Despite her credentials, Shana Shosky is a pessimist. 'I know it sounds weird to say this, but I know I am not going to win,' Pacific's top women's cross country runner said of Saturday's Northwest Conference Championships. 'I am not going to win because Sarah Zerzan is amazing.

'That's not to say I am not going to compete, but my goal is to make first team all-conference.'

Shosky speaks with reverence of Willamette's top runner and the favorite to take the conference's individual title. Zerzan certainly has strong credentials. Last year she placed second at the NWC Championships. This year, Zerzan's results include a victory at the Mike Hodges Invitational, which included a squad from Division I powerhouse Oregon.

While Shosky is a bit pessimistic, the senior from Centennial, Colo., is selling herself short. She learned last April that anything is possible.

At the NWC Track And Field Championships, Shosky was pitted against Whitworth's Kristi Dickey in the 5,000 meters. With two laps to go, Shosky blew past the conference favorite and eventual All-American, then held on to win the conference title in the event.

She surprised the field -and even more so herself.

Prior to that race, Shosky also spoke with reverence of the skills of Dickey. Perhaps she shouldn't be so quick to bow to the abilities of her opponents, because the cards are stacked for Shosky to surprise herself and the conference once again.

For the first time, Shosky was able to put in a strong summer of base training. A diet of 50-60 mile weeks put her in the best shape of her life entering the 2006 season.

Also of help was a lighter schedule of meets for the Boxers. While head coach Ron Tabb scheduled seven straight Saturday races for the Boxers, a normal load for the team most years, he cut the schedule back to four due to a rash of injuries.

The effects have been beneficial for Shosky. Instead of the typical weekly regimen of two hard interval workouts, two easier days and a race each week, she has used the extra time to build an additional distance base and refine the speed she needs to keep up with Zerzan and the other contenders.

'I have benefited by being able to practice through those weekends and not really breaking down my muscles,' Shosky said. 'I have been able to keep my training consistent, as opposed to tapering, breaking down the muscles and needing more time to recover. It gives my body time to grow and it also gives me a mental break.'

And it hasn't slowed Shosky down. In her final tune-up before the conference and regional meets, last week's Lewis and Clark Pioneer Open, Shosky clocked her fastest time since the 2004 NWC Championships (22:45.70) on a course that is considered one of the conference's slowest.

The conference championship course, on Pacific Lutheran University's golf course, has the makings of a fast track with its short, well-manicured grass. That should make goals all the easier to attain for Shosky, who wants to leave Pacific on a high note.

'I know it's definitely possible for me to finish at the top five at conference,' Shosky said. 'When I go to regionals (in two weeks), I need to finish in the top-10 so I can go to nationals again.'

And with Shana Shosky, anything is possible.

Blake Timm, Pacific's sports information director, ran cross country for the Boxers for three years. He could not keep up with Shana Shosky then or now.

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