By SETH STASKEY
Times Leader Sports Editor
Luke Holubeck didn't hesitate when he said tonight's 10,000-meter race is the "most important of his life."
That's the feeling a college athlete gets when he's on the cusp of becoming an all-American.
Such is life for the St. John Central graduate, who is putting the finishing touches on a brilliant collegiate career at Wheeling Jesuit University at tonight's NCAA Division II National Outdoor Track and Field Championships held in Allendale, Mich. on the campus of Grand Valley State University.
"I am going to try to treat it like any other race," Holubeck said. "I have to continue to look at it as no different than any other race I've ran and stay in it mentally."
Holubeck, who departed for Michigan on Tuesday afternoon, competes tonight at 8:10 and has his eyes on at least a top eight finish to earn his first all-American honor in track and field.
With 25 brisk laps staring him in the face, Holubeck has had some anxious moments leading up to this race. He's only ran this distance twice this season.
"I've been excited for this for a while," Holubeck said. "I've just kind of been waiting around and now it's finally time to run another one."
Holubeck is seeded 12th in the race with a solid time of 29 minutes, 55 seconds. He ran that in early April at the Raleigh Relays at N.C. State University.
The only other time he competed in the 10K was a few weeks ago at the inaugural Mountain East Conference Championship. Holubeck won that race. His time wasn't as fast, but he tripled that weekend, also running the 5,000 and the 1,500 meters to help the Cardinals' team chase.
Though he's seeded 12th, just 43 seconds separate the third and 17th-seeded runners, so Holubeck is bracing for a big pack of runners to be in the thick of the race for a long time.
"That kind of time isn't really that much in a 10K," Holubeck said. "It's going to come down to who runs close to the same time that they were seeded."
Holubeck and his head coach Ricky Moore have talked at length about making sure to stick with the gameplan and not get caught up in what the balance of the 20-runner field does.
It also helps that Holubeck has faced the majority of these runners, whether it be in cross country or on the track.
"There is going to be a huge pack of guys, but I know a couple of the guys will try to take (the race) out on everyone else," Holubeck said. "I want to settle in during the first half of the race and then really get after it in the second half. I am imagining that everyone will be attempting to do that and make a run at it at the end."
This is Holubeck's first trip to the national track meet. He admitted there might be some nerves, so keeping his emotions and nerves in check when the gun sounds will be of extreme importance.
"I have to keep everything in perspective when I step on the track," Holubeck noted. "The same type of mentality that I've been running with all season is what I am going to need."
Whether he earns all-American or not, it will be Holubeck's last collegiate race, which he's been trying to avoid even thinking about.
"It's not really set in yet," Holubeck said. "This is a great note to end my career on, but it's going to be bittersweet. I am definitely going to miss it. No matter how (the national meet) ends up, I couldn't be happier with how my career has gone."
Holubeck, who just received his degree from WJU in biology, plans to take some time away from highly competitive running. He'll still be a runner, but he's going to attend graduate school at the University of Toledo.
"I won't be training as hard as I am right now, so I can focus on school," Holubeck said. "Once I finish grad school, I'd like to get into marathons and longer distance. I've always wanted to do those kinds of races."
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com