Running toward success
by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
It’s just you and your thoughts. As you stand at the starting line, you are trying to clear out all the noise, and just focus on what you need to do. You don’t even know about the people that are standing on either side of you.
It’s just you and your race. You know exactly what you need to do when it comes time to get going. As soon as that gun goes off, and you take off, it’s just you against the rest of the field.
When is comes to race day, Williamsville East High School’s Bella Ascone is one of the best. It doesn’t matter what race she’s in, Ascone has to be one of the favorites. That’s just how she enters every race.
Her success at the high school level has allowed her to race at some of the top events in the country. She recently just finished her track season at the USATF Jr. Olympics, where she ran the 3,000 and got a 10 second season best - and was only five seconds away from her all-time personal best.
Before the Jr. Olympics, Ascone competed at the Nike Outdoor Nationals. It was an experience that Ascone would never forget.
“Nike Outdoor Nationals was an experience that I'll never forget. Having the opportunity to compete at the iconic Hayward Field was incredible,” stated Ascone. “Nike did a great job organizing and executing the event, so that athletes could have fun, but also focus on their competitions. Running next to so many super fast girls was nerve racking, but also exciting. All of the competitors were so sweet and supportive towards everyone.”
Ascone showed the rest of the country what people already knew in Western New York, that she belonged on the biggest stage. During her high school career, Ascone has competed in everything - this includes a new even she picked up - the steeplechase.
The best way to describe the steeplechase is basically an obstacle course on a track. A runner is going through everything, like the hurdles, and jumping through water, while still trying to have the best time and win the race.
Ascone, who has been a distance runner her entire career, was excited to take on this challenge, but still had to learn how to jump over hurdles while keeping up her speed, and not falling down.
“Steeplechase is such a different event on the track. Going over 18 barriers and jumping over the water pit five times sounds more like an obstacle course than a track event,” stated Ascone. I've been a distance runner my whole life, so having to practice hurdles was a big change for me.”
One of the reasons why Ascone even entered the steeplechase event was because she still wanted to attend her junior prom. As much as sports means to Ascone, so does having a normal life.
The day of the ECIC League Championships just happened to be the same the day as the prom. The steeplechase was earlier in the day, so it allowed Ascone to experience both.
“I entered the event because I had Jr. prom the day of the ECIC League Championships. I not only wanted to race, but I also wanted to enjoy my high school experiences and be a kid. Steeplechase was an early event and it sounded like fun. I have been watching this event for years. I’m so glad this happened, because I found another event that I absolutely love,” stated Ascone. “Stepping onto the line the very first time I ran steeplechase, I just kept telling myself to have fun, enjoy the process, and let the race unfold. When I crossed the line, I had won my heat. It was the most fun I've had racing on the track in a very long time. My mindset before every race is to have fun, enjoy the process and focus on hurtle form. The “trail leg” is key.”
The starting line is just the “finish” of all the work Ascone puts in during the season, and offseason. All the work happens before she steps on the track. This includes eating right.
Eating is fuel, fuel is good. But, you just don’t go and eat a Big Mac from McDonald’s. Don’t get us wrong, that’s fuel, but not the fuel you really want to put in your body. Ascone makes sure she eats the right things, at the right times.
“Food is fuel in my book. The more energy food can give you, the better my body will be able to handle workouts and training. Protein is super important for your muscles, so that's a main part of my diet,” stated Ascone. “During my seasons, I eat a pretty clean diet. I try to avoid a lot of sugars and processed foods and replace those with fresh fruits and vegetables. In general, I try to eat as healthy as possible in order to give my body the best chance to perform well and recover quickly.”
While her track season just ended, Ascone is already gearing up for X-Country. Running is life for Ascone. She runs all year round. Whether is X-Country, Indoor or Outdoor track, Ascone is constantly out there running.
All three seasons help Ascone learn different things. The indoor season allows her to work on her mental game, and her speed game, because the races are shorter. She normally runs the 600 and 1,000 during the indoor season.
The outdoor seasons, Ascone runs her longer events.
“Honestly, I enjoy both seasons, but for different reasons. During indoor, I get to focus on shorter distance races and focus on speed work. I typically run the 600M and 1000M. Those races are very quick and “painless.” Whereas outdoors, I focus on my regular distance events which now includes the steeplechase, 800M, 1500M and 3000M,” stated Ascone. “I am also a member of multiple relay teams including the 4x400, 4x800 and DMR (Distance Medley Relay). The outdoor season is also nice because we get to run in the fresh air. Indoor track meets are notorious for the very dry and dusty air, so it's nice not to have the “indoor cough’ after each race.”
As Ascone looks to her future she has goals that she wants to attain. These goals will start in the next couple of weeks when she gets back to her training, after taking some time off for herself to enjoy the summer.
“I'm going to take a week or two off from running, but still do some strength and cross training. After that, I will jump right back into long runs and workouts! Summer is about adding mileage and building a solid base for the upcoming fall cross country season,” stated Ascone. “I will enjoy my time off, but then I’ll start to miss running. Just because I have to get a run in doesn't mean I don't enjoy my summer. It only takes up a small percentage of my day, leaving me plenty of time to enjoy summer activities like swimming, boating, working, and hanging out with friends.”
ut, everything she does, is to get her ready for the upcoming seasons - and to get her ready for college. She wants to continue her running career in college. That’s one of the goals she has set for herself. To get into the college of her dreams, and get to run and earn a great education.
“In college I would love the opportunity to continue to run competitively . I believe that having a team culture is so important. I also just love the feeling of being able to share common goals with like minded people you're surrounded with. Academically, I want to major in business or business law. I have taken many business classes at my school and it's very exciting to come up with advertisements, marketing plans, or trying to mock up a start-up business,” explained Ascone. “Some of the goals I want to accomplish in the upcoming year is to get accepted to my top college choices, earn my spot on a college team and continue to grow in this sport. Everyone always says that running is a “long game,” and I am so excited to get older and continue to get faster and faster. I can't wait to start training for cross country.”