NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Sports

March 10, 2014

Breathing easy

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

(Continued)

“Lexi made that commitment that she wanted to be good. And once one of our kids makes that decision, Mike works his magic,” Gardner said, referencing Ekstrand, who is regarded as the best sprinting coach in New England. “Lexi stayed in Lowell last summer. She was always around, in the weight room and out on the track. She had very little distraction.”

Kitsakos captured the 400-meter dash at the America East Conference Championship on Feb. 24. She emerged from a second-place showing in the preliminary and a time of 56.75 to win the title in 56.56 seconds.

She also ran the leadoff leg on UMass Lowell’s 4x400 meter relay team which captured the championship in 3:47.96. The River Hawks, in their first season as a Division I school, placed sixth among nine teams. Kitsakos is at her peak heading into her last meet of the season – the ECAC/IC4A Championship. Last week, Kitsakos placed sixth in the 400-meter dash at the New England Championship in a personal-best 56.09 seconds. She earned All-New England status, which she hadn’t planned on.

“I went into the meet not knowing if I was going to place,” she said. “I was going for a PR. Placing was just icing on the cake.”

Kitsakos’ success in the 400-meters is more impressive considering she had never run it at Pentucket. She was unable, due to asthma. “I would get asthma attacks after the 200, so the 400 wasn’t an option,” she said. “My asthma definitely pushed me though. If I didn’t have an asthma attack after the 200, I felt I didn’t run hard enough.”

Kitsakos won the state championship in the high jump as a senior, which is a story in itself. The 200-meters and the high jump were running simultaneously. She placed fourth in 26.23 seconds, asthma attack and all.

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