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Published: May 26, 2009 11:06 pm

GIRLS TRACK: GI's Mash has done it all

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — Kelsey Mash always wanted to try the steeplechase, she just never asked.

Truth is, Craig Davis would have probably let her try it in a heartbeat. After all, she’s tried just about every other event on the track.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve done every track event but the two-mile over the years,” the quiet Grand Island senior said with a laugh. “I started with the sprints, then I did some of the longer events and now I do a lot of hurdles and middle distance.”

But that versatility is what makes Mash stand out, according to Davis.

“Kelsey’s ability to move around and do different events is invaluable,” the coach said of his team captain. “If I asked her to do the shot put… she’d do it. It’s gotten to the point to where I plan my roster around where I need Kelsey. Wherever I need someone, I usually plug in Kelsey.”

Last spring, Davis didn’t necessarily need Mash in the steeplechase, but thought it might be a good event for her with its unique combination of distance and hurdles.

“We put her in it at the Starpoint event and she did awesome,” Davis said. “Then we put her in two more events and she kept getting better and better at it to the point that she finished fifth at sectionals and broke the school record.”

Mash said she surprised herself with her success, while falling for the crowd-pleasing event.

“Everyone is always laughing and cheering, especially when you jump in the water,” she said. “And as long as you don’t fall, it’s a lot of fun to listen to that during the race.”

Mash added that the key to success in the event is maintaining physical and mental strength throughout the 2,000-meter race. Practice, of course, is also key.

“Sometimes we’ll jump off bails of hay to simulate the hurdles and we’ll work on endurance with our long runs, so it’s basically practicing the event in different parts,” she explained.

Practice is also where Mash shines the brightest, Davis said.

“All the girls respect her,” the coach added. “She leads by example. She’s always putting in a full effort. You’ll always get everything from her.”

That type of team attitude helped the Vikings claim the Niagara Frontier League dual meet crown. It’s also a big reason why GI’s 3,200 relay, which includes Mash, Maritina Tsembelis, Amber Spiesz and Dominique DeGregorio, is a favorite at the NFL Championships, which are today and Thursday.

Mash also expects to do well in the 400 intermediate hurdles and the steeplechase, targeting sectional-qualifying marks in both events.

“I’d like to place better than last year at sectionals in the steeple and do well with the relay,” Mash said.

Davis added, “We’re hoping to see better results starting this week and hopefully we’ll have a chance to improve on her steeple finish at sectionals.”

Mash plans to attend Nazareth College and participate in track and field and cross country next year.