By Ronald Hanaki
Junior distance runner Allison Decker always believed that she could fly.
Last November, Decker competed at the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships in Joplin, Missouri and placed 91st. She was the only student-athlete to represent ESU at nationals.
“I love cross country. I get to see different trails all the time,” said Decker. “I like hills and different terrains, and grass is easier on the body.”
In addition to cross country, Decker runs the distance events for the women’s track team.
Last Friday at the Fast Track National Invitational, Decker ran the 5,000m in an astounding time of 17:29.29. Her time was the third fastest in ESU history.
Needless to say, Decker is proud of all her athletic accomplishments.
“I am very proud of myself. I am a goal setter and an achiever,” explained Decker. “I still have goals to achieve this season and next season. There is still work to be done.”
“This year, I focused on each race and focused on the goals for that race. I put in the work and competed hard and did all of the little things like nutrition, sleeping and stretching,” continued Decker.
“80 percent to 90 percent of distance running is mental. You’ve got to have a positive attitude,” said Decker.
“The work you put in is usually the work you get out. If you are willing to put the time in, the sky is the limit,” added Decker.
Decker went to Delaware Valley High School in Milford, Pa. Initially, she went to Quinnipiac College in Connecticut, but she found that it was not the right fit for her and transferred to ESU.
“The exercise science program is wonderful, and ESU has a great track and field program,” explains Decker.
Decker got her start in sports by playing soccer and basketball.
She started running track in her freshman year of high school as a sprinter, but she found that sprinting just wasn’t right for her.
In her sophomore year, Decker started running distance events. She ran cross country during her junior and senior years.
As a successful track athlete, Decker was recruited by a mix of Division I, Division II and Division III schools. During her sophomore year, she got pneumonia before a district meet, and she missed the end of that year.
In time, she recovered and came back to run outdoor track competitively during her senior year.
Decker was a good athlete in high school, but she has taken it to the next level at ESU. Decker is quick to credit her coaches for her improvement as a distance runner.
“I am getting great coaching and more experience. I am a lot more comfortable now,” stated Decker.
“I train hard, but I know when to take a rest day and how to fuel my body. Sleep, stretching and hydration all play into being a more efficient runner. Weightlifting, too,” added Decker.
Decker is a serious person, but she has found that joking around helps to ease the pressure. Coach Koch likes to joke around.
Decker credits Koch with a lot of her success.
“He has been coaching me for so long that he is like a father to me. He’s a friend. He’s always there. He’s really developed me a lot,” said Decker. “He has even let me run with the men’s team. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
As one of the top distance runners, Decker is in a leadership role. Even though she runs with the men’s team, she still has time to mentor and inspire other women.
“A lot of kids look up to me. One day a week, I stay back and run with the women’s team. I help push them,” explained Decker.
Last May, the PSAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships were held at ESU.
“It was really special. A lot of the alumni came back. It was cool to see and meet and see what legacy they left and what they accomplished,” continued Decker. “It was really nice to see a nice turnout because track usually doesn’t get that.”
After ESU, Decker plans to go to graduate school to get her master’s degree in physical therapy.
“I want to thank my coaches and teammates and parents. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” said Decker.
“My parents encouraged me in sports, and they have always been there at every single meet. I appreciate the coaches for all the hard work and how they have developed me,” stated Decker.
“Coach [Chris] Merli told me not to be afraid to see the bigger picture. Joe [Koch] sees me as a person and athletically as well,” explained Decker.
“My ultimate goal is to be signed and hopefully one day I qualify for the Olympics in the marathon,” stated Decker.
Decker will lead ESU’s track and field team to the PSAC Indoor Championships at Edinboro on Feb. 27-28.
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