2020 Athletes of the Year
Collegiate Running Association Announces 2020 Athletes of the Year
(Richmond, VA) – Keira D’Amato (Richmond, VA / University of Michigan) and Daniel Jaskowak (Blacksburg, VA / Virginia Tech) have been named the 2020 Collegiate Running Association Athletes of the Year.
2020 Female Athlete of the Year – Keira D’Amato
Keira D’Amato has been named the winner of the Collegiate Running Association’s Athlete of the Year Award after an impressive 2020 that witnessed her set personal best marks in every event she attempted. D’Amato also competed in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials, qualified for the World Half Marathon Championship Team, set the women’s only American Record at 10 Miles and ran the 7th fastest marathon in U.S. history.
D’Amato qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials by running 2:34:55 at the 2019 Berlin Marathon. Only a few months later, on February 29, 2020, she finished 15th in the Olympic Trials running 2:34:24 in Atlanta. D’Amato would use this as a springboard to an impressive series of performances over the remainder of 2020.
While the COVID pandemic seemed to disrupt every running event in the world, including the Tokyo Olympics, D’Amato was driven to create her own competitive opportunities in 2020. After recovering from the Olympic Trials, with event opportunities non-existent, D’Amato worked through an intense training cycle which included a 1-Mile time trial on the track where she ran a personal best 4:33, followed by a 5k time trial a couple of weeks later where she ran a personal best of 15:04. Her 5k time chopped more than a minute off her previous best, set while an undergraduate student at American University some 15 years earlier. The momentum of those time trials was a catapult for the remainder of 2020 where she crushed her personal bests, including a victory in 1:08:57 at the Michigan Pro Half Marathon in October.
With her fitness in top form in November, D’Amato and members of the Cherry Blossom organizing committee staged the Up Dawg Ten Miler in Washington, D.C., where she shattered the women’s-only American record for the distance, running 51:23 and besting a field which included world-class athletes. On December 20, D’Amato concluded her season at the Marathon Project in Chandler, Arizona, with a runner-up finish in 2:22:56; a PR by nearly 12 minutes and seventh best on the all-time American list.
As a student, D’Amato earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics & Computer Science from American University in 2006, where she also qualified for the NCAA Championships, earned All-America honors and then was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017. D’Amato is currently enrolled in courses through the University of Michigan to obtain her Broker’s license in Real Estate. She is a member of the Virginia Association of Realtors, National Association of Realtors, USATF, and Richmond Road Runner Club and is a Credit Union Cherry Blossom Committee Member. Even as a mother of two, D’Amato still finds time to give to the sport and the community. In 2020 she was a keynote speaker for Girls on the Run and participated in dozens of presentations/speaking engagements at running clubs, high school camps, high school programs, and middle and elementary schools.
When asked how COVID impacted her training and racing schedules, D’Amato explained: “The entire year was a big pivot. I qualified for Team USA for the World Half Marathon Championship, but USA did not send a team so I had to create my own races, join virtual events, or find unique ways to test my fitness. Time trials took the place of races and my strength training moved out of a gym and into our home.”
D’Amato epitomizes the word efficient. As a mother, wife, realtor, professional athlete, volunteer and college student, we marvel at her ability to find balance. She explained: “I just make it fit. It takes a HUGELY supportive family and support system. Team D’Amato in full force!”
Within her steadiness she has found a renewed excitement for the sport she loves. “My focus is to finish my broker’s course work and exams, make an Olympic Team and take down more American Records.”
We can’t wait for her next races so we can watch her go!
2020 Male Athlete of the Year – Daniel Jankowak
Daniel Jankowak is the Collegiate Running Association’s Male Athlete of the Year; he is the first-ever repeat honoree for the men. Jankowak, who runs for the VT Elite Racing Team, won the 2020 Collegiate Road Mile National Championship, hosted by the Loudoun Street Mile, in dramatic fashion.
A native of Grove City, Pa., and graduate student at Virginia Tech, Jaskowak earned All-American honors at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Championships, running the 1,200-meter leg on a Hokies’ team that placed second. He holds a personal record of 4:03 in the Mile.
At the 2020 Loudoun Street Mile, Jaskowak needed every bit of his closing speed to hold off a late race challenge from Matt Lange (George Washington University). Jaskowak was in the lead as he entered the brick area of the walking mall in Old Town Winchester for the final 300 meters, but then Lange and open runner Elias Graca passed him. Jaskowak then charged with 200 meters to go, pulling away from Graca with Lange as they sprinted to the finish. The day belonged to Jaskowak as he claimed victory in 4:14.1, edging Lange (4:14.2) by the narrowest margin; one tenth of a second.
“I had races in my schedule, but they either got rescheduled or canceled,” Jaskowak said. “When I heard about this race I was really happy that it was going on. It was a chance to get some prize money. As a poor college student, I can appreciate that.”
Also the 2019 Collegiate Running Association’s Male Athlete of the Year, Jaskowak won the 2019 Collegiate Trail Running National Championship and finished third in the 2019 Collegiate 10K Road Race National Championship within the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K. The Collegiate Trail Running Championships were held within the Thunderbunny 12K in Athens, Ohio in early May. In a dramatic finish, Jankowak claimed the title by less than one second in the closest men’s finish in CRA Championships history. His winning time of 44:11 broke the Thunderbunny 12K course record by a whopping 13 minutes.
Jaskowak has won two Collegiate Running Association championships and his margin of victory in both totals less than 1 second.
As an NCAA undergraduate student-athlete at Virginia Tech, Jaskowak earned a B.S. Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise (2017 Virginia Tech) and a M.S. Clinical Physiology and Metabolism (2018 Virginia Tech). He is now finishing a Doctorate in Clinical Physiology and Metabolism at Virginia Tech. After earning All-America honors on the Hokies Distance Medley Relay as an undergraduate, he turned to road racing. In the 2018 Markel Richmond Half Marathon he placed 3rd running 1:04:59. He holds a personal best in the 5K of 14:04 set at the 2018 Duke Invitational and earned NCAA All-Region honors by placing 10th in the 2017 NCAA Southeast Regional where he ran a 10K best of 29:26.
“Having finished my collegiate eligibility, my training schedule has shifted to fit my academic schedule” explained Jaskowak. “It has been a struggle to find the motivation to train during the pandemic. With races not on the horizon and school work becoming more stressful, I started to sacrifice training for school work. I have been training just not at the level I was a year ago. I am working now to get back into aerobic shape to prepare for some 10k to half marathon races.”
“I have finished my course load for my Doctorate while a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the Exercise Physiology and Kinesiology classes at Tech. Those classes are completely online with live lectures. The students can tune in via zoom during the scheduled class time or when it is convenient for them. It has been weird because the new format has limited our interactions with students. We have a lot of course content available online, which I believe makes the students feel less inclined to reach out to us for help.
When asked what’s next for the Hokie standout, “I am getting back into shape” he said. “I am going to train for a half marathon in the fall. I really like the Richmond half marathon, so I may schedule that one. However I am looking for jobs, so I don’t know where I am going to be starting next fall. I will be finishing my degree this May/June. I am looking for Exercise Science Faculty positions at smaller universities and colleges, as well as postdoctoral positions in exercise rehabilitation, gait biomechanics, sports science, and neuromuscular physiology.”
Collegiate Running Association Athletes of the Year
2020- Keira D'Amato (University of Michigan, MI)
Daniel Jaskowak (Virginia Tech, VA)
2019- Bethany Sachtleben (Northern Virginia College, VA)
Daniel Jaskowak (Virginia Tech, VA)
2018- Bethany Sachtleben (Northern Virginia College, VA)
Matthew McDonald (Georgia Tech, GA)
2017- Corey Dowe (University of New England, NH)
Patrick Smyth (University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI)
2016- Bethany Sachtleben (Northern Virginia College, VA)
Hayden Hawks (Southern Utah University, UT)
2015- Kellyn Taylor (Coconino College, AZ)
Joseph Gray (Calvary Bible College, CO)
2014- Megan Deakins Roche (Stanford University, CA)
Tyler McCandless (Penn State University, PA)
The Collegiate Running Association (CRA) is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded November, 2013 with a mission to promote healthy lifestyles among college students by providing and expanding opportunities in the sport of running. The vision of the CRA is to offer national championship events in road, mountain, and trail running with prize money specifically reserved for college students enrolled in at least one class. Since 2014, the CRA has awarded over $130,000 in prize money and travel specifically to college students in road, mountain and trail running events. Membership is open to the public (click here).
Contact: Collegiate Running Association