Sophomore Katelyn Sarkovics had never run competitively until the day of the 3,000-meter time trial tryout for the Ithaca College cross–country team Fall 2019. Sarkovics rose to the occasion and earned herself a spot on the 21-person roster.
However, that is not where her story begins as a Bomber. Sarkovics came to the college hoping to continue her athletic career through gymnastics. Because of a knee injury, she only competed on the uneven bars last season. She competed in the exhibition lineup at a home meet against SUNY Brockport and the University of Rhode Island.
The cross-country team has seen success this season, placing second out of 10 at the Hamilton College Short Course Invitational, in which Sarkovics placed 84th out of 151 runners. At the University of Rochester Yellowjacket Invitational, Sarkovics placed 119th out of 218.
Staff writer Shehanee Fernando sat down with Sarkovics to discuss her decision to leave gymnastics and her transition to collegiate running.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
SF: What made you decide to switch sports?
KS: I tore my ACL twice in high school: once my junior year and again my senior year. It was really hard on my body, and gymnastics is really challenging mentally, and eventually, I just realized that the physical and mental strain of gymnastics was too much. At that point, I had started running on the treadmill on the side very casually, but I was amazed by how much I enjoyed running and how much better I felt after I ran. I knew I still wanted to be on a sports team in some way because I really enjoy and appreciate that team atmosphere and running just seemed like the logical next step for my overall well–being.
SF: Was your family supportive of your decision?
KS: My parents were a little bit hesitant at first because college gymnastics has been my dream since I was 8 years old. They wanted me to make sure that I really thought through the decision and this was what I wanted. Once they saw how much I enjoyed running and how good it made me feel, they were really supportive of it. Also, running is sort of in my family. My dad runs marathons. My brother and my sister are in junior high and high school, and they are on their school cross-country teams.
SF: What are you going to miss the most about gymnastics?
KS: Gymnastics is a unique sport, and it is so cool to be able to swing on the bars and do flips. I think I’ll just miss the feeling of flying.
SF: How did you feel during the tryout process for cross-country?
KS: I was so anxious. It was just scary because I was trying a totally new sport, and then I was also trying to make the team, so I was doing two things at once. But Erin [Dinan] was so encouraging throughout the whole process, and she really made it known to me that she believed in me, and that meant a lot a ton to me. Everyone was so welcoming and supportive, and it made me feel at home right away. Being part of that positive environment made the transition so much easier than I expected.
SF: How did it feel to make it to the roster?
KS: I remember I was sitting outside of [the Center for Natural Sciences], and when I got the email, I remember reading the subject line “you made the team.” I was sitting there, and I teared up a little, and I texted my parents, and my dad called me right away. I was honestly speechless. I was so happy and excited. It felt crazy.
SF: How the transition has been to cross-country?
KS: The team totally exceeded my expectations. I was very nervous to join them because I wasn’t sure how they would feel about someone coming from gymnastics to the cross-country team, but they’ve been so welcoming and supportive, and they really just right from the get-go let me know that they would support me. It is a family environment, and I feel really grateful to be a part of it.
SF: What do you hope to accomplish this season?
KS: My goals are to learn as much as I can and be the best teammate I can be. To accomplish that, I am just going to push myself at each practice and also just learn from my teammates. They are so willing to help, like sharing little tips and tricks that worked for them. The team is really strong this year, and there are a lot of really good runners that I can work with and practice with, which is really cool.