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Nowhere to run

Phoenix two-sport standout Klimek might have to forego district cross country because of soccer

Nothing, it seemed, could stop Marci Klimek. She could be found in the mornings running long distances for her cross country training. She could be found after school practicing with the Phoenix girls soccer team. She could be found after practice running laps around the soccer compound, doing a couple of miles at a rapid pace, finishing her distance work for the day.

Oh, one time she couldn't be found: After her most recent cross country race, which she won with her personal-best time, she was nowhere to be seen because she just kept running to her car so she could zip off to, you guessed it, soccer practice.

That's what I've been doing all season, says Klimek, a junior.

However, the dualistic dynamo might hit the skids this weekend because of a scheduling conflict. Phoenix hosts Henley in a Skyline Conference soccer playoff at 11 a.m. Saturday, and the district cross country meet is in Klamath Falls at 2:20 p.m. the same day.

— If Phoenix were to lose in soccer, she might try to get to the cross country meet and help that team, which could challenge for a top-two placing and a state berth even without Klimek.

But if Phoenix wins in soccer, Klimek won't run at district because she wouldn't be able to follow up at state due to the soccer playoffs. And it wouldn't be fair, she reasons, to bump another cross country team from state knowing Phoenix couldn't send its best contingent.

Klimek is no bit player on either team.

She placed fourth in the district and 19th at state in cross country last year, and her time of 20 minutes, 7 seconds at Valley of the Rogue State Park last Thursday would make her a district title contender with Mazama's Jasmine Klauder.

In soccer, her 13 goals leads the team and is among the best in District 6. Further, she's had two assists, and her aggression in pushing the ball and shooting has led to another half-dozen goals for others.

When Klimek ran her fast time recently, she had incentive.

I kind of realized that might be the last race I get to run this season, she says. I just wanted to go out and put up a good time and prove I could compete. I ran the whole race as hard as I could and never looked back.

Klimek is frustrated over the conflict this year but appreciates that her coaches and athletic director Brent Barry worked to enable her and a few others to participate in the two sports. Because of the team dynamic, soccer took priority.

Klimek had to run in at least two cross country meets to be eligible for district. Soccer coaches John Doty and Dan Sporrer studied their schedule and identified the Thursdays Klimek could run that would be followed by Saturday games against lower-echelon teams. If she strained a muscle or suffered some other ailment, she could be rested in soccer without impeding the team's success.

Cross country coach Bruce Timmerman lined up compatible meets.

If there were three sports, marvels Timmerman, she'd try to do all three.

Klimek's penchant for running has served her well in soccer, where she stretches defenses with her speed and stamina. She couples that fitness with outstanding foot skills and a tenacity that knows no let up.

She puts a lot of pressure on defenses because she can go nonstop for the full 80 minutes, says Doty. Very few defenders in the league are able to keep up with her that whole time. The further and further a game goes, the more and more space she finds herself in.

It's also a time when Klimek is likely to dispossess exhausted opponents of the ball, something at which she's very adept.

There's a point in the latter parts of games where she starts to consciously go after the people who seem to have worn down, he says. It's a predatory thing where she stalks the herd and finds the sick and infirmed, then whittles them out. She'll do that. She'll ambush people.

Klimek particularly enjoys when foes are breathing hard and hoping the game will end soon.

That's always my favorite part, says Klimek, when they turn to the ref and go, 'How much time left?'

They're ready to stop, but Klimek just keeps going.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail