A-K Valley athletes benefit from off-season work for individual sports

Friday, August 10, 2018 | 6:36 PM

Izzy Komaniak is enjoying a relaxing vacation with family in Puerto Vallara, Mexico this week, and since she’s been there, the Riverview senior has devoted time to a few distance runs, including jaunts on the beach.

“Running on the beach is fun, and it’s definitely a good workout,” she said.

With the start of official WPIAL fall sports practices Monday, the Raiders senior cross country standout wants to make sure she is ready to go.

Summer for many fall sports athletes can be a surprisingly busy time with vacations, work and other activities. Preparation time can be limited.

While team workouts are plentiful, in cross country and other sports such as golf and tennis, the individual aspect can lead to a more flexible opportunities to get the job done.

“With so many things going on, I try to get a workout in wherever and whenever,” said Komaniak, who finished 12 th at last year’s WPIAL Class A cross country championships.

“My coaches are very understanding, and they know we all are going to get our miles in and properly prepare. There are good opportunities to run with the team, but it’s good to have that workout flexibility.”

Rachel Link, Valley’s girls tennis coach, understands what her players and all student-athletes have on their plates over the summer.

She hosts voluntary court workouts a couple of times a week during the summer but knows that they are not always feasible for everyone.

Senior Lauren Schrock hopes to qualify for the WPIAL Class AA singles tournament this fall, and she has put the work in over the summer. She will miss this upcoming week of team practices because of an educational opportunity in biology in Washington state.

Teammate Aimee Johnson, a junior, is taking some vacation time this week. She said she packed her tennis racket and plans to hit the court often with her parents and siblings. It is a summertime tradition, she said, they all look forward to doing.

“I am also thinking about the season when I am playing and what I can work on to get better,” Johnson said. “I want to be more consistent in my game. Whether its playing with teammates or with family, getting on the court and focusing on my game has been a priority.”

“I know both of them and how diligent they are about getting ready for the season and embracing that challenge,” Link said. “It’s what I expect from all of my players.”

New Plum cross country coach Adam Molinaro is a Mustangs alum who went on to run at Saint Vincent. He understands the summer preparation from both sides.

“The athletes we have, including the large amount of freshman runners, are pretty reliable,” he said. “We’ve seen them (with team workouts) since early July. The last couple of weeks before the start of the season always seems to be prime vacation time. We give them a workout plan. They might not be able to run every day, but we know they are doing the best they can to get a workout in so they can be ready for the season.”

Deer Lakes cross country senior captain Josh Yourish has taken advantage of team workouts for the past six weeks, and he also has found time to go on individual runs to build his mileage endurance. It’s also an activity, he said, he just loves to do.

He recently paid a visit to a few colleges, including Clemson in South Carolina, and was able to run through the campus, creating his own workout course.

“I’m always looking for cool places to run and stay in shape,” Yourish said. “I work a ton over the summer, so I can’t be at all the workouts. I’ve sometimes gotten home from work late and have gone on runs at 11:30 at night through my neighborhood. It can be an anytime thing. That’s what’s nice about training for a sport that has that individual component.”

Tiger Hubbard, a senior golfer at Burrell, understands that individual component as he branched out several times over the spring and summer to play on the Advocates Professional Golf Tour which included tournaments in Miami, Chicago and Dallas. He will join other amateurs and also professionals at the tour championship in Los Angeles in two weeks.

“It’s a benefit to head out and play as many courses as possible,” said Hubbard, who also looks forward each summer to golfing at various local courses.

“I want to have a well-rounded game with many different challenges. It starts in the winter after the fall season ends where I see if any changes need to be made. Then I try to hone my skills in the spring and summer so the (high school) season flows.”

Freeport golf coach Joe Sprumont holds a voluntary summer program at the team’s home at Buffalo Golf Course in Sarver. He said he saw a nice response, including the past several weeks leading up to the start of official practices.

He also appreciated seeing several sharpen their individual games through junior tournaments where he could follow their progress with online results.

“It’s good learning experience for them to play on their own,” Sprumont said. “It gets them used to having to figure things out and work through adversity. I’ve always trusted them to do extra stuff outside of the (team sessions). In matches, ultimately you’re going to be on your own within the team format and will have to work on strategy for each hole.”

The WPIAL qualifier for Section 1-AA, involving Burrell, Freeport, Riverview, Leechburg, Valley and St. Joseph, will be hosted by Riverview at 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills. It’s has been and will be a destination for those golfers for practice in preparation for the Sept. 17 event.

“With golf, there are so many opportunities over the summer to get on the course,” Sprumont said.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.

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