University City

49ers Insider: Spano ending her career close to home

Four years ago, when Kim Spano was finishing her high school running career, the Charlotte 49ers cross-country and track coaches didn’t really recruit the phenom from North Mecklenburg High.

She had made it known that she wanted to attend college far from home.

But when Spano was looking for a graduate degree in elementary education last spring, and a place to use up her remaining collegiate athletic eligibility, you might say the former Syracuse runner recruited Charlotte.

With an undergraduate degree in secondary education in hand, and a year of eligibility left, Spano contacted the 49ers and discussed the possibility of competing for one year at Charlotte.

On Nov. 2, she will compete in the Conference USA cross country championship meet in Denton, Texas, hoping to accomplish some unfinished business in her collegiate career.

At North Mecklenburg, Spano won five 4A state championships: three straight in cross country (2006, 2007, 2008) and two in outdoor track (1,600 meters her junior year and 3,200 meters as a senior).

Her senior year, Spano also qualified for the prestigious Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships. Later that year, she was off to Syracuse.

“I had an interest (in Charlotte), but I also thought this was really close to home,” Spano said. “I felt I wanted to go away farther from home. Syrcuase was really far from home. I liked it, and it was a good fit.”

With the Orangemen, Spano was a member of the cross-country team that qualified for the NCAA championships and finished 18th in the country in 2009. In track and field, she qualified for NCAA East Regionals in the 10,000 meters as a freshman and as a junior.

In the spring of her sophomore year, Spano was diagnosed with compartment syndrome, a painful condition in which extreme pressure is put on the calf muscles. She redshirted in the spring and fall seasons in 2011.

One of the reasons she wanted to attend Syracuse – that it was 700 miles away – became one of the reasons she eventually wanted to get back to Charlotte. Because Spano wanted to be closer to her family in Huntersville, Charlotte became the perfect fit.

Making the transition even easier is her friendship with junior teammate Jen Molke, with whom she shares an off-campus apartment. Molke’s brother, Robert, was Spano’s teammate at Syracuse.

Spano would like to see the 49ers’ cross-country team qualify for the NCAA nationals, or at least would like to make it as an individual. In track and field, she wants to return to the NCAA regionals and even the national championships.

“Kim’s been working extremely hard,” Charlotte cross-country coach Ed Schlichter said. “She’s been working all summer long. She wants to run better than she did at Syracuse. We’re trying to get her there and to believe she’s in the best shape of her life.”

On Oct. 19, she was Charlotte’s top female finisher at the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind., placing 30th in a field of 227 runners.

49ers help charities

Two Charlotte teams raised money for charities last week. The volleyball team hosted their 12th annual Dig Pink match Oct. 18, concluding a week of campuswide fundraising events.

The men’s soccer team wore yellow jerseys against Kentucky on Oct. 19 in support of childhood cancer research. The 49ers auctioned off the jerseys, raising more than $1,100 for Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.

Men get 1st C-USA win

The men’s soccer team’s 1-0 victory over Kentucky was its sixth shutout of the season. It was also the team’s first Conference USA win of the year.

Kentucky’s Napo Matsoso attempted to clear a cross by the 49ers’ Giuseppe Gentile but kicked it into his own goal for the game’s only score. The victory left Charlotte in sixth place in the conference with three regular-season games to go.