At St. Mary’s, we are proud to have some of the best student-athletes from across the country and the world competing for us as lightning athletes! Our athletes strive for excellence in their sport and are a source of inspiration, excitement and pride at St. Mary’s. We want to share this pride with our community in our new Lightning Watch series, where we share our student athlete’s stories.

Sydney Zissos, a student athlete on our cross country team, has been bringing even more talent to Lightning Athletics by setting records and keeping her eye on helping her team make it to the podium this season. This month, we are watching Sydney’s success on our cross country team.

The close-knit community and connections offered at StMU are one of the many reasons cross country runner Sydney Zissos is proud to be part of Lightning Athletics. Currently studying Psychology at StMU, Sydney hopes to use her degree to either earn her BEd after degree and explore teaching, or to start working as a psychologist specializing in diagnosing and treating eating disorders.

Sydney has been an avid runner for as long as she can remember, and is now our top Lightning runner this year. At only fifteen, Sydney ran her first half marathon. By the time Sydney was seventeen, she was running full marathons and just recently, she completed her first ultramarathon. Now, Sydney has set her sights on a new goal – completing a 100km race!

Sydney describes the feeling of competing in cross country as like no other: “The endorphins that fire up and the friendly competition make the experience amazing,” explains Sydney.

Sydney chose to study at StMU because of the friendly and kind environment fostered on campus. She appreciates the opportunity to learn in tight-knit classes where she feels supported in her learning. She loves the caring and welcoming nature of the community at StMU. In addition, the smaller class sizes helped Sydney feel more involved in her hands-on learning. Overall, she explains her university student experiences as significantly positive and encouraging.

As for being a member of our Lightning Athletics, Sydney saw this as an opportunity to meet fellow students and be active. She loves the chance to be involved in her community while participating in something she’s passionate about!

“I’m so glad I have the chance to be a part of such an amazing group of athletes. The connections and memories I’ve made here are incredibly special; they will stay with me forever. I admire how much StMU values and supports their athletics,” says Sydney.

Sydney is a proud member of our cross country team!


In her short time with us as a Lightning Athlete, Sydney is already breaking records. Earlier this month, Sydney finished fifth at an ACAC event and received St. Mary’s eighth all-time best performance in a 6km race. This is an incredible achievement and she credits her two outstanding coaches, Donna Dixon and Randi Palyga, for putting in the time and effort to help her become the athlete she is today.

“There’s nothing quite like getting results that show how much my hard work is paying off! It is extremely rewarding,” she says.

As a StMU athlete, Sydney strives to be the best she can be. She hopes to push herself and help our women’s team place on the podium this season. “That would be such a great milestone in my student-athlete career,” she adds.

Sydney also encourages anyone interested to come try out for cross country! “Not only are Donna and Randi incredible leaders who develop all of their athletes, but cross country is also a great opportunity to exercise regularly, enjoy fresh air, and make new friends,” says Sydney.

As a strong athlete with a clear determination to continue pushing for greatness, the Lightning Athletics community can’t wait to see what Sydney achieves in her time with us at StMU.

‘Sydney is an incredibly talented all around athlete. In addition to her running ability, she is a top Muay Thai competitor. And her positive attitude, work ethic, and competitive spirit have made her a leader on the Lightning Cross Country team this season,” says Coach Donna Dixon. “She has had great race results so far as our top Lightning runner. She is an important part of our strong women’s team this year, and we are excited to see what else she will achieve this season.”

Go Lightning!