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Dolak happy to be back in action

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State junior Lauren Dolak, a Fitch graduate, leads the pack on the way to winning the 800-meter run on Friday at the YSU Collegiate Invitational.

Youngstown State’s Lauren Dolak has seen it all. The middle distance runner and former multisport athlete for the Penguins has a unique perspective as an athlete.

On Friday, she competed in YSU’s season-opening indoor meet at the Watson and Tressel Training Site and took home first place in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:20.55 as the Penguins got back into rhythm after not competing for a long passage of time.

“It’s really exciting to be back, since we haven’t raced in over 320 days,” Dolak said. “It was pretty exciting, kind of like nerve wracking, because it’s been so long.”

Last winter, she scored points for her team at the Horizon League meet by finishing sixth, while recording the ninth-fastest 800 time in school history with a mark of 2:16.70.

Dolak and the track program lost the outdoor season last spring, and she also missed out on cross country this past fall. Not being able to compete is unusual for the YSU junior.

“It’s been hard because racing is what we usually look forward to,” she said. “So, not having races, it’s been mentally challenging to keep pushing and keep training.

“So it’s nice to finally almost see the end, and actually get to race. I try to be consistent, and just do everything that I’ve been doing, and it’s helped to be able to run with my teammates again to help get through it.”

Dolak, a Fitch High School graduate and accounting major, originally entered YSU as a midfielder for the women’s soccer program. She started 17 out of 18 matches for the Penguins in 2018 as a freshman, and scored a pair of goals.

Going into her sophomore season, she joined the track and cross country teams at YSU, while still playing soccer.

Being a multisport athlete at the Division I level in college has improved her game.

“It’s helped in a few ways, mentally, I think, and it’s made me stronger, physically, too,” she said. “It’s nice to change things up once and awhile, because soccer is a lot different from running.

“Running, you have to be like mentally tough and soccer, you have to be physically tough to get through the games.”

She was a four-year letterwinner in soccer and was named an all-district selection three times at Fitch, while recording school records in the 800 and 1600.

Dolak was also a member of two record-setting relay teams for the Falcons and was a district and regional champion twice in the 800.

“It’s awesome being able to represent Youngstown, and getting to compete with the Penguins,” she said.

Both the YSU men’s and women’s track programs are coming off of titles in the indoor league meet last winter, with the women’s team having won the last four consecutive indoor titles.

Track is a bit different this year with the WATTs having a maximum capacity of 250 people, and each group of athletes being brought in by event. First, the sprinters compete, then they leave and the distance runners come in and run their races. Once they leave, the field events are contested.

Youngstown State will have one more home meet this season at the end of January with the two-day Mid-Major Invitational. They’ll head up to Kent twice during the month of February before competing in the four-day Horizon League meet at Purdue-Fort Wayne.

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