Perzanowski off to strong start at FGCU
When the men’s basketball team at Florida Gulf Coast University made it’s memorable run through last winter’s NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, it put the school’s Fort Myers campus on the map.
No longer was the Atlantic Sun Conference school simply known as a place with a great view and a place where you didn’t have to wear a coat when you walked around campus.
This place produces some pretty good athletes.
No one liked this idea more than Kelly Perzanowski, the St. Clairsville High School product who was getting ready for her senior season on the school’s cross country team.
”I was kind of inspired by that,” she said of the Eagles’ men’s basketball success. ”It was the most exciting time.”
Like the other sports programs at the school, Perzanowski was hoping all the hoopla surrounding the Sweet 16 berth would be a boon to the women’s cross country program.
”We just want to build the program up,” she said. “We just want to show you don’t have to have a track program to bring in the fast recruits. I hope (the success) draws faster recruits in for next year and it gets better.
”We want every team at FGCU doing well and the best as it can.”
That’s just like Perzanowski; thinking of the program instead of her own success. But that’s part of the reason she’s been such a success herself.
And what a career it’s been.
A senior, the milestones keep piling up for the former all-Ohioan. This week, she became the first FGSU runner since 2011 and second all-time to earn ASC Runner of the Week accolades.
”It’s pretty cool to see the hard work paying off,” she said from campus last last week.
Perzanowski staged a record-shattering performance in the 6K at last week’s Mountain Dew Invitational at the University of Florida. She led the group of 270 competitors across the finish line in 20:45, topping the former mark of 22:02 and defeating peers from a handful of Southeastern Conference schools in the process.
”The start to my season has definitely been beyond expectation,” Perzanowski said.
”With a team like this and at a school like this we take a lot of pride in everything. It’s a team effort and a team accomplishment.”
Perzanowski has raced to victory in both of the Eagles’ races this season. In her four seasons at FGSU, she has the top spot for the 5K and 6K. Additionally, she holds three of the top five 6K times and five of the top 10 5K times.
”I knew I was in a lot better shape this season,” she said. ”But, I didn’t know what to expect. I was definitely surprised with this race this past weekend.”
So what changed?
”This was the first summer I stayed in Fort Myers,” she said. ”I took summer classes and trained with the team.
”I think staying down here has helped a lot. I was able to stay in a certain mindset.”
The time also gave Perzanowski an opportunity to prepare herself as a senior leader.
”I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said. ”I’ve been making sure everyone is on the same page. It’s been a lot of fun.”
The Eagles return to action next Saturday at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, a far cry from Fort Myers.
”Down here it’s hot and the humidity is crazy,” Perzanowski said. ”That will be interesting when we go there.
”We’ll have to be mentally prepared because of the weather, that’s for sure.”