Athlete of the Week: MB’s Epstein chasing his goals

Myrtle Beach High sports fans may know Ethan Epstein more for his skills on the soccer field, but the sophomore two-sport standout has already reached one of his biggest goals on the cross country course.

Epstein was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week after winning the Coastal Carolina Invitational and setting a personal-best time of 16:57 in the 5K just a few days later.

Epstein then won Tuesday’s six-team meet at Socastee, helping the Seahawks finish a close second to the state-power Braves. He came into the season with his eye set on breaking the 17-minute mark and already finds himself adding to his and his team’s to-do list.

“At the beginning of the season my goal was to break 17 and I did that last Tuesday,” said Epstein. “Now I’m shooting for 16:30 and trying to help us win region and qualify for state. Our times were really close (in the last meet) so we just need to keep getting better.”

Unlike soccer, where Epstein plays center midfield for the state-power Seahawks, cross country is less about teamwork and more about individual efforts. That’s one of the factors that appeals to Epstein about playing both sports – that and the ability to help build the cross country to the top level like the soccer program.

“Cross country is more of an individual sport but playing soccer allows me to have that team interaction, so it’s a good balance,” Epstein said. “Our cross country team has definaitely made some improvement. (The coaches) have done a great job getting kids to come out and working with us.”

The feeling is mutual for second-year coach Lonnie Kaye, who also coaches Epstein as an assistant for the soccer squad. He knew he was getting “an outstanding student and hard-working athlete” in Epstein on the cross country team, but had no idea how much quickly he would improve his time and leadership skills.”

“Ethan excels in everything he sets his mind to,” Kaye said. “I have coached Ethan for three years playing soccer and two years for cross county. Ethan has been developing over the last 2 season into an team leader and potential individual 3A state champion.

“He continues to work harder than anyone else on the team and he’s our fastest runner. … I think he may be close to 16:15 for a 5K by then end of the year if he continues to work hard and stays focused.”

That shouldn’t be a problem for Epstein, an honors student who also manages to spend a lot of time training. He runs an average of six miles a day during the week before testing his endurance on the weekends. His longest jog was 15 miles – nearly five times the length of a cross country meet – proving he truly goes above and beyond.

“I would like to win a state championship in both sports, maybe not (in cross country ) this year but it’s something I’m looking forward to for the next three years,” Epstein said. “My goal is to do well enough in cross country to get into a college with good academics, but right now I’m focused on this.”

Don’t be surprised to see it all come to fruition over the next three years. Epstein is accustomed to reaching his goals.

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