Elgin grad Cisneros wins NAIA national title for Judson University

Having knee problems has led to Judson University freshman and Elgin High graduate Anali Cisneros getting to see the world.

Cisneros is a practitioner of racewalking, a sport she took up when knee troubles bothered her during her time running for the Elgin Sharks club and running cross-country and track at Elgin. And through that outlet, Cisneros has been able to shine both internationally and stateside.

She recently won the 5K race-walk national title at the NAIA outdoor national championships in Gulf Shores, Ala., becoming the first Judson student-athlete or team to win an NAIA crown.

Racewalking also has taken Cisneros to Chile, Rome and Canada, as well as Poland for the U20 junior track and field world championships.

“Who would have thought,” Cisneros said with a laugh earlier this week. “Many people think it’s weird. They call it the speed-walking thing. I’m thankful I found it.”

For those unfamiliar with racewalking, let’s let Cisneros give you a crash course. “The main thing is you have to have one foot on the ground at all times,” she explained. “Only one knee is bent while the other extends while you are trying to move forward, if that makes sense.”

This type of motion brings with it some key physiological benefits, Cisneros said. “You are using your hips more efficiently,” she said. “The hips allow your body to move efficiently and you get that funny dancing sort of look.”

Cisneros was not foreign to the sport while she was at Elgin. “I’ve been racewalking since the eighth grade,” she said. “For college, I was looking only at schools that had NAIA affiliation. Racewalking is only offered at the college level with NAIA. The NCAA doesn’t have it. Judson was the one I liked the most.”

Cisneros, a four-year cross-country and track and field athlete at Elgin, is a product of the long-standing and successful Elgin Sharks running club.

“I was running with the Sharks and then transitioned into racewalking because of my knees,” she said. “There is less impact with racewalking. Since you have one foot on the ground at all times, there is less impact on my knees. I still have pain, but racewalking is a lot better. The challenge is trying to go faster while not leaving the ground. I like it better than running.”

Cisneros, a natural sciences major with a focus on pre-medicine at Judson, credited the teachings and training she received from Sharks coaches Diane Henry and Butch Peters, as well as Judson coaches Brett Davis and Morgan Goetschel. Cisneros also trained under longtime Sharks coach Bob Pleticha from the fourth through eighth grades.

Looking back at her NAIA win, Cisneros was training specifically to deal with hot weather in Alabama. She won the title with a program record 24:09.51, defeating the second-place finisher by 25 seconds.

“Coach Davis and I were training and working hard to get my time down and get accustomed to the heat,” she said. “In years past in Gulf Shores it’s been in the 90s. I wanted to get my time as fast as I could in extreme heat. And then it was only 83 degrees during the race, which is pretty good for Alabama. It was a fun race. I felt really good. I’ve been training for 20K and a 5K doesn’t seem too long of a race.”

She completed her freshman year with one NAIA national title, a second-place finish for race-walk indoors, two NAIA all-American performances and two CCAC conference titles and All-Conference accolades.

Next up for Cisneros is the USA track and field outdoor nationals in late June in Sacramento, Calif.

“That’s my last big race of the season, it will be a 20K,” she said.

She’ll then turn her focus to the Judson fall cross-country season. “Last year I had all these international competitions and I was in Poland at the end of July and didn’t get much cross-country preseason training,” Cisneros said. “I had to adjust to the training at the college level. It’s much different than high school. I didn’t run my best last fall and didn’t hit my PRs. This year will be better. I will get to rest after Sacramento and then get into the preseason training.”

Cisneros has some advice for folks about racewalking.

“People should definitely give it a try,” she said. “It seems weird, but it’s not. You’ll never know if you will like something unless you try it. It’s something distance runners can transition to if they can get the form down. The training is just like doing a half-marathon. It’s all about the form. It’s not a big shock.”

And Cisneros is living proof of that.

Carlini wins award: University of Wisconsin volleyball standout Lauren Carlini recently was named a 2016-2017 Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor recipient, the conference’s most prestigious award.

Carlini was a four-team all-American selection at Wisconsin, including three first-team accolades. She was the 2014 Big Ten player of the year and earned four all-conference first-team awards. The West Aurora graduate was a four-time academic all-Big Ten selection and was an academic all-American in 2016. She graduated with a degree in retailing and consumer behavior and a certificate in entrepreneurship.

Shah at Whitewater: St. Charles North graduate Ankur Shah is a member of the Wisconsin-Whitewater baseball team that won its fifth WIAC tournament in program history (also won the WIAC regular-season title with a 17-3 mark; the program’s 17th regular-season crown) to clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III championship. Whitewater, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest regional it hosted, lost to St. Thomas 7-2 at home on the third day of regional competition to finish with a 36-9 mark.

Shah was 5-0 on the mound in 13 appearances (8 starts) with 1 save and a 4.33 ERA. In 52 innings, he allowed 53 hits, while striking out 41 and walking 15.

Rosary college commitments: Ten Rosary athletes in the recently graduated Class of 2017 have committed to continue their sport at the college level. That list includes Erin Burke (volleyball, Rollins University), Natalya Flowers (softball, Waubonsee CC), Julia Gauthier (volleyball, Indiana), Meegan Hart (volleyball, Iowa State), Martha Konovodoff (volleyball, Marquette), Elizabeth Kvitek (soccer, Benedictine), Lauren Smith (basketball, Loras College), Sarah Willman (softball, St. Ambrose University), Maddie Wilson (swimming, Valparaiso) and Alexis Yager (swimming, Tennessee).

Cohrs earns honor: Kaneland grad Meg Cohrs was one of 6 members of the Wisconsin-Whitewater softball team to earn all-Great Lakes Region accolades from the National Fastptich Coaches Association. Cohrs is a freshman third baseman.

Cohrs helped Whitewater win the WIAC regular-season and tournament titles and make its fifth straight national tournament appearance. Cohrs hit .376 and committed 1 error at third base while leading the league with 88 fielding assists. She hit 5 home runs and 7 doubles en route to earning all-conference first-team honors.

Mike Miazga has been writing about sports in the Fox Valley for nearly a quarter-century. Email him at [email protected]