be great and that's what I and the other top girls are shooting for. If we could come home with four All-Americans I think Mansfield University would go down in history."
Kristy Scordino thinks this team is capable of a good finish.
"We are hoping to place really well as a team," she said. "I'm confident in every one of our abilities. Nothing needs to be said about it, we know we are ready. I have never seen a group of girls finish a workout so amazingly."
While she has battled through injuries this year, Kristy has been happy with the way she's run in recent weeks.
"I look at it that I still kind of have an injury and I can't believe I've been running so well," she said. "I think it's all mental toughness to be honest. I'm not sure how many athletes can do that. I've only run two or three times a week and to have these accomplishments, I'm not sure where they are coming from."
While her success might be a surprise to her, Kristy is hoping for a big day at nationals, and maybe even a chance to finish her career ahead of her sister.
"I was really focused at PSACs, I was really focused at regionals," she said. "I was determined I wanted to make it to nationals and now at nationals I have a goal that I want to beat Jess. I told her, she knows. I don't know how realistic it is, but I think it's possible. I'm focused and ready."
And, Kristy believes that Mansfield could leave Spokane with multiple All-Americans and she knows how amazing it would be if her and her sister each earned the honor.
"We talked about that actually," she said. "I think we could have four girls being on there and it's surreal. I can't believe I could be an All-American from last year thinking I can't make it to nationals to here thinking I can be an All-American. No matter what happens, I will never forget the experience."