Megan Csehi and Amanda Mannon have been running together off and on since their freshman and senior years, respectively, at Clay High School.
So when the time came for Csehi to make her college choice, it was natural for her to join Mannon on the University of Toledo women's cross country team.
Soon after Csehi enrolled at UT this fall, Mannon was assigned to be her "Rocket Buddy" -- a mentoring program that pairs each freshman on the team with an upperclassman to help with the adjustment to college and university athletics.
"Whenever I had any questions about running or what we were doing, I could go to her and ask her," said Csehi, a marketing major. "It was nice to have with the adjustment process and everything. We also run around the same pace, so it was nice to have her there at practice too."
During her senior season with the Eagles, Csehi wasn't sure about running in college, but Mannon suggested she give it a shot and join the team as a walk-on.
"She told me I should try it and that she really likes it," Csehi said. "It was nice to have her to talk to."
Mannon went through a similar decision during her senior year at Clay. Originally she had plans to go away to school but opted to stay close to home and join the Rockets as a walk-on.
Now on partial scholarship, Mannon is to graduate in May with a degree in nursing.
"It was the best financial decision for me [to go to UT]," Mannon said. "I'm going to end up graduating without any student loans or debt, so that was the biggest factor."
A two-time regional qualifier in cross country at Clay, Mannon took 17th at the 5K Toledo Rocket Cross County Opener meet at Ottawa Park in September with a time of 19:56.9 and was 101st out of 538 runners at the Loyola (Chicago) Lakefront Invitational in October with a time of 19:14.
Mannon also runs for the UT track team and finished eighth in the 5,000-meter event with a college-best time of 18:51.44 at the Ohio Women's Team Challenge last April.
"It's been really awesome," Mannon said. "Obviously I started out as a walk-on, and I was kind of scared I'd be missed in the mix of everyone. But from Day 1, I never felt like a walk-on. The coaches are really awesome, and they care about every single person on the team."
The UT coaching staff led by head coach Kevin Hadsell also was accommodating enough to allow Mannon to miss practices and train on her own time during a rigorous class schedule while pursing her nursing degree.
"It's been extremely demanding," Mannon said. "I'm in the nursing program with another girl on our team, Samantha Condron, and we'll be the first two runners to finish nursing school while still remaining on the team. The one good thing about running is it's a sport where we can run on our own, and it's not always necessary to be at every practice."
This season, as it is for most incoming freshman, has been a development year for Csehi, who also was a two-time regional qualifier in cross country at Clay and a state qualifier her senior year.
Csehi has run in a few meets for UT this fall and said she already has improved as a runner.
"Freshman year is about building and learning the ropes and everything, like how practices are run and how we do things on the team," Csehi said. "Amanda has been really great and so has everybody else on the team. We're all really close. There's 13 freshmen this year, so it was a little hard for the upperclassmen to get to know all of us at first. But they did a really good job of being welcoming."
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6084.