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Raschiatore returns to running as star at IUP

| Monday, May 14, 2012, 8:46 a.m.

Sara Raschiatore's cross country career was all but finished when she graduated from Kiski Area High School in 1998.

Despite enjoying a strong high school career, Raschiatore was emtionally drained over the seemingly endless practices and extended training. She longed for the days of being just a typical student.

A member of Kiski Area's 1996 PIAA championship team, Raschiatore received offers from a number of schools, including Clarion, to run in college, but she didn't give it much thought.

Ed Fry, the women's cross country coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, knew about Raschiatore as well but really didn't pursue her that much at first. However, Fry's interest changed with the seasons.

'Sara was a good runner at Kiski, but nothing spectatular,' Fry said. 'I had talked with her once and she didn't seem like she wanted to really run at this level.'

When Fry looked around again, he couldn't find Raschiatore anywhere. Then, he realized, almost by accident, that she already was attending Indiana - even it was at the school's branch campus in Kittaning. All Fry had to do was convince her to join the team.

'I don't know why I didn't want to keep doing it,' Raschiatore said. 'I guess I was kind of bored. But then, after I sat out a year, I began to really miss it.'

Her presence was felt almost immediately as a freshman in 1999 as she won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference individual championship.

'Freshmen don't win those races,' Fry said. 'I think Sara knew she could run right up with the leaders, but I don't know if she thought she could win it. But she has the mental aspects of a runner that coaches dream about. She's tough, and won't back down from anybody.'

An injury sidelined Raschiatore for much of her sophomore season, but she's already made an immediate impact this season. In Indiana's first race at the Daniel Walker Invitational in Buffalo, N.Y., Raschiatore took first place with a time of 18 minutes, 18 seconds in a field of 12 teams and more than 130 runners.

'I was in fourth place the whole time,' Raschiatore said. 'Then during the last mile, I really made a push and ended up in first.'

Indiana took third place in the team standings and Raschiatore improved 1:20 over her freshman year on the same 5K course, when she placed sixth.

Fry thinks so much of Raschiatore that he's moved her up to training with the men's teams a couple of days a week.

'To bring the best out of athletes they have to train with people as good or better than they are,' he said. 'But hey, she burries some of the guys in the longer runs.'

But how does somebody who was ready to quit the sport become such a success in a relatively short period of time•

'She just developed herself,' Fry said. 'I think in high school, where they have to run three races a week, she just lost interest and the excitement of racing. But when Sara got her she began to really love the competing part of it.'

Raschiatore is also a key member of the Indiana women's track team.

Last spring, she placed fifth in the 3000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA Championships in Edwardsville, Ill.

'I just love it now,' Raschiatore said. 'I like cross country a little better, but I really enjoy both. I don't think I'll ever know why my attitude changed.'

These days, Fry just sits back and smiles while his team trains at Indiana's Mack Park. He said he is thankful of Raschiatore's attitude change and he knows that one of the best recruits he ever landed actually came to him.

Even if it was in a roundabout way.

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