Croatan cross country runner Avah Beikirch has been named Student-Athlete of the Week.

OCEAN — Avah Beikirch won a conference and regional championship this season. That isn’t too bad for someone who didn’t even run cross country as a freshman.

“A lot of friends took the volleyball path, and I decided I would go with them on that path,” the Croatan sophomore said. “But then outdoor track came around, and I found my love for running.”

Her passion for the sport has been evident this fall. Beikirch’s meteoric rise continued last Saturday at the 2A east regional with a winning time of 20 minutes, 37 seconds. East Duplin’s Alejandra Sarmiento was the runner-up in 20:49.

Beikirch went into the regional projected to finish third.

“I was a little shocked when I took off so fast, and there was no one really with me, and I was like ‘I can’t slow down now,’ so I just kept going,” she said. “I didn’t look back, just kept going. I was pretty shocked at the end.”

Her season took off once she recovered from a hip injury and she figured out how to properly hydrate for races. A busy schedule was getting in the way of that process for a while. Beikirch ranks No. 1 in her class academically with a 4.56 GPA. In addition to cross country, she is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), the school’s math team, key club and Surfrider Foundation.

“With my workload at school, my schedule made it hard to stay on track when it came to water intake,” she said. “I just had so much going on. It was tough to focus on water and nutrition. I finally realized how important that is, so I focused on it, and my running flourished.”

Her schedule won’t get any easier once cross country season ends. She plans on double dipping this winter, running indoor track and swimming and will then run outdoor track in the spring.

She enjoyed success last spring, placing fourth in the 3,200 meters at the 2A east regional in 13:32 and fifth in the 800 meters in 5:51.

“In middle school, I ran the 800 and 1-mile, and then last spring, I was running the 400, some 200 and the 800,” she said. “Then in a conference meet, with no practice, coach put me in the 2-mile, and then I discovered the longer distance was for me. It’s still pretty new to me.”

She won just about every 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference race this season and then captured the league championship with a 21:12 clocking.

“I didn’t believe I would win conference and regionals,” she said. “Maybe my senior year but not now. And now I’m hoping to go for the state championship next year.”

The team success has been there as well.

The Croatan girls won their seventh conference title in a row and third straight regional crown.

Croatan dominated the league championship meet, scoring 29 points to run away from a Lejeune squad that scored 74. The regional wasn’t nearly as one-sided. The Cougars squeaked out a one-point win over First Flight, scoring 48 points to the Nighthawks’ 49.

“We weren’t sure if we had won on Saturday,” Beikirch said. “We didn’t know where we stood. We just kept praying it would come out right. We were pretty happy when we found out.”

Both accomplishments were made even more impressive considering the team lost all 10 of its runners from last year’s squad. This season’s club is made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores.

“We are young,” Beikirch said. “Every meet, we would hear other teams say, ‘Their top six left. We can beat them.’ We are almost all underclassmen, and so other teams looked down on us and didn’t think we could do it. That helped us bond. We did an amazing job.”

Beikirch pointed to team chemistry as a reason for so much success.

“We really love each other,” she said. “We are really close. We had a lot of team pasta dinners and spent a lot of time together. Everyone is really supportive of each other. We often run in groups together and talk a lot. We have a lot of fun. We’re just a lot of people working hard together.”

Here are a few of Beikirch’s favorite things, as well as her ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse and the five items she would take with her on a deserted island:

Favorite Movie: “Coco.”

Favorite TV Show: “Criminal Minds.”

Favorite Cartoon: “Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.”

Favorite Band/Artist: Khalid.

Favorite Song: “We Are Young” by fun.

Favorite Book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Favorite Team: Clemson Tigers.

Favorite Athlete: Craig Engels.

Favorite Vacation: Skiing in Colorado.

Favorite Hobby: Fishing and surfing.

Favorite Subject: Math.

Favorite Quote: “Everyone sees the glory moments, but they don’t see what happens behind the scenes.” – Allyson Felix.

Favorite Food: Shrimp.

Favorite Drink: Sweat tea.

Favorite Restaurant: Yana’s.

Favorite Season: Summer.

Favorite Sports Memory: Winning the regional by one point.

Favorite Teacher: Ms. Patricia Rodriguez.

Favorite Sport: Cross country and track.

Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Eating a lot of pasta and chicken fighting in the pool.

Favorite Website/App: Nike Run Club and MileSplit.

Favorite Follow on Twitter/Instagram: @ncrunners.

Ideal Dinner Guest List: Judge Judy, Michael Jackson, Eliud Kipchoge, Jaden Smith and Childish Gambino.

Ideal Group To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse: Claire Loucks, Emma Morton, Connor Futral, Croft McLean, Jack Daffron and coach Rico Quispe.

Items For A Deserted Island: Skinny Pop popcorn, Kayley’s car “Linda,” water bottle, hammock and towel.

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