Running becomes unexpected lifestyle


Samantha Zoltanski

Junior Dora Eastin runs during the Southern Stampede on Sept. 21 when she led the Lions to a fifth place finish. Eastin placed tenth overall with a time of 17:54.99 and reaching her goal of an under 18 minute race.

Junior cross country runner Dora Eastin began her career as a runner by default, but now she can’t imagine life without it.

“It makes me feel good on the inside,” said Eastin. “Because of running, I feel healthy, I feel active, I feel very energetic. I have a positive outlook on life and I know that running is a part of that.”

Eastin had planned to try out for the Neosho High School volleyball team her freshman year, even though the cross country coach had been encouraging her to run.

Growing up, Eastin was in the YMCA program, playing all different sports. Everyone told her she was fast, but she would not even consider long distance.

“I remember being a little girl and looking outside the window seeing the high school runners and thinking those people are really dumb,” Eastin said.

When Eastin arrived for volleyball tryouts, there was a miscommunication on locating the results of her physical and she missed the start. Once she was finally able to participate in tryouts, the sport was not what she expected, and she finally made the decision to run cross country instead.

She was very successful throughout her high school career. Eastin was the only female from Neosho High School to attend the Class 4 Girls Cross Country State Championship in 2006. In 2007 and 2008 the team finished 11th at the state championships, and Eastin was one of the top three on the team.

Success continued for Eastin as she became part of the Missouri Southern women’s cross country team that placed third at the 2009 NCAA D II National Championships.

Now, four years later, Eastin will compete at the national championships once again, but the situation is a bit different.

“Back then I was expected to be at the bottom, whereas this year it’s because I have much higher expectations from so many people,” said Eastin. “I had old teammates come watch me this season, and they said I impressed them. I impressed myself as well.”

At regionals two weeks ago, Eastin placed fifth overall. She was the second highest MIAA finisher of the race. Eastin finished the 6K course with a time of 21:23.71, earning All-Region honors.

 “I thought she had a great race, probably the best race I’ve seen her run,” said Women’s Cross Country Head Coach Patty Vavra. “I am very pleased for her because she has worked very hard for a long time and has a great passion for the sport and running. It was fun to see all her hard work pay off.”

After the regional race, Eastin received encouragement from Vavra that gave her the confidence she sometimes lacks.

“When she [Vavra] told me I was going to nationals, I could tell the excitement in her voice,” said Eastin. “It makes me happy when I can go out there and wow people and impress people. It is an awesome feeling.”

Eastin has had a strong support system every since her freshman year of high school. Her parents attend every race possible, no matter the circumstances.

“At the Arkansas meet it was raining and pouring … but my mom going and not caring about the weather has a positive outlook in every situation,” Eastin said. “They are always saying good job, they always have faith, and they have never doubted me.”

Even her high school coach still shows his support. She says she realizes now how his coaching has helped mold her into the runner she is today. Whenever she tells him about an accomplishment or a goal she has reached, he tells her he knew she could do it.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself, how to prepare for a race and training wide, and I always look back at him and the things he has taught me,” she said.

In preparing for the national championship, Eastin remembers what she learned throughout her career. She has kept to the same routine she followed in season, with the help of some fellow cross country runners. Senior Alex Mason, freshman Drake Smelser and senior teammates Cassy Kendrick have been practicing with Eastin throughout training.

Although the course at the national championship will be flat, similar to the course at the regional meet, Eastin still practices on the MSSU Cross Country Course.

“I love to train on hills,” she said. “In my head I have it set to where if I can run really well on hills, then on flat ground it will be easier.”

Before the race tomorrow, Eastin will go through her regular routine.

“Once I start my warm-up, which is usually an hour before the race, I tend to just zone out,” Eastin said. “I just block everyone out. I will focus on the race, look for my parents, look at my competition and start setting goals for the race.”