Blackhawk High School distance runner Angelica Peck has decided to take her considerable talents to Syracuse University.

By Rich Emert, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tony Tye/Post-Gazette

Many distance runners are turned off by cold and snow.

After all, who wants to bundle up with a sweatshirt, jacket, warmup bottoms, stocking cap and gloves and go outside in nasty conditions for a 5-mile training run?

That is one reason colleges and universities in the south have an advantage over those in the north when it comes to recruiting.

There are, however, those runners who don't mind the cold. Blackhawk High School senior Angelica Peck is one of those.

She is headed for Syracuse University in upstate New York in the fall where she will run cross country and track for the Orange. Peck made her decision last week after taking an official visit to Syracuse this winter.

I visited Syracuse on the coldest day of the year, she said with a laugh. I don't know that for a fact, but it was cold when I was up there.

The feeling she got while meeting with members of the women's track and cross country teams and coaches, and while walking the campus was a warm one.

I just really liked it. I just felt comfortable there and with the coaches. That's why I decided to go there, she said.

It didn't hurt that the Syracuse women's cross country team finished 10th at the NCAA championships in the fall and has won the Big East title the past two seasons. It is no secret Syracuse has been trying to bolster its track and cross country programs.

Peck, who finished third in Class AAA at the WPIAL cross country championships in the fall, is the third WPIAL distance runner from the class of 2011 to sign on with the Orange. North Hills High School standouts Joe Kush and Juris Silenieks are also headed to Syracuse.

Peck finished 15th at the PIAA Class AAA meet in November and was the second WPIAL runner to cross the line in the race behind North Hills' Margo Malone, who placed fourth.

Last spring, Peck placed fourth in the 1,600-meter run at the WPIAL Class AAA track championships at Baldwin and was 12th in the 3,200. She finished ninth at the PIAA meet in the 1,600.

Although she likes running the 1,600, her best track event might be the steeplechase. Peck has run the event at the USA Track & Field Junior Olympics national meet the past two summers and has placed in the top six both times. High schools in Pennsylvania do not have a steeplechase competition, but colleges do run the race.

I actually brought it up to the coaches that I'd like to run it, Peck said when asked if Syracuse coaches said anything to her about running the steeplechase. I do like the event and they said they want runners to compete in the events they are most comfortable with. So, we'll see, but I'd like to give it a try.

She is interested in majoring in art education and wouldn't mind getting into coaching at the high school level. She is also interested in seeing how well she will do with the longer distance in collegiate cross country.

Most high school cross country courses are 5-kilometers (3.1 miles). But races for women's teams in college are 6K.

I don't know if I'm better the further I go or not because I've never raced that distance, Peck said. That's something I'll find out.

She is glad that she made her college decision -- she was also considering Penn State -- before the meat of the outdoor track season. Peck said she didn't plan it this way.

It's just the way thing worked out, but I'm glad I know where I'm going next year, she said.

Peck is a goal-oriented person but said it is a little too early in the track season to try and go after a certain time in an event. She did win her first two races, the 1,600 and 3,200, of the season in a meet against Mars Area last week.

The one thing I want to do is do very, very well in the 1,600, she said. I want to go out with a bang.

AROUND THE TRACK -- The Central Valley Warrior Classic will take place Saturday at the Warriors' Sarge Albert Stadium in Center Township. ... Chartiers Valley's Angie Hartz won the 400-meter dash at the Tri-State Track Coaches Association championships this past Saturday at West Mifflin in 1:00.08. ... South Fayette distance sensation Nicole Hilton was first in the 3,200 at the Tri-State meet in 11:14.88.

First published on April 7, 2011 at 12:00 am

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