Freshman runner Alex Yersak has been turning heads each time the Lions compete this season, speeding past more experienced harriers and making a name for himself at the College and in the Division III cross country community.
Yersak kicked off his running career in middle school, attacking local tracks and trails in his hometown of Marlton, N.J., while many of his classmates were zoned in on basketball and football. The freshman phenom, who cites his older brother as his inspiration to start running, said he was part of a strong and competitive program at Cherokee High School in Marlton.
“My coach, Steve Shaklee, had me running high mileage where I peaked in the upper ’90s on doubles as a junior,” Yersak said.
The heavy-duty foot-work paid off. Yersak was part of his high school’s 2007 State Group IV championship team. Individually, he was a three-time South Jersey Group IV sectional winner in cross country.
While Yersak makes the transition between high school and college running look easy, he admits it can sometimes be a challenge.
“The main difference with running on the college level is that racing becomes more of a team strategy,” he said.
The spike in distance (from 5 kilometers to 8 kilometers), which tends to stun less-seasoned runners, does not faze Yersak.
“The longer distance allows teams to work together and help each other in running down other teams,” he said.
The freshman says the large fields he lined up beside in high school helped when he took to running at the College. Because of his preparation, Yersak said he is not nervous as he awaits the starter’s gun – he’s excited.
The confidence Yersak gained on the high-school level has carried over into his Lions’ career. He enjoys being part of the team and continuing his passion for the sport.
Not even thoughts of the upcoming championship meets can rattle Yersak’s nerves.
“I am really excited for the championship season,” Yersak said. “I (will) get the opportunity to taper back and find out how fast I can run.”
As for his running experience so far with the College, Yersak has nothing but positive things to say.
“My teammates are all very animated people, and I enjoy being on a team with them,” he said. “(Head coach Phil Jennings) is very knowledgeable, and I trust him to make me run to my potential in college.”