She’s not a rookie by any sense of the word. She’s already a veteran on the King’s College cross country team.
Marissa Durako, however, participated this year on King’s College’s very first track and field squad. Durako, a junior, culminated her season by taking a pair of championships, along with top “rookie” honors.
Durako, a Laflin native and Holy Redeemer graduate, won the 5,000-meter run, the 10,000-meter run, and was named women’s Rookie of the Year as King’s placed seventh at the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Championships held at Alvernia University.
“I’ve been really itching to be a MAC champion every since I started this journey,” she said. “To realize it was coming was really amazing. I worked so hard for it and to see the smiles on my parents’ faces and on my coaches’ faces — they knew how much I wanted it.”
It was announced last April that King’s would create its first track and field team in 2016. Durako’s cross country coach, Mike Kolinovsky, was to take over the King’s program, so it was a no-brainer for Durako to take part in the track and field program, she said. Durako also participated in track and field in high school.
Durako made the team’s first MAC outdoor championship experience an exciting one for the King’s family.
On Thursday, May 5, Durako won the 10k in 36:51.00 to break the previous meet record of 37:01.42 set in 2009 by Amanda Daws. Durako and Veronica Wheeler, of DeSales University, pulled away from the rest of the field about 100 meters into the race. Durako and Wheeler ran together for the first mile and a half before Durako started to pull away. By the time they reached the 5k mark, Durako held around a 100-meter lead. Wheeler finished second in 38:04.87.
Durako came back on Saturday to take the 5k in a time of 17:44.37. She admitted her main focus was on the 10k. However, she was able to turn in a personal best time by 28 seconds in the 5k.
“I went into it feeling confident but not really nervous,” she said. “That really helped. I wanted to stay with the lead pack and then break away with about a mile to go. I kept going and kept pressing.”
A few months back, Durako competed in her first indoor track and field season for King’s. It was a big adjustment for her, she said, especially running on a track that was just 200 meters as opposed to 400.
“I was disappointed with my performances at indoors,” she said. “I knew I wanted to come back and show everyone what I could do in the outdoor season.”
Durako is no stranger to success on the track or on the course. While running cross country for King’s for the past several years, Durako has become a staple at the MAC championships. She placed fourth at the 2015 championships and eighth at the NCAA Mid-East Regionals to qualify for the NCAA Division 3 National Championships. She also set school records in the 6k during the season.
In all, she is a two-time All-MAC cross country selection. During all of this, Durako has maintained an impressive grade-point average that led to her selection on the 10-runner MAC Fall Academic Honor Roll.
Hanging up her cleats, for now
Once this track and field season is over, Durako will hang up her running shoes for a full year. According to Durako, the fourth year of the five-year physician assistant program at King’s is too intense to be involved in sports. Therefore, she will red-shirt her senior year and coming back for a fifth and final year.
“I won’t be able to be with my team as much, but I will take advantage of the time I have,” she said.
Durako said there is currently a fifth-year physician assistant student on the team, so it can be done.
As far as her extended offseason, Durako will stay loose as much as she can.
“I’ll be training as much as I possibly can through this whole process,” she said. “I’m in my prime right now so I want to keep performing at a high level.”
One last chance
Durako finished fourth in last fall’s MAC Cross Country Championships and qualified for the NCAA Championships. This spring, she is ranked 28th in the nation in the 10k. The top 23 runners from across the country are invited to the national championships later this month. Durako said she believes she must shave around 30 or 40 seconds off her time to qualify.
Her last chance to qualify will be a meet at Widener University on Wednesday, May 18.
“There’s no sense in not trying,” she said.
Durako is the daughter of Ann Marie and Andrew Durako, Laflin.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick