lead Eagle teams
the running craze in the late 1970s and 1980s brought the marathon
into popular culture, it did not touch the sport of cross-country,
which was and remains an obscure pursuit. Cross-country does not
even have a presence in the Olympics, a festival of obscure sports.
In line with their race's low profile, BC women's cross-country
runners have largely gone unheralded, as well -- that is, until part
way through last fall. But on November 20, the women's cross-country
team captured fourth place at the National Collegiate Athletic Association
championships, held at Iowa State University's 6,000-meter (3.75-mile)
course. It was the best finish ever for a BC women's team in NCAA
competition. Three of the Eagles' racers made All-American.
With all seven of the top runners due back for the 2001 season,
head coach Randy Thomas envisions a possible national championship
That's a long way from the 1999 finish, when the Eagles ran 28th
out of 31 teams in the NCAA tournament. After that race, says assistant
coach Kathy Fleming, "they were moping; they just wanted to
go home, the sooner the better." Instead, at Fleming's urging,
Thomas commanded that the downcast athletes stay to watch the top
four teams receive their awards. "You could see the envy on
their faces," says Fleming. "It was a real mental turnaround;
instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they came away hungry for
To achieve it, cocaptains Lisa McIsaac '01 and Katie Ryan '02 knew
they would have to rebuild the team's attitude. "A lot of us
in high school were successful as individuals," says McIsaac.
"At this level, though, that approach is self-defeating."
Many runners accustomed to being superstars in high school are middle-of-the-pack
athletes at the upper reaches of college competition. That demands
a mental adjustment, from pursuing individual glory to embracing
team goals, and committing yourself to ignore burning lungs and
cramping muscles to finish 120th instead of 121st, because you know
that a single point might be the difference between a team trophy
and a long, depressing ride home.
The summer workout regimen that Fleming put together last May -- long
distance work and easy runs of seven or eight miles at a pace of
7 or 7.5 minutes to the mile -- became a rallying point. "We
set up an e-mail list and made everyone accountable for getting
in their workouts," says All-American Ryan, who took 24th place
in the NCAA championship race. "If someone had a really good
workout, they would send everyone else an e-mail about it. You'd
read that and say, 'Well, she's doing that, so I should too.'"
As the regular season began, the focus intensified. The runners
wore identical team shirts in the weight room. They wrote motivational
slogans ("You're looking strong!") for one another. They
prepared team pasta dinners.
"We all knew if we each did our part as a team member, we'd
reach our goals," says Megan Guiney '03, who led BC's charge
in the NCAA final by finishing 13th overall.
The team went undefeated in dual meets against area colleges and
universities, taking the first nine places at the Dartmouth Invitational.
They won the Big East title for the first time in 15 years, and
beat national powerhouses Georgetown and Providence to win the NCAA
Region I qualifying meet.
"My favorite part of this sport is setting goals and trying
to reach them," says Megan's twin sister, Cate, who ran 34th
in the final and also made All-American. "Our goal next year
is to win the whole thing."
Any personal goals? she is asked. "Well, I'd like to finish
in the top 10."
Moments after the telephone interview ends, she calls back. "You
know what? It doesn't really matter to me where I finish -- as long
as the team wins the national championship."
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