Iola teen goes to Australia
By Holly Neumann
Erika Kisting expanded her running experiences this summer by participating in a DownUnder Sports competition in Australia.
“I’d received letters from DownUnder Sports since freshman year for cross country and track,” the Iola-Scandinavia High School senior said. “As the years went by, I kept receiving the letters and decided to look more into it come my junior year.”
DownUnder Sports gives students the opportunity to visit new places and compete against athletes from other countries.
“I wanted to explore and get the opportunity to see how other athletes and coaches trained,” Kisting said. “I wanted to experience new things that would not only help me athletically, but socially. I was able to meet new people who had different views on many things, which opened my eyes to the world around me.”
Kisting admitted the meets were a little different than what she was used to.
“It was a three-day-long meet from 8 in the morning to about 3 in the afternoon,” she said. “There was a 15-and-under, 16-17, 18-19 then 20-and-up age group. These age groups determined which heat you ran in.”
Kisting made her mark in the 16-17 group.
“I first ran the 3,000-meter, which was a little under 2 miles, which is where I placed fifth,” she said. “Then I ran the 1,500, which is just under the mile distance that I normally run, and placed second. My last race was the 800-meter, and I placed first.”
Kisting believes she gained a lot from the experience.
“I learned how to focus on my breathing in different ways,” she said. “When practicing, you should go hard for whatever the distance is, then when your heart rate and breathing is down, do the next one. This is the proper way to practice so you’re giving each set your full ability because you have caught your breath.”
The most important thing Kisting gained was learning other athletes’ running styles.
“I love competing with the athletes that I do, but in Australia, I was able to compete against new people and see how I differ from them,” she said. “This shows me how my running changes depending on who I run against and how it affects me mentally and physically.”
While in Australia, Kisting got to see some of the country as well.
“I was able to go into the mountains and see many waterfalls,” she said. “It was an amazing sight to see how high some of the trees grew and how different their plants are to ours. I was also able to go on what was called a Skywalk, which was where they had walkways up in the canopies of the trees.”
She also traveled to an area zoo where she got to pet kangaroos, koala bears and even a baby alligator.
“I had dinner at the animal sanctuary, and we got to see a live performance by some Australian tribes,” she said. “They showed us some dances that they would do while making fire and playing the didgeridoo.”
Kisting also spent some time in Hawaii, where she had the opportunity to snorkel and surf.
“I was able to stand pretty well and only fell once,” she said.
The overall experience was amazing, she said.
“I learned a lot about my running and hopefully will be able to use it to enhance my running this coming spring for my last year of track in high school,” she said. “Not only did this experience help me with my running, but I was able to learn more about the world around me and the people that live in it, which makes me respect and appreciate what I am given. It was cool to see so many people share the same interest and love for running the way I do.”
Kisting is looking ahead to pursuing a college degree in architecture.
“I hope to continue my running career at the collegiate level,” she said. “Even though I have not narrowed down my decision quite yet, I have some colleges in mind.”