Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2017

Currently: 64° — Complete forecast

Rebels runners pleased to finally run at home

Sept. 6 -- UC Irvine Invitational (6th/11)

Sept. 20 -- UC Riverside Invitational (13th/14)

Sept. 27 -- Stanford Invitational (23rd/26)

Oct. 4 -- San Diego State Invitational (5th/6)

Oct. 18 -- UNLV Invitational

Nov. 1 -- Mountain West meet at San Diego State

Note: UNLV's finish/number of teams entered in parentheses.

It's hard enough to get college students up at 7 a.m. to go to class.

But to get a group of college kids up at the crack of dawn every morning to go run? Some would say outrageous.

Not Michelle Suszek, nor her teammates on UNLV's cross country team.

"We're not normal college kids," she joked at 8 a.m. one day this week after a practice run around Sunset Park in preparation for Saturday's UNLV Cross Country Invitational, a 5-kilometer run around Sunset Park beginning at 8:45 a.m. "I've always been a morning person. I like coming out in the morning. Going to bed early is a good thing, too."

Suszek's performance has been the bright spot on a team that has finished second-to-last in two of its meets, and in the bottom half of teams in all its races. Suszek, though, has posted two top-10 finishes, and was 47th out of 187 runners in the September meet at Palo Alto.

Rebels cross country coach Angie Bestwick says Suszek's dedication makes her stand out, yet Suszek says there's still room for her to improve.

"I don't feel like I'm running up to my potential. I hope I'll peak and come up to my skill."

One thing the UNLV women can look forward to this weekend is waking up before a race in their own beds. With all four of their previous tournaments in California, Bestwick said that the early-season travel had drained her team.

"Traveling takes a lot out of you, but it's a good team bonding thing," Bestwick said. "We don't travel too much in the grand scheme of things."

"I love to travel," Suszek said. "It's a team bonding experience, and it's exciting to experience other climates."

Nonetheless, racing the home course is definitely an advantage for the Rebels.

"In distance running, a smart runner knows where to go, how to take corners, and all the support you get being in a place where people know you," Suszek said.

Modesto College, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Utah Valley State College, and Huntington Beach, Calif.'s Golden West College will all compete against UNLV in Saturday's meet.