ELMWOOD PARK — Elmwood Park’s Gianna Rubino isn’t a typical cross country runner.
The senior’s strong suit is speed, not endurance.
During the track season, Rubino’s focus is on the 400-meter dash. But when the fall rolls around, she has to adjust to running races 16 times longer.
“Track is more of my goals for accomplishing time but I love to run and that’s mainly what this team is for,” Rubino said. “As a freshman I didn’t really know how to race, but I’ve been building up my niche. Now I know how to race and I put as much effort as I can because I love my team.”
Not many sprinters are willing to put in the type of mileage that being on the cross country team requires and Rubino’s teammates respect her for that.
“We tried last year to get some of the other sprinters to join cross country but they thought it was like running a marathon,” teammate Jayleen Pagan said. “Gianna is hard-working and she has to change how she runs for track and cross country. You have to give her props for that.”
One of the main reasons Rubino came out for cross country in the first place is head coach John Kingsmill. He’s been coaching the team for the past 32 years and put in a lot of time and effort into conducting youth camps in the community.
Rubino participated in one of those camps and has forgotten, even though she’s not a fan of long distances.
“I’ve known King since I was in fourth grade,” Rubino said. “It’s been my life for so long, there was no convincing. I still don’t like [distance races] as I’m running them but it’s an amazing feeling once I’m done.”
Putting in the hard work has paid off for Rubino. Last year she was an alternate to the seven-runner team that went to the Class 2A meet. That’s when Kingsmill noticed a change.
“She’s always been very happy being outside of the top seven because there was no pressure,” Kingsmill said. “But last year as the team was jelling and we were looking at going downstate, I kept nine girls [for the postseason] and she was one of the nine. She went through all the extra three weeks of training and the trips to sectionals and state and I think that really left a mark on her.”
While being in Peoria with her teammates was special, she missed the opportunity to run.
“It’s just different being one of the top runners because you know you have to prove yourself,” she said. “[Last year] was a big motivator, a big eye opener that I was so close but wasn’t there. I hope I can be part of that this year.”
Rubino was the team’s No. 5 runner at the Metro Suburban Pre-Conference Meet on Sept. 16. She finished 20th overall with a personal record of 22:37.
“I don’t know [if fifth] will be her position ultimately, but she’s holding it right now,” Kingsmill said. “It also gives the younger girls something to shoot for: ‘I want to catch Gianna.’ ”