Angelina Zaykovskaya, left, and Olivia Erler to run at D1 Merrimack College

Three-season runners and good friends, Angelina Zaykovskaya, left, and Olivia Erler will be heading to run at D1 Merrimack College next fall. (photo by JoeBrownphotos.com).

WILMINGTON – In what continues to build as an incredible story, two more members of the Wilmington High School Track/Cross-Country family have signed their National Letters of Intent.

Last Wednesday, seniors Angie Zaykovskaya and Olivia Erler both signed on to run the next four years at Merrimack College, meaning four current members of this indoor track team will be competing next year at the D1 collegiate level, with Celia Kulis at Holy Cross and Amanda Broussard at Bryant. And there could possibly be more once things get finalized and decisions are made.

For good friends Zaykovskaya and Erler, they didn't plan it this way and it ended up being a coincidence. They were both looking and leaning towards attending other schools until they shifted gears.

“I was deciding between Merrimack and Springfield. I was also leaning towards Springfield because there's some former teammates there and then last month I ended up visiting Merrimack and I just loved it. I liked the community its in, the vibe of it and then the coaches and the athletes,” said Zaykovskaya.

Although she competes in all three running seasons, Zaykovskaya is primarily a middle distance runner with best times of 64.15 in the 400, 1:49.15 in the 600, while she's also had success in the 800 and with various relay teams, mostly 4x400 and 4x800.

“Angie in particular the last two years, has put in so much work and it's obvious that now it's all paying off for her,” said head coach Brian Schell. “She has done so much work, in the off-season in particular and she's come on strong and looks real good for this season.

“In terms of her going to Merrimack, I couldn't be more happy for her. She's going to a great academic institution. She's a great student and I believe she's in the top 15 of her academic class. She's a smart kid and I know she wants to study to become a dentist. She has a lot of goals, not just here in track, but also in her life and her future. She just has a lot going for her right now. I'm just really happy for her, and especially seeing that she's going to a D1 program. She's got the talent so I know that she can do well there.”

Zaykovskaya also made family history with this decision. Almost her entire family immigrated from the Ukraine, but she is one of the few who was born in the States, and now will be the first one from her family to be born here and compete for a D1 collegiate program.

“My last name technically is more Polish because of one side of the family, but everyone in my family except for me was born in the Ukraine and they all immigrated here. My nieces were born here too, but I'm one of the few,” she said. “I've gone back once, a few years ago when I was a freshman. It was really good. I met most of my mom's side of the family who were there, but I still have a lot of family members who still live in the Ukraine, a lot of cousins.”

She added that her plan is to study biology with the ambition of becoming a dentist, to follow other family members.

Erler had decided a while back that she wanted to become a school teacher. She narrowed her choices down, and quickly Merrimack started to pull more weight.

“It was between Merrimack and Westfield,” she said. “Originally I was leaning towards Westfield and then I started to look more into the program at Merrimack and then I met with the coach and had an unofficial visit and then I decided that's where I want to go. I visited the school and watched a practice (on Wednesday) and I met a lot of members of the team. They all seem close, like we are here, and it looks like they have a real good training program where everyone is involved and looks like a program that I would enjoy being involved in.”

A distance runner, who has been clocked at 6:05 in the mile and 12:58 in the two-mile, Erler has been running and improving since she first started as an eighth grader.

“I have said a thousand things about Olivia in the past and I just can't say enough good things about her now,” said Schell. “I have been so fortunate enough to coach her for almost five full years now. She went through some injuries early in her career but at this point, she's come a long way and is coming off a great cross-country season. She's looking to get under that 13-minute mark for the two-mile.

“She's another kid who is just great academically and sports. She's earned this, she has worked for this and I couldn't be any prouder than I am of her. She is someone who has meant a lot to me over these years. She's done a lot, and she and the other three captains have done so much for me and have helped me out over the years, especially during COVID times.

“Olivia is a stronger runner and I know she has more in her than what she's given me already and I can see big things from her these two final seasons here and at Merrimack as well.”

Like Kulis and Broussard, both Zaykovskaya and Erler are making a giant step going from a D3 high school program to a D1 collegiate program.

“It's definitely going to be a big adjustment, but I feel like once we get into the routine of it all, we'll be fine,” said Erler.

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