WEST WINDSOR: Rancan is Girls Track Athlete of the Year

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
Christina Rancan is adjusting to the mentality of being one of the best runners in the state.
Off the track, the West Windsor-Plainsboro South junior is humble, but on the track she has to be confident that she’s one of, if not the, best runner in every race. It’s not easy for her.
“A lot of people are better at that transition than I am,” Rancan said.
Rancan, though, has seen enough results this year to know that she should have faith in her ability to win any race. In her third year, she has developed into a force on the track to go with her prowess in cross country.
“I think sometimes in competition there were times she wasn’t as ready to take risks,” said Pirates distance coach Kurt Wayton. “I think she will as a senior. We saw glimpses of it this year. The difference between junior and senior year, she’ll go out more consistently and take risks.”
Rancan is in the midst of preparing for cross country. She has confidence coming off another strong season on the track. Running with that attitude is the next step in her development, and she feels ready.
“Because of the boost of confidence from last year, I feel I can take more risks,” Rancan said. “I never feel like I should be racing with the girls I should be racing with. I agree with him that I probably don’t take enough risks. I’m sure it’ll come up again.
“I’ve always struggled with that. As a freshman and sophomore, I wasn’t nearly where I am now, but no matter where I was, I felt I was three steps slower than the girls around me. Coach Wayton, Coach (Josh) Siegel and Coach (Todd) Smith, they’ve never given up on me.”
They have pushed Rancan forward and she has responded with more impressive performances each year. This year, she set a new personal record 10:43.54 to win the 3,200 meters at the Holmdel Twilight Series. She was second in the 3,200 at the Mercer County Championships and Central Jersey Group IV and fourth in Group IV. As the season extended she tilted her focus to the 1,600. She won the mile at the Mercer Counties, took second in the sectionals and groups and at the Meet of Champions she took third in a new school-record 4:52.21. In the open 800, she ran a best of 2:20.77 at Mercer Counties, and she was a regular for the 4×800 relay that placed second at the MOC.
“The last race, the 4×8, with my teammates, all of them are graduating and it was an immense honor to be able to run with them,” Rancan said. “There’s no other way I would have wanted the season to end.”
Christina Rancan is the Princeton Packet Girls Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“She’s an interesting kid,” Wayton said. “She’s extremely mature. She’s conditionally confident. I don’t think she has any idea when it comes down to it, how good she can be. She can accomplish anything she wants to.”
Rancan is busy building up for the cross country season when she will be a leader for the Pirates. This year, she and Deirdre Casey swapped turns at the front of their races together, and they used each other to improve.
“She and Deirdre were able to work well together,” Wayton said. “They were a great asset to each other. If they were in the right race, they could run in the 4:40s. You need a fast race, good weather, and I thought both of those girls were in the 4:40s in terms of their race capabilities. I think next year, she should be working to run in the 4:40s and put a stamp in record book and leaving a legacy.”
This year has helped her continue her maturation as a runner and competitor. Rancan is ready to take another step.
“I wasn’t as able to drop as many seconds as I wanted,” Rancan said. “Breaking 4:50 was on my goals list. While I didn’t improve my times as much, I improved my mentality and how I run. It has partly to do with going into junior year and being on the older end of competition. I felt more determined. I felt races I entered as freshman and sophomore, I entered to see how I could do.
“I expected more of myself this year. I saw a difference in how I approached races. My junior year, it was so amazing. I had so much fun. I want to make sure I’m continuing to do that and continuing to work as hard as I possibly can.”
Rancan used every aspect of her training and regular season to build up for the state competitions. She starts better in races after working at her starts for relays and shorter distances. She also feels better prepared with her approach to races, and that mental edge is the biggest change in her over the years.
“I feel I’m more mentally tough,” she said. “Because of junior year, I’m going to be more mentally tough. It was a long preseason for me. Coming into this season, it’s helped me be more mentally tough and get down and do the work and hopefully see the results.”
Rancan is gearing up for her best season yet. She is hoping that she follows the pattern of past Pirate runners who have left with their best in their final year.
“The experience layers on,” Wayton said. “She’s still learning, but she has a lot of learning behind her. Her aptitude to take direction, to work, and consistency, she’s remarkably even keeled. She doesn’t get too excited. She doesn’t have too many ups and downs. That demeanor is so essential for being a good distance runner. Consistency is paramount and she’s a very consistent kid.”
Rancan will have a new core of runners around her, a core that is focused on helping develop the overall speed of every girl on the team. She will be one of the leaders, and the team will help push her as well.
“It’s a fantastic environment to make sure everyone is improving and make sure they’re doing their best,” Rancan said. “I’m not a very self-confident person in general so it helps.”
Rancan will start to gauge her progress in the fall for cross country. She is looking forward to a role with more responsibility and the chance to run at her best.
“It seems like it’s been so long since cross country last year,” Rancan said. “I’m super excited. I have more confidence in myself. I think my competitiveness and the mindset that I now have is completely different. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.”
Christina Rancan is still adjusting to being one of the best runners in the state. Her spring track sealed her spot in that mix, and cross country promises to test how well she can finish after years of training and competing for the Pirates. It’s just a start to her final year with WW-P South.
“It’s really going to be the icing on the cake,” Rancan said. “I’ve been happy with my results. That helps. All the work I’ve done, I know I’m going to do well. You’ve grown so much as a runner by now that it’s completely different.” 