Sophomore sees strides due to health, training
Whenever a new group of freshmen approach assistant coach Jan Merrill-Morin and the Rutgers cross country team, she knows the transition from competing in high school to running at the college level can be overwhelming.
“When you come out of high school, at first a lot of times they are used to what they are doing in high school,” Merrill-Morin said. “Sometimes it takes a month to adjust. Sometimes it takes six months, and sometimes it takes a year.”
Ashley Deckert’s arrival as part of last year’s freshman class was no different. She knew running cross country for a major program would be different than at Delsea High School.
But what surprised her was not the racing aspect, which she experienced for a large portion of her career.
It was the training.
“Yeah, it was really hard actually,” Deckert said. “High school training versus college training is so much different. In college, you have to focus on training because you only have so many meets that you can qualify for.”
Deckert and Merrill-Morin know training both during the season as well as the offseason is key to success at the collegiate level. Deckert arrived last year still trying to adjust to the training program laid out over the summer for her.
The adjustment period, coupled with being diagnosed with shin splits, hampered her freshman season and caused Deckert to miss the Big East Championships.
“Last year, I was coming off an injury so that definitely slowed me down,” Deckert said. “I was off my game.”
Last year’s results lit a fire in the sophomore, who trained extensively over the summer. The hard work paid dividends this year to Deckert’s early success.
In the Scarlet Knights’ first two meets of the season, Deckert finished strong. She posted a personal-best time at last weekend’s Monmouth Invitational in Holmdel, N.J.
Deckert continues to do what the coaching staff wants of her. While she is not the first Knight to finish every race, her consistency from the middle of the pack led to her success thus far.
Merrill-Morin recognizes her consistency and points to the work she put in over the summer as the reason why Deckert continues to do so well.
“The one thing that she has done that’s different between her freshman year and sophomore year is she has adapted to the training program,” Merrill-Morin said. “She went home this summer, did the training we gave her and has come back a lot fitter. She’s been finishing No. 5 or 6 for us, right in that place on our team where we need her the most right now.”
Freshman Felicia O’Donnell, who ran with Deckert since they were teammates at Delsea, also sees the results of Deckert’s offseason training.
“She was really good [at Delsea], but her times have definitely gotten even better,” O’Donnell said. “There is definitely an improvement from when she was in high school.”
As the season continues, Deckert wants to improve even more and make her sophomore season a completely different experience than her freshman year.
“I haven’t gotten to run in the Big East Championships yet,” Deckert said. “So my goal is to perform well there.”