Oswego State freshman cross-country runner Katie Laris has scorched the trails of the SUNYAC this fall season, finishing in the top three for the Oswego State women’s cross-country team in five out of six races.
Laris placed first on the team at the Oneonta Invitational, the Oswego State Invitational, the Houghton Highlander Invitational and the DeSales Invitational (6k).
What may be the most impressive feat regarding Laris’ cross-country career is the fact that she only became a distance runner her freshman year of high school.
Laris began her running career as a middle-distance competitor on the middle school track team as a seventh grader, before she was referred to distance running in the fall of her freshman year by one of her classmates. She began practicing with the junior varsity team and when tryouts for the season came she was surprised at just how well she performed.
“I just was following my one teammate that I knew and we wound up making the top seven on the varsity team for my first meet,” Laris said.
Although Laris was shocked when she went to her first varsity practice and found that a two-mile run was considered a warm up, she managed success as a freshman, despite the difficult transition from cross country to track.
“The mindset of racing a quick race to racing something over two miles is different, mentally its tough,” Laris said.
On the track, Laris is a mainstay at the 400 meter and 800 meter events. Distance running has taught her a lot of self-control and although it is not her favorite event, it is something she has excelled at throughout this season.
The accolades first came in on Sept. 10, when Laris was given Oswego State Athlete of the Week honors. She received that same honor again on Oct. 15. She is the only member of the Women’s cross-country team to win that award this year.
“In high school, I was never number one or anything,” Laris said. “People never
considered me a cross-country runner. Everybody would always tell me I was better at track (than cross-country). I never got MVP.”
Laris’ performance on the trails this season has been a pleasant surprise for herself and her parents.
“I was really surprised about that (Athlete of the Week),” Laris said. “All of the sudden my parents would be calling me and then they would say ‘Oh you got Athlete of the Week’ and I would say ‘Oh didn’t I just get that last week?’”
From getting no praise in high school to earning weekly awards on the collegiate level could have gone to the young athlete’s head. However, that is not the case for Laris, who has maintained her humility and insists that her performance is due to the support of her teammates.
“I actually love the team. I feel closer to them than my other team in high school,” Laris said. “It’s just such a great team, they have made me feel so comfortable here, such a part of the team, we hang out together… It’s such a family-type thing, they’ve taught me a lot.”
To a young athlete like Laris, the support of the team and the coaching staff can mean the world to her development as a runner. Head coach of the women’s cross-country team, Stephanie Grimm, said Laris has improved greatly throughout the year.
“She’s a great fit for this team,” Grimm said. “She puts in work everyday. She prefers track to cross country, so I think she has improved her attitude toward cross-country and realized her success in cross-country will contribute to future success in track.”
Although the team placed ninth last weekend at SUNYAC championships, Laris has high hopes for herself and the team in her sophomore season. Those results will not come easy, but if Laris can keep up her hard work ethic and continue the equilibrium between sports and academics that every student athlete is forced to deal with, the future looks bright for the budding star. Laris has already improved upon her high school career.
“She dropped 30 seconds off her high school 5k personal record during this season,” Grimm said.
Laris’ personal record now is 19:17, which she set at the Houghton Invitational. The time places her seventh in the all-time Oswego records for the women’s 5K. Laris also has the sixth-best Oswego woman’s time (24:27) in the 6K.
The Lakers have their regional meet coming up on Saturday, Nov. 10 in Rochester. Laris will once again look to surprise the competition.