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Published: Sunday, 5/9/2010

Dedication is paying off

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Drinking several Mountain Dews per day, staying up until all hours of the night and not following your training program aren't exactly conducive to becoming a top-flight runner.

That was then, and this is now for University of Toledo sophomore Ari Fisher.

After a heart-to-heart conversation with UT track and cross country coach Kevin Hadsell last year, Fisher decided to recommit herself to her athletic pursuits and ever since then her career has taken off.

Fisher's latest accomplishment was winning her heat in the 5,000-meter run at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif., on May 1 and earning an NCAA qualifying time in the process. The native of Lebanon, Ohio, crossed the line in 16:24.27, which is the second-fastest time in the event in UT history and the seventh-best mark in Mid-American Conference history.

For her efforts, Fisher was named MAC track athlete of the week.

"This year has been unbelievable, and it's still hard for me to realize I ran that time," Fisher said. "It's just unreal."

Last year at this time, Fisher was a "B team" runner for the Rockets. She wasn't anywhere close to being the top performer in the UT program, let alone in the nation.

"A lot of it was just immaturity and making stupid decisions," Fisher said. "Coaches would have us run on our own during the weekends, and I wouldn't do that. Then I would do 10 miles in one day instead of doing two five-mile runs. I was all over the place, and even with my sleeping habits, I was staying up all night and not getting proper sleep."

Ari Fisher Ari Fisher
NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

But that all started to change in the fall, when Fisher started taking better care of herself and began tallying up win after win for the UT cross country team. She was the individual champion at the MAC championships and narrowly missed qualifying for an individual spot at the NCAA championships.

After transitioning to long-distance events on the UT track team this spring, she's continued to have success, posting the MAC's best time this season in the 3,000-meter run in addition to the 5,000.

"To equate her turnaround to football, it'd be like a practice squad player one year becoming the best player on the team the next year," Hadsell said. "When she was in high school, she didn't even make it to the state meet. And now, she's one of the greatest runners we've ever had. It's such a dramatic improvement over just the last 10 months."

FOOTBALL: UT has taken more than 500 new football season ticket orders since the launch of the "Ultimate Fan Plan" early last week, according to athletic department officials.

For $55, fans can purchase a season ticket in the upper deck of the east side of the Glass Bowl, and in return they will receive $30 in concession stand vouchers, free parking in any general admission lot, and a $25 gift certificate for UT apparel at the Rocket Shop.

An advertising campaign promoting the season ticket offer began with a TV commercials airing locally featuring Mayor Mike Bell, Oakland Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and 92.5 KISS FM DJ Andrew Z proclaiming their allegiance to UT football.

Local advertising firm Communica produced the commercial.

MEN'S GOLF: Lima Central Catholic senior Oliver Holtsberry has signed a national letter of intent to join the UT men's golf team in the fall.

Holtsberry has finished in the top 10 at the state tournament each of the last three years.

"Oliver is a very skilled golfer and comes from a good golfing family," UT men's golf coach Jamie Mauntler said. "He is a feisty player, and I think he is going to bring a competitive attitude into our program that will be good for us."

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com

or 419-724-6084.



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