From Student to Teacher

  • By Daniel Whitehead
  • |
  • October 06, 2011 12:26 PM
  • |
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Entering her fifth season as a Mountaineer, redshirt senior runner Ahna Lewis has been taught the tricks of the trade a few times, always with an open mind and ever-conscious of finding ways to improve. Confident in what she’s learned from others, the Morgantown native is ready to do some teaching on her own.

It’s only fitting that she chose secondary education as her major since this season she’ll not only set an example for younger runners on the team, but also handle student-teaching responsibilities at a local middle school as she fulfills an internship requirement for her degree.

To prepare for the big year, Lewis stayed busy throughout the summer by increasing the mileage on her training runs and working as a counselor at a Crusade for Christ kids’ camp in Colorado.

“This season will be interesting for me because I’m a student-teacher and I’ll be working most of the mornings and early afternoons,” Lewis said. “It will be challenging, but I’ve been a student-athlete for some time now and have gotten into a routine of when things need to be done. You attend classes, practice for a few hours before getting to your homework and you repeat the process the next day. I’m used to it now – that’s part of being a collegiate athlete.”

It’s this system and routine she believes she can help the most with as freshmen or underclassmen may struggle with the balance and seek advice.

“It’s neat to be a mentor figure now and realize how far I’ve come since my freshman year,” she said. “Sometimes the younger girls will ask how to best prepare for a meet and I can explain to them some of my pre-meet rituals or what they should eat. They may feel nervous, so I tell them what helps me to get ready.

“Other times, I find opportunities to explain the process of getting ready for road trips. As an education major, I like to be that teacher figure. I’m glad to help calm their nerves. I’m not super outgoing, but there are different types of leaders.”

For an athlete to balance the load, a high level of energy is required. Energy is something Lewis has never struggled with, which is the reason as a young girl her parents wanted her to get outside and run to release the commotion she stirred within the house.

“My mom said I had so much energy and so much action that they wanted me to get involved in some kind of sport,” Lewis said. “We heard about the local running club, the WV Flyers, and I joined when I was 10. I loved running. I was home-schooled growing up, but one of the reasons I went to Morgantown High was so that I could be involved with sports.”

Active not only in running, Lewis simply enjoys being outdoors. She was known to climb trees, read a book or take a stroll in the woods to enjoy nature. An exercise junkie, she also enjoys a good bike ride or swimming laps. In fact, Lewis believes the outdoorsy nature of the state plays a role in the development of great athletes.

“There’s a great community here for running,” she said. “People like to be outdoors. I love to see my students’ eyes light up when I tell them I’m on the WVU cross country and track teams. Usually, you don’t get any kind of response.”

Struggling with heel problems early last season, Lewis came on strong in the championship races with a 25th-place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional and 33rd place at the BIG EAST Championships. Now healthy for her final season with the team, she hopes to make the most of it by helping the team qualify for nationals.

“I definitely feel that I’ll need to perform at the highest level to help the team get to where it wants this season,” she said. “We have a lot of talent on the squad, but each one of us will need to push ourselves to compete because it won’t be easy at BIG EAST or the NCAA regional.”

Another run at a top-10 national finish would only top things off with the rich memories Lewis has enjoyed throughout her running career at WVU.

“Being together with the team during the past four years and what we’ve been able to accomplish has been the most memorable,” she said. “I like to think of the things we’ve done together, the road trips, preseason training camps and many others. Our fourth-place national finish my redshirt freshman year in 2008 was pretty awesome and certainly stands out. Being a part of three top-10 teams has also been wonderful, but it would be nice to add a fourth.”

She knows this can be done by following the lead of coach Sean Cleary and the successful program he has developed.

“My mental focus during races has improved a lot with coach Cleary’s help,” Lewis said. “I’m also stronger and more durable than I’ve ever been. With the training program he’s set in place, you can only improve your running times and increase your strength. He’s great at individualizing everyone’s training program to get the most out of us.”

After years of development and tutelage, she’s ready to do some teaching herself in her final year as a Mountaineer.


Ahna Lewis, WVU Cross Country