Four runners from Council Rock North are advancing to the collegiate level. These are their stories.
ROSS WILSON (University of Pennsylvania)
After a comprehensive search, Council Rock North's top runner Ross Wilson has decided to take his game to the University of Pennsylvania. Wilson looked at a number of schools including Michigan, Georgetown and Syracuse.
"Running gave me an opportunity to get into schools I wouldn't have been able to get into otherwise,' said Wilson. "So I figured I should go to the best academic school to set me up for the best future that I could possibly envision.'
The Quakers won out for several different reasons, said Ross.
"It's the perfect blend of academics, athletics and the social aspect. It's close to home and I really like the program.'
Last fall, Wilson was a Cross Country Foot Locker National qualifier after finishing 10th in the Northeast Regional 5K race. In districts, he finished second only to West Chester Henderson senior Tony Russell with his time of 15:15.00. In states, he took third behind Easton junior Colin Abert and Russell.
During outdoor track season last spring, he finished second in states in the 3,200-meter and third in the mile. Two years ago, Ross was all the way back in 14th place in cross country states, moving up to 10th last year as a junior.
Wilson says his decision to skip basketball in lieu of winter track season two years ago has lifted him to a level among the top runners in the state and the Mid-Atlantic region.
"I really progressed from sophomore to junior year; that was the year I quit playing basketball in the winter. That paid major dividends this year and last year — being able to run all three seasons instead of just in the fall and the spring paid off big time for me
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ROB SIMMONS (University of Alaska Anchorage)
Meanwhile, North senior Rob Simmons is heading North, as in way North — to the University of Alaska Anchorage. Running in frigid temperatures was not an issue for Rob, says the Rock senior.
"I love running in the cold so I'm not worried about the weather,' said Simmons. "That's one of the reasons why I chose Alaska.'
What's more, the Seawolves have an indoor track that measures 400 meters, says Rob, the only one of its size in North America.
"That really caught my attention; they get to run inside all the time.'
Moreover, Anchorage isn't as cold as people imagine, says Simmons.
"It stays kind of mild — 30s and 40s; it's not 20-below like a lot of people think.'
Still, residents of Alaska must get used to five-hour days in winter and 22-hour days during the summer.
A nature lover who enjoys fishing and hiking, Simmons says he fell in love with the region during a two-week family vacation to Alaska in 2011.
Part of a distance medley relay team that medaled for the Indians last year in states, Rob took a trip to the Anchorage campus the first week in February and made his decision official then.
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KAELYN HEINICKE (University of Richmond)
Kaelyn Heinicke ran cross country and indoor track all four years, joining outdoor track for the first time in 2013 as a junior. Still, she made it to states in the 800-meter dash as an 11th-grader, grabbing a seventh-place medal in districts.
Heinicke was also a member of the 4x800 relay team at Rock that placed second in states as a freshman, and seventh as a sophomore. In her junior year, she was part of a distance medley relay team that took seventh in states.
She's made significant strides on the circuit as a senior. This year, at indoor states, she placed fifth in the mile (5:00.63) after taking an eighth-place medal in the District One Cross Country Championships last fall at Lehigh University.
In the first Delaware Valley Girls' Track Coaches' Association (DVGTA) meet this year at Lehigh, she captured a gold medal in the 800 with her time of 2:19.20. In the DVGTA Meet of Champions Feb. 21 at the same venue, she shaved a couple seconds off of that, finishing the race in 2:16.89.
At the indoor state meet, she did 2:16.80, which was nearly five seconds faster than that she posted in the 2013 Meet of Champions when she crossed the line in 2:21.48.
After capturing a gold medal in the mile at the Poreda Invitational which took place the end of January in Lawrenceville, Kaelyn grabbed a fifth-place medal in states with her time of 5:00.63.
A runner who has improved markedly in the past year, Heinicke is looking to advance herself academically in the next four. After looking at Bucknell, Lafayette and Haverford, she chose to run with the Spiders, the most significant reason the size of the school. Richmond boasts an average undergraduate class size of 15 students.
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NICKI VAN THUYNE (Monmouth University)
After considering Rider, Quinnipiac and Marist, Nicki Van Thuyne has decided to take her talents to Monmouth University. It's located in North Jersey, just a 15-minute drive from Asbury Park and a short walk to the beach. Proximity to the ocean had nothing to do with her decision, however, said Nicki.
"I really got along with the coach and I liked his philosophy on running,' she said. "I just really enjoyed my time there; it's really nice.'
Van Thuyne is a cross country runner who competes in the 400, 800, 1,600, and the mile in indoor and outdoor track. Last year, she had a breakthrough in the 800-meter dash, dropping more than 10 seconds off her time in the event, which qualified her for districts in outdoor track.
In the 2013 Lady Rocker Invitational, Van Thuyne captured a silver medal in the 800 last spring as a junior, hitting the tape in 2:19.31. In districts, she did better than that, crossing the finishing line in 2:18.85, which was good enough to place her among the top 15 runners in the event.
She's a member of the Rock ladies' 4x800 team that has qualified for districts every year in outdoor track. She says she's also been part of some relay teams that have qualified for states.
At the end of the day, she says it's prepared her to take the next step to collegiate running.
"We have one of the more difficult training programs compared to other schools,' said Van Thuyne. "We don't practice inside; it's all outside.
"It's really prepared me well so I think I'll do fine next year.'
COUNCIL ROCK NORTH
Athlete, Sport College or University
Kaelyn Heinicke Track University of Richmond
Rob Simmons Track University of Alaska
Nicki Van Thuyne Track Monmouth University
Ross Wilson Track University of Pennsylvania