JCCHS runner selected by coaches as MainStreet Newspapers runner of the week
WITH JACKSON County standout Brittany Aikens graduating last year, the Lady Panther cross country team has turned to Rachel Pasko to be the pace-setter at the no. 1 spot.
Pasko responded immediately this season, running a 21:00 at the season-opening Northeast Georgia Championships back on Aug. 27 to finish second at the varsity race. On the strength of that early-season performance, Pasko has been tapped by area coaches as the MainStreet Newspapers girls Runner of the Week.
“I think it was a great race for her,” Jackson County coach Joseph Brubaker said. “She’s really determined to accomplish her goals this year, and I think the first race did nothing but encourage her to do that.”
Pasko was nearly an all-state runner last year, finishing 11th at the Class AA meet in November 2010 with a 20:25. Brubaker said that Pasko’s talent and competitiveness are a rare combination and that she put in a lot of work in the offseason in hopes of a standout senior year. The coach also said that Pasko is a natural leader.
“She’s an encourager in practice,” Brubaker said. “She’s a leader whether she wants to be or not based on her ability and her being a senior. But she handles that role really well. She sets a great example.”
Pasko and Jackson County won’t return to the trail until the Sept. 17 Eagle Run at East Jackson. The long layoff will give her and the squad a chance to prep for what Brubaker said is a really fast course at East Jackson. So there’s potential for Pasko to go lower than her season-opening 21:00.
Brubaker hopes that Pasko will break the 20:00 mark by year’s end. Based on how Pasko has progressed over each season during her first three years, Brubaker believes his top runner has the ability to do that.
“She always runs better at the end of the season,” Brubaker said.
Fast 5K times aside, Pasko is more than just a good runner, according to her coach.
“She’s a great student,” Brubaker said. “She really pushes herself in the classroom. I’m really glad to have her in our program. She sets a great example on our team.”
BOYS WINNER: Winder-Barrow senior Josiah Bennett has been selected by area coaches as the MainStreet Newspapers boys Runner of the Week.
Bennett is competing in his first year of cross country and ran a 17:47 Aug. 27 at the Northeast Georgia Championships to finish 13th in the boys’ championship race. Bennett followed that up with a 17:14 over the weekend in the UGA Invitational, finishing 29th in the varsity race.
“Until this summer he had never run a 5K. He is very determined and works extremely hard at every practice,” coaches said in a press release. “He was very happy with his performance at NEGA Cross Country Championships and is very driven to keep improving throughout the year.”
The MainStreet Newspapers coverage area includes Barrow, Jackson, Banks and Madison Counties.