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Beachwood's Alexandra Kheyfets seeks to carry on rich Bison girls 3,200 lineage

May 27—As the girls 3,200-meter run wound down May 25 during a twice weather-delayed Day 2 of the Division II Austintown-Fitch Regional, something was new leading the pack on the homestretch but felt all too familiar.

Beachwood's Alexandra Kheyfets — with trademark encouragement from Bison distance coach Jamie Lader using her nickname Sasha — gutted out the last 100 to stave off a regional crown.

The sight of a Beachwood girl at the top of the podium for 3,200 at Fitch has been a symbol of excellence in the craft before. Kheyfets is hoping to do her part to keep it that way.

The sophomore dug down to answer a late-kick bid from Woodridge freshman Lola Mullen and prevail with a time of 11 minutes, 22.59 seconds. That marks a massive time drop from being a ninth-grader at Fitch, getting on the podium in seventh with a 12:02.16.

It was a poised big-stage performance from a young Bison performer seeking to forge her own legacy in her signature event.

"Honestly, I just knew that if I could pick up my feet enough, and if I could move, then I could make it," Kheyfets said. "It was really kind of a little unexpected for me. But I just knew that I've had a kick every other race, so this should not be an exception."

Kheyfets had a solid regular season, finishing fifth in The News-Herald coverage area in 3,200 with her regular-season PR of 11:40.47 amid a dominant win during the CVC Chagrin meet.

She was also impressive at the D-II Perry District, capturing gold in 11:34.18.

Off those pair of two-mile races, it was reasonable to assume Kheyfets could get into the 11:20s and state bound at Fitch.

The extent to which she did, though, could be classified as a pleasant surprise.

Kheyfets lauded an adjustment Lader made in training between district and regional with her taper that made all the difference.

"So, something my coach did for me, he also has kids my age who run, so he's learned a lot from them and what happened in their regionals and districts," Kheyfets explained. "So he put me through a hard workout Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and he told me to completely taper Thursday and Friday.

"This is the first time where I haven't run the first two days before as much, and all I have to do is thank my coach for that. Because he was very smart with what he did."

Her work and improvement has not gone unnoticed, particularly to those who get to witness it on a daily basis.

Beachwood standout senior sprinter Dakota Houston, moments after going on the podium for her third in 200 to punctuate a strong day in which she advanced to state in both sprints, long jump and on 4×100, could not contain her excitement watching Kheyfets reel in regional gold.

Houston made a beeline for the finish line to express her appreciation and admiration for Kheyfets, and the affable senior was equally as effusive in describing the sophomore's value to the program.

"I love her," Houston said. "She's so young. She's such a fighter. She's head strong, and I love her mindset for every meet that she does, every race that she does. She's so young, and for her to have such a strong mindset, it's so amazing because not a lot of people have that at her age.

"And she's basically our only distance girl. So it's really good that she can hold that place and she can hold on as the only girl. We're always supporting her. We're always cheering for her. And it's just amazing when we watch her run."

No talk of Beachwood girls and 3,200 does or should make it far without mentioning Bison and coverage area legend Leah Roter.

A three-time D-II 3,200 state qualifier, Roter put together the best season in the event ever seen among the coverage area ranks as a junior in 2017. She went sub-11 six times that memorable spring, including the all-time coverage area record of 10:29.53 at the D-II Perry District, and was the D-II state champion with a 10:41.45.

Kheyfets knows Roter's legacy well and strives every day to provide another chapter for the Bison, crafted in her own way.

"She, for me, I like to imagine that she's on the team and that I have to catch her, that she's my competition," Kheyfets said. "Because for the longest time, my coaches have been comparing me to her. Sometimes, they call me her on accident because I have red hair. (laughs)

"Her being the pacesetter for me, it gives me something that I can work toward. I'm not going to a random girl goal. I have hers to kind of like grab."