By Mark Janssen
Martina Tresch is thousands of miles from home, yet very comfortable in this land called America.
A native of Rueti, Switzerland, in Western Europe, Tresch said of her arrival in the USA's Flint Hills and on the campus of Kansas State University, "I knew what I wanted to achieve, which was to be a very good runner. I was looking for a place I could train hard, improve as a runner, and be surrounded by people with a similar goal. That wasn't going to be the case at all at home."
"Coach Smith explained to me how the program worked, and then I talked to Beverly and she became an instant role model," said Tresch, who was a walk-on to the program prior to receiving a scholarship last January. "The progress she made in her four years here was just amazing. I want to get to the same high level through coach Smith's program."
Coming from a country where she could only run at a club level, and where distance running took a definite back seat to downhill skiing, Tresch said, "Here I have a coach who actually cares and is someone I see every day. Here I run with my teammates every day, which is so motivating."
And, Tresch has responded.
Last fall she ran 30th at the Big 12 Cross Country championships, and followed that in the spring when she set the school steeplechase record with a third-place 10:04 clocking at the Big 12 championships, which was 46 seconds faster than she was running when she entered the Wildcat program. The time was among the top 15 in the nation in 2010.
With one previous visit to the United States at age 7 to the states of Washington and Idaho where her mother had been a foreign exchange student, Tresch arrived on the K-State campus in the fall of 2009.
"My mom (kindergarten teacher) was OK with the move, but not my dad (train engineer)," Tresch said with a laugh. "He's happy that I'm happy and doing well, but for his little daughter to be on the other side of the ocean has been hard on him."
What's been hardest on Tresch, who finished third at the 2009 Swiss National Championship in the 1,500 and runner-up in the 5000M, and is now a Life Science major at K-State?
"Besides my family, I miss the chocolate we have back home," she said, flashing a smile at her coach concerning her dietary habits. "But here I have found cookie dough ice cream, which has passed for a substitute."
Other than that, it's been a transition in languages from Swiss-German to English.
"I understand better than I can speak," said Tresch, in perfect English. "At home we write in German, but have our own language. We mess up grammar and have a really nasty accent."
But in running, it's a universal language that Tresch has conquered with ease.
This fall, Tresch reported to camp with a slight hamstring injury that not only slowed her training, but put her in somewhat isolation from the rest of the team.
"We had her in the pool two and three hours a day doing rehab work, and she came out of that remarkably fit," said Smith. "She was out there rehabbing a lot on her own, and then two weeks later she came out and ran her personal best time."
Tresch reflected, "That was a hard time because I didn't see the girls as much. I had to tell myself that the harder I worked, the quicker I would be back running with my friends."
She did just that, and responded with an eight-place finish in a clocking of 21:43 at the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree in late-September, and two weeks ago at the Pre-NCAA Invitational at Terre Haute, Ind., where she ran 22nd with a time of 20:56.5 for the 6K distance.
Saturday, she returns to Stillwater, Okla., for the Big 12 Championships.
"I want a good finish. I want to be in the top 15," said Tresch. "And, I really want our team to run well. I want our team to go to the NCAA meet."