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  College sports are in a world all of their own. With arenas holding thousands of spectators, large scholarships for student athletes, and the possibility to go pro, college sports can seem too perfect to be true. Last year, Pinewood sent two of its own students, alumni Nicole Colonna and Marissa Hing, headfirst into this fast-paced world.

   Colonna is a freshman currently running for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Division I school. While she was at Pinewood, Colonna placed first at CCS both her junior and senior years, and was team captain both years as well. She started as a varsity runner her freshman year of college, a very rare thing for a freshman.

   “I have had an awesome experience on the Nebraska team. The girls team is super supportive and always pushes you to be your best, and the coaching staff is the same way. They made the transition between high school to college level a lot easier,” Colonna said.

   Colonna is also performing very well at college. She has already competed in four cross-country meets, placing in fifth on the team in most of her races. She will be one of only nine girls from UNL running in the Big Ten Conference Championships, despite only having started running her freshman year of high school.

   “She had never ran cross-country, but what I did see with her is great technique, good soccer fitness, and she liked to be competitive. She really wanted to be good,” cross-country head coach Matt
Stimson said.

    Colonna grants a lot of her success at the college level to her experiences in
high school.

   “The level that we train at and the level that we compete at is extremely different than high school, [but] running in high school made me more prepared for college by making me less nervous for competitions and more used to competing with over 200 girls in a race,” Colonna said.

   While Colonna is speeding through her races, Hing is preparing for a hard season ahead of her playing Division II basketball at University of California, San Diego. While playing for Pinewood’s girls varsity basketball, she was a part of the 2014 state champion team, also winning titles like San Jose Mercury Player of the Year, Daily News Player of the Year, MaxPreps Division V First Team All-State, and Cal High Sports Scholar Athlete of the Year. Though her season has just started, she is already enjoying her season with her new team.

   “Preseason was hard because there was a lot of training, but now that we are in actual season it’s a lot more fun. The coaches are great, and I’m getting along with everyone on the team,”
Hing said.

   As the season starts for Hing, so does training for her old team back at Pinewood. Head coach Doc Scheppler is now faced with the issue of making up for a loss of a star player.

   “They’re big shoes to fill [and] we’re trying to replace her. I think [sophomore Brianna Claros] is really good, and is going to fill those shoes [Hing] left behind,”
Scheppler said.

   Just like Colonna, Hing also appreciated her time at Pinewood.

   “[Pinewood basketball] taught me leadership skills because I had to be the point guard of a highly competitive team as a freshman, how to manage my time because I had to balance school, soccer, and basketball at the same time, and great fundamentals about the sport itself, which gave me the necessary skills to be a collegiate level athlete,” Hing said.