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Kellenberg's Jazmine Fray is pointing to Portland

Kellenberg's Jazmine Fray wins the girls 5k race

Kellenberg's Jazmine Fray wins the girls 5k race with a time of 19:29.49 at the NSCHSAA League Cross Country Championships. (Oct. 28, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Kellenberg coach Marty Brown calls it "keeping your hand in the hot water.'' And that's exactly the mindset that Jazmine Fray, Kellenberg's star junior, has adopted in her quest to get to the Nike Cross Country Nationals, scheduled for December in Portland, Ore.

The phrase, while perhaps a bit perplexing to those not familiar with Firebirds practice jargon, is easily explained by Fray.

"It's staying with the top two runners, while saving energy for the end of the race,'' Fray said.

So far, so good.

Fray finished second overall, and first among large school runners, in 15 minutes, 25 seconds at last weekend's Wilton Invitational at Allen's Meadows in Wilton, Conn.

"It was a good race,'' Fray said of the 2.5-mile battle. "I wish I had gone out just a little bit faster. The Wilton course is mostly flat. I went out in a six-minute pace. Last year, I went out in the mile in 5:50. I tried to pick up girls along the way, but I left too much room between me and the first girl (Wilton's Sarah Healy).

Fray, who has clocked 15:12, believes that breaking 15 minutes will qualify her for the December meet in Portland. One month into the season, she is very comfortable with her progress.

"I'm in a good place,'' Fray said. "I'm really happy with my coach's philosophy. He likes to take it slow, work on time, and not rush anything. He knows how to help you peak at the right moment.''

Fray led a group of Firebirds that did well in the Wilton run. Kellenberg won the team competition by 44 points. Sophomore Deidre Lewin finished 13th overall in 16:18, shaving nearly a full minute off her previous personal best.

"I trained a lot more over the summer,'' Lewin said. "That helped me. Coming into freshman year, I didn't really know anything about cross country and didn't run during the summer. This year, I knew what to do.''

Raquel Lopez and Daniella Joyce finished one second apart. Lopez came in at 16:47, while Joyce finished at 16:48. "We like to work together,'' Lopez said. "That helped a lot because, if you ever fall back, you have a friend there to pursue.''

It was the first time Joyce broke 17 minutes. She hopes the feat is only the beginning of more personal best times.

"I'm hoping for 16:30 or under,'' Joyce said.

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