After running cross country since the sixth grade, senior Kevin Sokolyuk finished off his final season with a personal record while attending the MileStat Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 17.
“My season ended in a [Personal Record] (PR) of 20:26. This was a 44 second increase from my old PR of 21:10,” Sokolyuk said. “It was the best race I have ever been in. The competition was great, the weather was ideal and best of all, I was faster than I ever have been….My last race…was the smoothest one I have ever [run] before. I went in knowing it was my last race, and that I only had one more shot to give it my all.”
Sokolyuk is very proud of his running achievements, especially because of the injury he sustained during his freshman year. Sokolyuk fractured all of the toes in his left foot after rolling it while playing tag with some friends.
“I’ve had my share of hardships, bad races and aching muscles, but in the end, it was worth it all….I went from losing about half of the muscle mass on my left leg because of crutches to running 5K races about twice per week,” Sokolyuk said. “For me, running one year after my injury was one of my greatest accomplishments during my cross country career. It’s honestly a blessing that I rebounded from such a serious injury to full health in such a short timeframe.
I have had a great time meeting new people, bonding with good friends and keeping myself in shape throughout my running career.”
If he could go back though, Sokolyuk would make a few changes.
“If I could do anything differently during my cross country career, I would try harder. There’s nothing wrong with being sore for a day or two,” Sokolyuk said. “Coming back from a Lisfranc injury (an injury of the foot where a metatarsal bone is displaced from the tarsus), I wasn’t confident in my range of motion yet, so I took the first season a little easy, which became a habit I brought into my junior year. And if you ask anyone on the team, I should have changed shoes every season as well.”
Despite what he wishes he could redo, Sokolyuk feels he has had a great career, and that it is due to both the cross country coach Lauren Jefferson and his friends.
“My coach, Jefferson, has made a big impact by pushing me to be the best runner I could be and to not only keep running, but to enjoy it along the way. She’s been a great role model even when I may not agree with her completely,” Sokolyuk said. By this, he means they did not always see eye to eye on racing strategy.
“I remember early on, we had some serious conversations about how to run fast,” Jefferson said. “I spent some time in pretty intense conversations before races trying to get Kevin to race and run faster as a young runner, and I’ll always remember the absolute kindness and patience in his expression as he listened to me…Kevin had the talent to be a contributing varsity runner, but I’m not sure he believed it until towards the end of this season when he saw how close he was to making our top group of runners.”
Jefferson is uplifted by the fact that Sokolyuk persevered through the sport as well as enjoyed it.
“The sport is tough enough that you really have to enjoy it to keep at it every day, and keeping a balance between hard work and having fun is important. I’m glad that a senior athlete who I’ve spent a lot of time with takes this away,” Jefferson said. “He recognizes that I never stopped believing in what he could achieve.”
The loss of Sokolyuk’s presence will be felt by the cross country coach partially for the jokes he brought to the group.
“I’ll miss his very dry sense of humor. Kevin always had a one-liner or some short quip to offer in between everyone else’s zany talk,” Jefferson said. “When he was a sophomore and junior, you had to pay attention to catch it. As a senior, he’s right in the middle of everything, which has made for some really good times with the team.”
That team in return has been a motivating force throughout his career.
“My friends have impacted me tremendously by being there for encouragement and support when I needed them. They also motivated me to be better and to get out of my comfort zone….Special shout-out to the squad, a.k.a. Tyler [Rodriguez], Christian [Rodriguez], Jake [Urbanski], Yogesh [Aradhey], John [Breeden] and Isaiah [King],” Sokolyuk said.
Not only was the team a source of encouragement for Sokolyuk, but also a group to pull a few shenanigans with.
“Hands down, the best and most memorable moment of cross country is when Tyler Rodriguez, Yogesh Aradhey, Nick Deutsch, and I picked up a huge dehumidifier off the side of the road and brought it back to school. We were the last ones to come back because we were carrying a 40 pound chunk of metal, all because Yogesh needed a motor or something out of it,” Sokolyuk said. “Coach, of course, was not pleased with us… We then were not invited to participate in the post-season workouts and practices…Looking back, it was totally worth taking that dehumidifier back to school. I’ll always remember ‘the dehumidifier incident’, even after high school.”
Sokolyuk will be nostalgic from now on, looking back on the team and the experiences they’ve
“Truth is, I’m going to miss hanging out with these guys,” Sokolyuk said. “I’m going to miss the positive environment, random shenanigans and inside jokes of the team. I’m hoping I’ll stay in touch with at least the seniors and a few really close underclassmen after the season is over, and maybe after I graduate. It’s tough knowing I won’t experience the rush of running with 20-something of the finest runners Harrisonburg has to offer, but I’ve always known this day had to come at some point, so I just need to accept it now.”
Though he won’t be there to run with the them, he leaves the cross country team his words of wisdom.
“My advice to future XC runners is to go out there, have fun, challenge yourself and don’t be afraid to throw up,” Sokolyuk said. “For my comrades that I will be leaving behind, I say: stay strong, savage and interesting. Don’t let anyone change who you are and don’t let anyone walk all over you. Keep standing up for the boys’ team’s rights.”