Olivia Rassel’s athletic comfort zones are literally miles apart.
A little more than three, to be exact.
Immersed in all things cross-country as the No. 4 runner for the 17th-ranked Trojans, the Center Grove sophomore will, in several months, turn her attention to running sprints for the Trojan’s girls track and field team.
Five-thousand meters now, 4,900 less than that later.
Cross-country athletes tend to gravitate toward distance events in track such as the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. It’s also tradition for track sprinters to steer clear of any involvement with cross-country given the discrepancy in distance from start to finish.
Rassel, who as a freshman became Center Grove’s girls record holder in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.14 seconds at the Johnson County Meet last spring, realizes she’s bucking a lot of trends.
“It’s not easy, but ever since I was little I’ve just loved to run whether it was short distances or long distance. I really love them both. Running cross-country is definitely more mentally challenging for me,” said Rassel, who started running competitively in the sixth grade.
“They are so different, but I think it helps balance my life a little bit so I’m not doing the same thing all the time.”
Rassel already has a State Meet medal after teaming with Tori Long, Aliyah Clinker and Lauren Rau in a fourth-place performance in the 1,600 relay. Individually, Rassel finished 15th in the 100-meter dash at state in a time of 12.66 seconds.
Leading up to that she came in second in the 100- and 200-meter sprints at the Franklin Community Sectional. A week later Rassel posted a time of 12.44 for third in the 100 at the Shelbyville Regional.
Center Grove girls cross-country and track coach Wes Dodson said he sees no need in attempting to persuade Rassel to choose one sport over the other. Even though her seasons are nothing alike in terms of training, running surface or actual competition, she benefits from both.
“In the spring Olivia does sprint work, and in the fall she does cross-country practice,” Dodson said. “Obviously, I don’t want to hinder her because what she’ll probably do in college is sprint. By the winter when we’re training for track she’s already super strong.”
This also applies academically regardless of season.
Rassel’s 4.496 grade-point average places her in the top 20 in Center Grove’s Class of 2017. While college remains a long way off, Rassel would like to eventually pursue some aspect of medicine as her career choice.
As for now, it’s about helping this Center Grove cross-country squad achieve to the absolute best of its ability.
“For me, even though I’m not the No. 1 cross-country runner I’m just happy to be able to contribute to my team,” Rassel said.
That meant Friday’s season-opening meet at home against Warren Central where Rassel placed sixth to help the Trojans to victory.
The Trojans return to action Saturday morning when they compete at the Columbus East Invitational.
Lining up as Dodson’s fourth runner will be the same Olivia Rassel so accustomed to breaking the tape first as one of Indiana’s elite girls high school sprinters.
“I think we’ve had kids in the past who did both cross country and sprint, but not be varsity in both,” Dodson said. “This is a new one.”