It’s where every cross country runner wants to be and where Ana Markovina already was when the season started last month. It was also where she’d live as the season went along.
Why? Simple. The Jericho junior spent most of the last year running. And running. And running.
The uncertainty surrounding the cross country season didn’t slow her one bit, not even when the race schedule was pushed back from September to March by concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. The delay discouraged some runners. But not Markovina, who just kept going.
"I didn’t stop running," Markovina said. "I got into a routine and I didn’t stop. I pushed myself really hard and now I’ve improved greatly from last year."
Summer training (or in Markovina’s case, fall and winter training too) doesn’t mean much if not carried into the season. That wasn’t a problem either. Markovina won the Nassau Class II championship in 17 minutes, 58.76 seconds on the 5-kilometer course at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow last Saturday. It was the fastest time of the meet, which featured three separate races grouped by class.
Markovina further supplanted her county superiority Saturday, winning the Sectional Nassau County championship in 17:59.23 at Eisenhower Park. In a race that featured all the top runners in Nassau, regardless of class, Markovina beat the field by 35.99 seconds. She is Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
In the Class II race, she beat the field by 1:29.53 — a postseason eternity. She beat every girl who ran in the championships, regardless of class, by 22.2 seconds — another impressive number.
"She’s running these times essentially alone," Jericho coach Teresa McHale said. "There has not been another girl near her this whole season. She’s very disciplined and knows how to keep the pace."
Markovina might be alone on the course, but she wasn’t alone in her offseason training. Her father Vinko, a distance star at Farmingdale High School and Fairleigh Dickinson, and her brother, Paul, who currently runs for Hofstra, were right by her side.
"I come from a family of runners," she said. "So, I always had someone motivating and pushing me. My father pushed me. He’s been my running partner. I just kind of got into a rhythm and now I feel like I can’t even take a day off because I’m so used to running all the time, putting the work in, having consistent mileage, and all of the stuff that comes together [when] you run a good time."
Markovina took no chances with her training. She skipped the winter track season — where she normally runs middle distance — in order to keep her legs primed for longer races in March and April.
"She was months ahead of everybody else," McHale said. "We have other great kids, but they don’t have the [running] background. She has such a good support system at home and so many people she can bounce ideas off of. She’ll check in with me once in a while, but I completely trust the training from her dad and her brother because they have her best interests at heart."