By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
On December 6, 1998, Christine Sisting became the first Central New York runner to qualify for the US Olympic Trials by running the California International Marathon in Sacramento in 2 hours 48 minutes 30 seconds. The trials are scheduled for Columbia, South Carolina, on February 26, 2000 to select the three women who will represent the US in the Marathon at the Sydney Olympics.
A California native, Sisting grew up in the town of Marcy at the edge of the Adirondack Forest in Upstate New York. She started running at age eight, and entered her first road race a year later. Sisting attended Holland Patent High School, where she competed in cross-country running in the fall, cross-country skiing in winter and outdoor track in spring.
In a successful scholastic career, Sisting earned several local and regional honors including Tri-Valley All-Star team and All-State Team in cross-country. She attended the State University of New York at Geneseo and earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education in 1996. At Geneseo, Sisting set track school records in her junior and senior years, and finished third in the NCAA Division III cross-country championship.
In her final year at Geneseo, Sisting worked as women's cross-country assistant coach while completing her student teaching requirement. After graduating from Geneseo, she attended the State University of New York at Cortland where she completed a Master of Science degree in reading in 1998.
I met Sisting in July 1994 at a Syracuse Chargers all-comers track meet, and recruited her to run on the Women's 100-mile Guinness world record relay. Sisting ran the 97th mile of the relay in 5:28 and helped set a world record. That relay ushered the start of a string of successes as a competitive club runner.
In May 1998, Sisting led the Syracuse Chargers team to a second place finish in the USATF Association National Championship at the Freihofer 5K Run for Women in Albany. Two months later, at the Boilermaker 15K road race in Utica, Sisting was the first local woman finisher in a time of 54 minutes 24 seconds.
Last summer, Sisting started teaching first-grade at Little Wound elementary school on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Kyle, South Dakota. Life on the reservation confined Sisting to run alone most of the time, except for the occasional run with her brother, also a teacher on the reservation.
Practical considerations determined Sisting's choice of the California International Marathon for her Marathon debut: fast course, mild December weather and relatives in Sacramento. With cloudy skies and temperatures in the low forties, she felt good the first twenty miles and ran slightly faster than planned. She slowed down a bit over the last six miles, but still finished ahead of her target time.
At age 24, Sisting considers her longevity in racing as her main running achievement. While most collegiate runners stop competing upon graduation, Sisting credits racing injury-free for the last 15 years to smart training and generous layoffs.
Case in point, Sisting took a month off running after the Boilermaker to rejuvenate her body and mind. Such a practical outlook on running permitted her to set goals and reach them, including a 17-minute 5K and 35-minute 10K personal records.
Sisting plans to run one more Marathon in preparation for the Olympic trials in 2000. She has chosen Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota on June 19, 1999. A faster time at Grandma's will improve her seeding at the trials, and may provide her an all-expenses paid invitation to Columbia.
At the completion of her South Dakota teaching assignment in May 1999, Sisting plans to return to Central New York, where she hopes to settle in a permanent teaching position. In the meantime, she braces herself for some cold running and rugged training at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the rugged hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS: Charlene Lyford, of Greene, NY ran & won the Steamtown Marathon on October 11, 98 in a new course record of 2:44:01, and qualified for the US Olympic Trails. Depending on one's interpretation of the geographic extent of Central New York, one can argue that Lyford was the first Central New Yorker to qualify.