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Published: October 07, 2008 11:30 pm 

CROSS COUNTRY: GI's Tsembelis is making a name for herself

By Nate Beutel

When Maritina Tsembelis says she’s fallen love with running, she’s not exaggerating one bit.

In fact, according to veteran Grand Island cross country coach Don Sauer, Tsembelis adds three miles to her daily workout by running home from practice. Even when her family was vacationing in Greece this past summer, she couldn’t start her day without a run through the hilly terrain.

“She works hard ... and is very conscientious,” Sauer said.

That type of attitude runs in the Tsembelis family. Maritina’s older brother, Evan, is a Section VI champion for the Vikings and considered one of the better runners in the state. He’s also been an inspiration for Maritina ever since she took up the sport a few years back.

“After watching him, I began to realize that the harder you work the better off you’ll be,” she said. “I began to figure if he could do it, why couldn’t I? It’s kind of like I’m feeding off his example.”

That said, Sauer has made it a point to remind Maritina that she shouldn’t try to match her brother in any aspects of cross country — or life, for that matter.

“She can be an outstanding runner by herself,” he said. “She gets great grades, has an outgoing personality and always achieves to be better.”

This past summer Tsembelis took her training to another level, attending a pair of camps on top of her normal regimen. She said her amped up training was in anticipation of leading the GI girls to a Niagara Frontier League title of their own, matching the one the GI boys won last fall.

“The guys from last year inspired me,” she said. “They were as good as they were because not only were they talented, but they worked hard all year round.”

Tsembelis said the Vikings are looking forward to next week’s matchup with perennial power Lockport, which will go a long way toward a league championship.

Individually, she is developing into “one of the top runners in the NFL and Section VI,” Sauer said. Tsemebelis, though, still doesn’t consider herself as “good” and says she’s unsure of her chances at a league and NFL title.

“It would be cool, but there’s a lot of good runners,” she said.

Tsembelis said she’s very interested in running collegiately, which would again likely have her following in the footsteps of Evan — a legit Division I prospect.


• SPORT: Girls Cross Country

• GRADE: Junior

• POSITION: No. 1 runner

• FINISHES: 1st at Officials Meet, 2nd at West Seneca Invitational, 10th at McQuaid AA Seeded Invitational

• COACH’S QUOTE: “She can be an outstanding runner by herself.”

— Don Sauer