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The Journal Gazette

  • Photo courtesy of IPFW Athletics IPFW junior Emma Rafuse, a four-time Summit League runner of the week winner, hopes to equal the school record at 6 kilometers in either of the Mastodons' next two races.

Friday, October 13, 2017 1:00 am

Little things propel IPFW runner

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

IPFW cross country runner Emma Rafuse has embraced doing the little things, and it's made a big difference this season.

“I think the key thing is that for the first time in my running career, I've been able to stay healthy,” the junior said. “I think taking care of myself, doing more strengthening stuff and really focusing on the injury prevention and icing and taking some time off at the beginning of the summer.”

Rafuse headed into the season with the hopes of cutting about 22 seconds off her 18-minute, 22-second personal best in the 5-kilometer distance heading into the first meet of the season at Valparaiso.

To her surprise, she cut off more than 90, winning the race in 16:44.

“That was the first race of the season I was itching to get out there,” she said. “It was kind of a smaller meet and we had looked into some of the teams that were there so I knew who I could go off and try and chase. We started the race and I was behind the lead vehicle and I tried to have fun with it and stayed as close to the vehicle as I could.

“When I saw that I was rounding the corner to the finish and coach was yelling at me saying the clock was only at like 16 minutes. My goal coming into the season was just to break 18 based off my PR last year, 18:22. I thought that was a reasonable first goal and then I came in and did that.”

That race gave her the first of four Summit League runner of the week awards. She also won the award after Kentucky's Bluegrass Invitational (third, 17:24.3), after Minnesota's Roy Griak Invitational, a 6K, (19th, 22:11) and after the Greater Louisville Classic (19th, 17:00.59).

Rafuse, from Greenville, Wisconsin, moved from New York in seventh grade.

Originally a dancer, Rafuse moved to running in middle school and thought 5K races that the high schoolers did were “crazy,” but she quickly adapted.

It was only a couple of summers ago that she began to track mileage, paces and other data that proved valuable to the progress she has seen.

“I really started getting down and making sure my pace for each workout were where it should be and how I've improved from the year before and writing it all down on coach's board and in my own personal notes so I can look back and see the progress,” she said.

Despite the relatively late start in tracking data, the journey allows Rafuse to never lose sight of why she started running in the first place.

“When I starting out running, (not tracking anything) made me realize what I enjoyed about it without the stress and pressure before getting to a Division I experience,” she said. “That definitely plays a part in my mentality when I get out and race now.”

As the season moves forward, the 5K distances are over as the team heads to Bradley today and then to the Summit League Championships at South Dakota on Oct. 28, both races are 6 kilometers.

The goal is to capture the school record in the longer distance, which is 20:54.

“I personally notice too much of a difference, it's just that time on the clock,” said Rafuse, who's 6K personal best is the 22:11 from the Griak Invitational. “Mentally, I think it can get you because when you get to that 5K mark, usually you're crossing the finish line and not realizing that you have one more K. It shows that big difference in people's training.

“If you've had a good background and put in a lot of mileage and training, you're able to keep going that speed for that extra little distance.”