by Evan Kakuk
The Cedarville women’s cross-country season is in progress, and with it comes many athletes who have trained hard over an exceptionally long offseason and are excited to show off their progress. Among these athletes is Alayna Ackley.
Ackley, a junior Life Science Education major, has been one of the most prolific runners for the Yellow Jackets, finishing second or better for the team throughout this season. She was selected the G-MAC Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week during the week of September 14th this fall, and has set a seasonal best of 18:17.2 in the 5K at the Louisville Cross Country Classic and 22:07.0 in the 6K at the Hillsdale Invitational. The Hillsdale Invitational is also the meet where Ackley got her first collegiate win.
Because of the leaps and bounds that the team has made, she’s very excited about this season, and she’s ready to show off her God-given running ability; not to glorify herself, but to glorify God.
In regard to the recent success of the Jackets, Ackley shows a lot of respect and admiration for her teammates.
“It’s actually a really good year for us, [I’m] super optimistic about it,” Ackley says. “It’s been super cool to see everyone’s improvements.”
Ackley attributes a large part of the team’s success to the hard work that they’ve put in over the summer.
“Every summer, we have our training logs; we follow each other on Strava, which is basically social media for runners,” she said. “We keep each other accountable, and we just work hard.”
Ackley has also been selected to be one of five team captains this season. She says that she’s “really honored to be able to be a captain and serve in that way,” as well as commenting about how her job is made easier by how well the girls cooperate.
“On our team we’re all very responsible, and we all pull our own weight,” she said.
With Ackley reporting to the head coach on a consistent basis, he would have to see leadership qualities in her to trust her with that responsibility. Her head coach, Jeff Bolender, says he sees Ackley as a leader for the other girls. “The work ethic is there, being energetic [and] positive. She truly loves to race.”
Part of why Bolender sees the leadership traits in her could be the result of how Ackley tries to actively lead by example.
“The best way to lead is by example, I would say. I mean, that’s how Jesus led, and trying to follow the way that he led is my goal,” says Ackely.
In order to lead by example, Ackley continually maintains a positive attitude.
“I be grateful, and pray when I’m not, and try to get back in a good heart attitude, because if the heart’s there, it’s not hard to make the rest follow.”
Ackley puts a lot of passion and heart into her running. One of the largest motivating factors for this is her desire to glorify God.
“I know God has given me the desire to run for a reason, and the passion and the talent to do it, and I just want to be able to give him the glory for that,” Ackley says.
She also looks at running as her form of ministry.
“Being able to do well at [running] means I get more respect from those of the world, and those are the ones we’re trying to lead to Christ, so that to me is the greatest thing about being a runner,” Ackley said.
Coach Bolender sees this passion for ministry in her as well.
“She’s a positive testimony to those around her,” he said. “Her heart’s in it; she loves to train.”
This season, Ackley has only one meet left, which is the G-MAC Championship. She and her team will be training hard for that meet. After this cross-country season, Ackley will look forward to the indoor and outdoor track seasons. She will continue to glorify God with her running talent, as well as off the courses and tracks with her positive attitude.
Evan Kakuk is a sophomore Professional Writing and Information Design major. He enjoys running, weightlifting, and playing Wii with his friends.