Feb. 25, 2011
Lewis relishes the competition
By David Boyce
A year ago when Northwest Missouri State sprinter Rachel Lewis learned that Lincoln University was joining the MIAA, she grew a bit disheartened.
Lewis enjoyed a solid freshman year at Northwest. But injuries over the next two seasons, the pressure she placed on herself and the increased expectations prevented her from achieving her best.
The last thing Lewis felt she needed heading into her final season of college athletics was a school that excels in sprints.
"I warned my teammates that they win national meets and it is usually all because of their sprinters," Lewis said. "It was a little discouraging, but it is all in God's hands. It's working out."
Lewis heads into the MIAA Indoor Track and Field Championships Saturday and Sunday at Central Missouri full of confidence. She's eager to run down those runners at Lincoln in the 60-meter dash.
The confidence comes from performance. A week ago at the Central Missouri Classic, Lewis finished first in the 60-meter dash with personal-best 7.70 seconds. It's the third fastest time in school history and it provisionally qualifies her for the national meet.
"But they only take the top 16 and I'm No. 20," Lewis said. "I know I will have to run faster to get on that list."
For that reason alone, Lewis is thrilled that Lincoln is now in the MIAA. She will face national-level competition on Saturday and Sunday.
Lewis' time of 7.70 currently ranks her sixth in the MIAA. Four of the top five marks are from Lincoln sprinters and two of them are freshmen.
Intimidated? Not Lewis. She relishes the moment when she steps into the starting blocks and sees the Lincoln sprinters.
"I always tell the runners they help me push out the blocks. I'm excited to see them," she said.
The faster they go, the faster Lewis will go. That's the only attitude she can have to obtain her goal of making nationals.
Running has once again become fun for Lewis, assistant track coach Tessa Koschel said.
"I think finally she realizes that she is doing this because she is good at it and because it is fun," Koschel said "She found that again. It's just a foot race. I will race you from here to there, ready, go and see who wins. She found that enjoyment again without such pressure."
From the start of fall Koschel saw a different Lewis. Track and Field starts practice two weeks into fall semester.
It takes discipline to go through all those workouts without a meet to gear up for until the second week of December.
However, the practices are needed to be ready for the indoor season.
"Her fall workouts were amazing. I noticed it right from the beginning," Koschel said. "If you put the work in during the fall it reflects in your season and that's exactly what she did."
Suddenly, all the hamstrings, quad muscle and shin splint injuries she experienced the previous two years have disappeared.
"Better workouts," Koschel said. "It goes back to the fall workouts. If you get that endurance under you and you move into speed work your body can make that transition a lot easier."
Lewis knows she will face a major test this weekend. She's prepared for it.
It helps that the conference meet is at Central Missouri for a couple of reasons. She just got through having a highly successful race there a week ago and her family from St. Louis can see her compete.
Also, she likes that it's a two-day meet, which means the team will spend a night in the hotel.
"It's fun," she said. "It's a different atmosphere from waking up and going to a track meet. It's more relaxing because it is spread out over two days. You have prelims one day and finals the next day."
Lewis is one of those organized student-athletes who has her immediate and distant future planned out. She knows exactly when she will receive her degree in mathematics.
"I will graduate April 30, 2 p.m," she said.
Lewis also knows what she wants to do after receiving her Northwest diploma. She's applied for the dosimetry program at the University of Houston. Dosimetry deals with the amount of radiation used for cancer patients.
"It instantly grabbed my attention because it dealt with math and it dealt with helping people with cancer," she said. "There's always a need to help cancer patients.
"It definitely excites me, just like how I knew my graduation date is April 30. That's done and my next step is to go down to Houston. If I get accepted that's where I will be."
For now, she's enjoying her senior season and being one of the leaders on the Bearcat track and field team.
As it turned out, the competition that Lincoln has brought to the MIAA in track has brought out the best in Lewis.
"Rachel has been doing it right this year," Koschel said. "She is relaxed before the race but she is ready. That's exactly how we hope she will respond when we get to conference.
"The maturity out of Rachel this year has been huge. She had a great freshman year and then she put a bunch of pressure on herself and the expectations she had to live up to."
She's now living up to them.
"I'm pretty excited," she said. "Before, knowing that Lincoln was in our conference, I was a little discouraged. But now, seeing the times I'm running and that I'm focused, I know they are going to help me run a better time. Knowing my two freshmen teammates are right behind me, we are really excited about this weekend."
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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