Through her reading as a freshman, Christina Yakaboski recalled coming across the famous line, or a variation of it, penned by Scottish poet Robert Burns in the 1700s: “The best laid schemes of mice and men Go oft awry.”
Another way of saying it may be: No matter how carefully something may be planned, changes are bound to happen.
Yakaboski, a Riverhead High School senior cross country and track and field standout, can relate to that on at least a couple of fronts.
Originally, Yakaboski had planned to make her college choice by late November of 2019. Well, things didn’t quite work out that way.
“It got crazy from there,” she said.
While some of Suffolk County’s other top runners were making their college choices, nothing was heard from Yakaboski.
“They were probably wondering,” she said. “It was definitely hard to see other girls commit and know that I was still waiting.”
Because of various complications and negotiations, it wasn’t until around March 10 when Yakaboski made her choice and signed a national letter of intent for Lehigh University in Bethleham, Pa. Lehigh didn’t make its choice until March 23 when she was officially admitted.
“It just kind of reinforced the idea that you can’t plan out your life sometimes,” Yakaboski said. “Just go with the flow.”
The funny thing is, Lehigh was the first college Yakaboski visited when she was a junior. She was mightily impressed by the scenic campus and what it had to offer.
“I loved it,” she said. “It was definitely at the top of my list.”
But Yakaboski, a four-year member of Riverhead’s cross country and indoor and outdoor track teams as well as the class valedictorian, was thorough. She later made official visits to the United States Military Academy in West Point, SUNY/Binghamton and American University in Washington, D.C.
It turned out, her initial instinct was correct: Lehigh was the place for her.
“Aside from the sports aspect, I really love that Lehigh had a really strong alumni connection,” she said. “The alumni are so involved with the school and just job opportunities and internships. The campus is beautiful. You step on the campus and are like, ‘Wow.’ It just reminded me of Harry Potter.”
The Mountain Hawks are getting an accomplished runner. Yakaboski’s résumé is filled with one impressive achievement after another. She made the All-County first team in her junior and senior cross-country seasons. This past indoor track season she made All-County in the 1,500 meters. She is in the Riverhead record book as a member of record-setting distance medley relay teams (indoors and outdoors), sprint medley relay teams (indoors and outdoors), and indoor 4×400 and 4×800 relay teams. She has run the 1,500 outdoors in as fast as 4 minutes, 43 seconds.
Academically, Yakaboski has a weighted grade point average of 109.55 and has won the AP Scholar with Distinction Award.
Yakaboski said she’s debating whether to major in political science, international relations or international business. She said she wants to go to law school upon the completion of her undergraduate studies.
Just several years ago, Yakaboski could not have imagined she would be running competitively in college. That’s because she was a soccer player. But Yakaboski said soccer was taxing on her physical and mental health, and traveling for practices was taking up a lot of time.
She chose to run.
Yakaboski gave up soccer for cross country and track. And she hasn’t looked back.
“I felt that I had to choose, and the culture in the running community was just so positive,” she said. “You can’t turn that down. You can’t walk away from that environment.”
Maria Dounelis, who coaches Yakaboski in indoor and outdoor track, said: “When she puts her mind to something as far as track goes, she really works hard to accomplish what that goal is … She’s just unbelievable. It’s beneficial to us that she came over to the track world. She’s self-driven. She will just work at it until she gets it, very motivated and always positive.”
Like her teammates, Yakaboski is fortunate in that she can continue to run outside — at a safe distance from other people — during the coronavirus outbreak. The Riverhead captain said running alone is hard, though, and she misses seeing her teammates in person. Although the spring sports season has been suspended throughout New York until at least April 29, Yakaboski hasn’t given up hope that she will run for the Blue Waves again.
“I’m kind of going into this with the idea that we could still have a spring season,” she said. “I’m still running and being hopeful. I think it brings me a little bit of peace that I’ll still be running in college. I still want to be able to say goodbye.”
As for her unexpected move to the running world four years ago, Yakaboski called it “the best decision I could have made.”
The best laid plans …