As a youngster, Christian Fields was surrounded by some good company.

The Jim Thorpe cross country runner got a great impression of the sport from the upperclassmen on the team.

That motivated Fields to give cross country his full attention and committment.

"When I was in eighth grade, I became dedicated to the sport because the seniors on the team taught me a lot and made me feel so involved," said Fields. "So, I focused on becoming a better cross country runner."

It was around that time when Jim Thorpe cross country coach Drew Benyo knew Fields was destined to become a pretty good cross country runner.

"He kind of fit in then already," Benyo said. "There was some good kids around him and some young kids coming up behind him to push him even more like Zach Nace and the rest of them. He just decided this was his sport and it was where he wanted to excel."

Being around the likes of Sam Lux, Jay Marzen, Josh Williams, Matt Curran and Adam Bachowicz helped point Fields in the right direction with the sport. It also taught him what it took to be successful at it.

"It takes a lot of hard work," Fields said. "I mean I have been running like every day that I can. I have also been attending camps where I am getting great coaching advice. It all helps me."

During his freshman year, Fields settled for being part of the pack in each meet. He recorded turned in 10 top-10 finishes that season, including a personal-best fourth place in one meet.

In his sophomore season, Fields battled a foot injury early in the year but showed vast improvement when he returned, He rattled off eight top-five finishes, including a first-place finish against Shenandoah Valley and second-place finishes against Marian and Tamaqua.

But Fields wasn't satisfied

"He put in a couple of camps in the offseason," Benyo said. "He was in Annapolis for one and Shippensburg for another. We went to camp with some people down there and he did very, very well. And, he just dedicated himself to the sport.

Now, in his junior year, his dedication to the sport is paying huge dividends.

With the Olympians last regular season meet this afternoon against Marian and North Schuylkill, Fields has collected eight first-place finishes and one second-place finish. He has also scored a first at the Hurricanes Invitational, a second at the Pine Grove Invitational, a fifth at the Moravian Academy Invite and a seventh-place finish at the Northampton Invite. Although his finished seventh at the Northampton meet, he turned in his season and career best time to 16:52.

"Those first place finishes mean the world to me," Fields stressed. "It's something that shows me that my hard work is definitely paying off."

Field's biggest test of the season so far will come this afternoon when he's up against last year's AA State Champion Brendan Shearn of North Schuylkill.

"Brendan Shearn is an amazing talented runner," Fields said. "I'm going to try my hardest to stay with him. He's definitely a big inspiration for me like to see what I can do and basing myself off of what I can do against him."

No matter what he does against Shearn, Fields' focus will then turn to the postseason with the Schuylkill League Championship and the District 11 Class AA Championship meets on the horizon.

He finished 28th at leagues as a freshman and then 18th as a sophomore. At districts, Fields finished 78th as a freshman and 34th as a sophomore.

"At leagues, my goal is to at least make the top five," Fields said. "At Districts, I plan on running a state qualifying place and time. However, a huge goal for me is to get my entire team to States.

"I have been trying to work with the team everyday to accomplish that goal. I think most of the team has the same feelings towards it. that we all want to make it."

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TAMAQUA'S BEST ... On Monday evening, Kailee Rottet accomplished a feat that no other male or female athlete has ever had done in Tamaqua soccer history.

The Tamaqua senior had already surpassed former Blue Raider teammate Ali Updike this season to take over the single season scoring mark (31 goals) as well as the career scoring mark (88 goals).

Rottet took it one step further however to set herself apart from some of the best soccer athletes that have come through the Blue Raiders' soccer program by becoming the lone soccer player to reach the century mark in career goals.

In a heartbreaking 3-2 double overtime setback to Blue Mountain two days ago, Rottet was not only able to score her Schuylkill League leading 38th goal on the season, she was also able to post the 100th goal in her four year career with the Blue Raiders.

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VYING FOR DISTRICTS .... Several TIMES NEWS area volleyball programs have already secured spots in the District 11 tournament while others are closing in on the magic mark.

Pleasant Valley has punched its ticket already in the AAA tournament with a current 21-4 overall record. The Bears can now focus on maintaining their unbeaten streak in the MVC (9-0) and turn that into a potential conference championship.

Lehighton (9-3), Panther Valley (9-4) and Northwestern (7-5) have already earned themselves a spot in the AA tournament.

In Class A, Marian is back in the district playoffs. The Fillies (11-0) look to ride an unbeaten record into the Schuylkill League and District 11 playoffs.

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ONE MEMORABLE SEASON ..... Len Brylewski and his Marian golf team had a season to remember.

Prior to the season, Brylewski was determined to see his Colt golfers finally get their hands on a Schuylkill League championship. A few weeks ago, the Division II champs were able to do so winning the league title by knocking off 14-time defending league champ Blue Mountain.

Last Wednesday, the Colts fell just a few strokes shy of attaining District 11 gold as a team in their first-ever trip to the District 11 AA team championships.

Colonial League champion Notre Dame of Green Pond edge Marian by 19 strokes for the team title. The Crusaders had a foursome score of 307 to the Colts 326. Still, in its first visit to par 70, Willowbrook Golf Course, it was an accomplishment for the Colts to walk away with a silver medal in the four-team field.

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DISTRICT DOUBLES ..... Three tennis teams from the coverage area will be represented in this week's District 11 Doubles Tournament.

Thursday afternoon Jim Thorpe's Kasey Herman and Bryanna Kehrli, along with Tamaqua's Carly Fenstermacher and Morgan Miller, will travel to West End Racquet and Fitness Club for the Class AA tourney. Herman and Kehrli will take the court against Pen Argyl's Devin Presby and Georgia Pump, while Fenstermacher and Miller will attack the net against Palisades' Madeline Newsome and Lizzie Sessinger.

On Friday afternoon, Madison Olexson and Kara Urland, of Pleasant Valley, will be the lone TIMES NEWS team to take part in the AAA tournament. The Bears duo will face some familiar faces from the Mountain Valley Conference in Stroudsburg's Katie Catina and Megan McDonald.