, Newburyport, MA


March 10, 2014

Breathing easy

Merrimac native Kitsakos has found her niche in the 400-meter dash

The best part about Alexis Kitsakos’ indoor track and field season at UMass Lowell wasn’t winning the America East Conference championships in the 400-meter dash and the 4x400 meter relay.

The highlight of her junior year? “I haven’t had to use my inhaler,” the Merrimac native said.

Kitsakos contracted mononucleosis her sophomore year at Pentucket Regional High School, and it was so bad that she developed asthma and a slew of allergies. Asthma doesn’t jive with sprinters, and the allergies don’t help when you’re competing in the spring.

But, ailments and all, Kitsakos is enjoying an indoor season for the ages evidenced by said titles and results she never dreamed of.

“My times, especially in the last two weeks, have been dropping,” Kitsakos said. “It’s amazing me.”

Following last season, Gary Gardner, the head coach at UMass Lowell, and assistant Mike Ekstrand, who coaches the River Hawk sprinters, adjusted Kitsakos’ summer training program. Instead of short sprints, they had Kitsakos do more distance and endurance training.

As part of her workouts, Kitsakos would run continuous loops of 800-meters under three minutes, 1,200-meters within five minutes and a mile under seven minutes. Gardner is a huge advocate of rest and allowing one’s body to heal. But on her days off, Kitsakos would sneak a 20-minute run.

The proof is in the results of what has been a breakout season. Having competed her freshman and sophomore seasons with solid results, Kitsakos is now winning trophies.

“Doing more distance training has definitely helped me,” Kitsakos said. “I definitely trained harder than ever last summer.”

Last year, Kitsakos peaked in the 400-meters with a time of 58.64 seconds. Last weekend at the New England Championship, she ran 56.09, her personal best. The improvement is not lost on her coaches.

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