Strong will is Goldstein's way

Work ethic is her ethic

Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Plenty outrun Soldotna senior Rachel Goldstein. Few outwork her.

"That's the only way she's even gotten anywhere," said Soldotna cross country and track coach Mark Devenney said of Goldstein's work ethic. "She never takes a short cut."

Some profess the values of a good work ethic. Other spew constant cliches of regarding hard work. But Goldstein views and lives the relationship between hard work and achievement as if it is iron law.

That's why losing to some runners who don't work as hard as her leaves Goldstein as perplexed as Sir Isaac Newton would have been had the apple floated up.

"It drives me nuts. I can't stand it," Goldstein said. "One of the qualities I admire the most is work ethic.

"If someone doesn't have work ethic, it bothers me. I work hard, very hard. If I see someone who doesn't work beating me, it bothers me."

But, as is fitting for an endurance athlete, Goldstein believes she will triumph in the long run. Hey, what goes up must come down, right?

"I know work ethic will outdo natural talent in the long run," Goldstein said. "Work ethic will get me farther than their talent will.

"No matter how talented somebody is, they'll get to a point where they have to work. I'll already have work ethic built up, and they won't have any to fall back on."

Candice Goldstein, Rachel's mother, remembers that even Rachel's fifth-grade teacher noticed an uncommon drive in her daughter.

"A lot of people say that about her," Candice said. "She never gives up, sometimes to the point of where you're like, 'Rachel, ... give up.'

"If there's the slightest chance she can do it, she's going to keep on trying."

Candice and Stuart Goldstein, Rachel's father, took Rachel and sister, Ari, on outdoor excursions often when the sisters were young.

It was in seventh grade that Rachel bonded her work ethic and love for the outdoors into skiing. Goldstein then decided to go out for cross country at Soldotna High School to stay in shape for skiing.

Devenney gave her a workout program the summer before her freshman year, and since then every month of the year has found Goldstein training to be an endurance athlete.

Goldstein didn't storm on the prep scene with a slew of first-place finishes. Her freshman year, she didn't qualify for state in cross country.

But that didn't shake her faith in working hard. As a sophomore, Goldstein qualified for state in cross country and finished 55th. As a junior, she upped that mark to 41st. And this year, at the Skyview Invitational featuring most of the state's best runners, Goldstein popped off a 16th-place finish.

Goldstein also has continually improved in skiing and track. As a junior skier, she worked her way onto the prestigious Team Alaska in the Junior Olympics. In track, Goldstein qualified for state in the 3,200-meter run as a junior.

"Nobody ever dreamed that she would qualify for state in the 3,200 last year," Devenney said. "That made everything worthwhile for her."

But it is more than work ethic that got Goldstein this far. Teamwork has played a major part.

As a sophomore runner, Goldstein didn't have many girls to run with. But she did draw inspiration from SoHi's boys runners, who started a string of three straight state titles when Goldstein was a freshman.

In Goldstein's junior year, the Stars finished second in the region and made an appearance at state. This year, Soldotna has showed at the Skyview Invitational and Palmer Invitational that it is one of the top three teams in the state.

"When I have a hard workout now, I know we're all running for each other," Goldstein said. "Even when I don't want to push any harder, I look at who I'm running with and say, 'I can do it. I can do it.'

"Sophomore year, it was just me by myself. All the guys were way up there."

Now, having a team that can compete for the state title is a dream come true for Goldstein.

"She serves as a great role model for working hard," Devenney said. "In workouts, she rarely finishes first, but of everybody that's running, nobody's working harder than she is."

Having a team also has meant Rachel has had to adjust to being on the same team as Ari, who is a sophomore at Soldotna. Ari usually gets the best of Rachel, but that has not sparked an ugly sibling rivalry between two.

Rachel says the better Ari's doing, the better the team's doing, and that's fine with her.

"I get my work ethic from (Rachel)," Ari said. "I admire her. She works so hard. I don't know anybody who works as hard as she does."

Rachel's coaches also think she is having more success this year because she is learning to relax a little.

"Maybe it's maturity, but she's realizing you can only try something so many times," Candice said. "You can only squeeze so much blood out of a turnip."

Says Devenney: "We tell her the journey's what's important, the destination's not as important. If you focus on one thing, you miss some neat things along the way."

Goldstein also succeeds out of the athletic arena at Soldotna, carrying a 4.0 grade point average. It's no surprise what makes her a successful student.

"Her work ethic definitely carries over into the classroom," said Soldotna running coach, skiing coach and teacher Dan Harbison. "She's a very serious student, and a very hard-working one.

"Things don't always come easy for Rachel, but she approaches everything with a never-say-die attitude."

Goldstein would like to take her interest science, anatomy and biology into the medical field.

"I'd just like to use my gifts to help people," Goldstein said. "Maximizing potential. That's what it's all about."

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