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Chester County Press

Dedication, drive carry Estes to St. Joseph's University

04/30/2015 01:24PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Some high school seniors who are destined to compete in collegiate athletics have spent more than half their young lives playing the particular sport that they excel in.

Oxford Area High School senior Elaine Estes, by contrast, worked hard enough at becoming a skilled cross-country runner that she started attracting the attention of colleges in less than two years. She started running in the summer before her sophomore year, and this time next year she will be competing in cross country for St. Joseph’s University.

“As an athlete, Elaine drove herself to be the best,” said Duffy Sample, her coach. “I had the opportunity to watch Elaine begin her career as an average runner and, by her senior year, develop into a state qualifier. [She is] never satisfied with her times. Elaine became a student of cross country. She bought books about the sport, asked for workouts that extended her training, and disciplined herself to come to school at 6 a.m. for an extra workout. I never had an athlete with as much dedication and drive as Elaine.”

“Mr. Sample calls me the bulldog,” Estes explained with a laugh.

As a youngster, Estes tried various sports—softball, soccer, basketball—but gravitated toward individual sports. She was a dancer for a long time. Several of her friends ran cross country for Oxford, so she decided to give it a try. She would run a 5K course in about 28 minutes in the beginning, hardly an indication that she would soon be a state qualifier.

“Nothing too great happened that first year,” Estes explained.

She made good progress during her junior year, consistently improving her times, but her season ended early when she suffered a contusion on the outside of her foot just a week before districts. She spent the next six weeks with her foot in a boot, but quickly rebounded from the injury.

“I worked really hard in the summer, practicing six days a week,” she explained.

The Oxford cross country team enjoyed good success during Estes’ time with the team. During the Steel City Invitational, for example, Oxford took the top spot with Estes finishing in second place.

Oxford also won the Maryland Track and Trail event, with Estes delivering a top-ten performance.

She said that the team is helped by a challenging home course that prepares the squad for some of the other difficult courses.

“Our course is one of the more hilly ones,” Estes explained. “And we do hill workouts pretty frequently.”

By the time her senior season rolled around, Estes was turning in better times against stronger competition. She routinely finished her competitions in under 20 minutes. In one event, she won by one-one-hundredth of a second over Jamie Zamrin of Cocalico High School. The stronger competition helped push Estes. At the Carlisle Puma Challenge, she placed 13th against much stronger statewide competition.

“You had more people around you, people pushing you from all sides,” Estes explained. “I definitely wouldn’t have finished with that time if I wasn’t pushed.”

She set her personal best record at the district race at Lehigh University, turning in a time of 19:05, which allowed her to qualify for states. It was a remarkable feat considering that she didn’t even run cross country three years ago. She was named the MVP of the Oxford girls’ cross country squad and was selected to the First Team All-Ches-Mont League squad for her senior season.

Estes’ applies the same work ethic to the classroom. She has a weighted grade-point average of 4.42. She has been a member of FBLA and has qualified for state competitions for all four years. She is also a member of the Spanish Honor Society and chorus.

“As a student, I believe Elaine’s classes and grades speak for themselves,” Sample said. “She is a hard worker who is driven to do better than her best. Elaine has excelled in the classroom throughout her high school career and has the desire to continue along those lines in college.”

Estes said that Elizabethtown College, Millersville University, and St. Joseph’s University were all under consideration as possible destinations. She liked all three, but ultimately decided that she wanted to compete at the Division I level. Her visit to St. Joseph’s was canceled four times because of the weather, but when she finally made the visit she felt right at home with the coach and the other girls on the team. She is looking forward to the challenge.

Before she goes to St. Joseph’s, however, Estes is going to be reporting for Basic Training for the National Guard. She enlisted as a junior, and already has a year of experience. She will be a Financial Management Specialist in Fort Indiantown Gap, and will then start at St. Joseph’s University in the spring of 2016.

Estes wants to major in education and become a Spanish teacher or ESL teacher. She definitely wants to coach track or cross country, in part because of the excellent coaching that she has received. She said that Sample has been an inspiration for her.

“He does a lot for us,” she explained. “He always tells us that we can do anything that we set our minds to.”

Despite the fact that Estes is a top athlete and an exemplary student, her work in sports and in the classroom might be overshadowed by her willingness to put the needs of others before her own needs.

Sample explained, “I feel Elaine’s most important attribute is her heart for others. She is a very caring young lady who always is looking to help those others have ignored. I witnessed, on more than one occasion, Elaine’s desire to make sure certain individuals were included in group, community, and individual activities that they would most likely have been excluded from if Elaine was not proactive. She definitely has a heart for the less fortunate, an attribute most high school students today do not have.”

Oxford Area High School athletic director Michael Price agreed with Sample's assessment.

“Elaine has been a model student-athlete for the students of Oxford Area High School,” Price said. “She has been a contributing member in the community, and she's involved in so many groups and organizations. I am very happy for her and proud of her. She deserves everything because she really does work so hard.”