11/14/23, 12:21PM: I’m currently sitting on a plane from Dallas, Texas to Portland, Oregon to race at the NAIA Cross Country National Championships…. How did we get here?!
Freshman year cross country – where do I even start?! The past three months have been the craziest of my life. They’ve had some of the hardest moments and some of the most joyous moments, and if you had told me when I got off the plane on August 24th that I’d make it this far 12 weeks in, I may not have believed you.
The recaps I’ve often done of my racing seasons always help me to reflect on my growth throughout the competitive season, and college has brought multitudes of that growth. I was so so excited to go to SCAD and everything about starting life in a new city and leaving home had me excited. That anticipation only grew throughout the summer, but by the end of August when I boarded the Pittsburgh flight leaving home I was sufficiently nervous and sad to leave everything I’d ever known. As much as moving to a new city far away from home to pursue my artistic and athletic goals was everything I’ve ever wanted, I was just plain scared. After a whirlwind three days of moving in and getting tentatively settled in my college dorm (an entire novel could be written about the stresses and adventures of those three days, believe me), SCAD XC escaped Savannah for a week of pre-season camp in Boone, North Carolina.
Not counting the national meet that is this Friday, I’ve raced six times this season, and I feel that I’ve learned something specific and valuable in each racing experience. My biggest takeaway from this season is simply that my mind is incredibly powerful. Of course this is true for everyone, but I found this season that learning to harness the power of my mind and using it to benefit me and make me more confident, instead of questioning myself, made all the difference. Another huge takeaway is that having a team of fellow artist-athletes is so inspiring both artistically and athletically! Being around people with the same main passions as me has been fascinating and the coolest thing ever.
I started off the season stronger than I expected to as I immediately PRed twice in my first two races, in Boone, NC and Charlotte, NC. Even though I had worked very hard all summer to ensure that I’d start the season strong and fit, I was surprising myself with my quickly improving times. This was one of those joyous seasons of life in which God just keeps surprising you in your faith and perseverance. I do wonder if something about the stress of starting college impacted my running, as I found I got into a “groove of suffering” as I like to think about it. I missed home and my family so acutely and intensely at the beginning that I found it almost easier to push myself into the “pain cave” that is hard running, I believe primarily because I was already in pain with homesickness. When you’re already emotionally suffering, somehow it doesn’t feel all that much worse to add some temporary physical suffering in there too. Maybe this sounds masochistic of me but I truly do believe that part of my success this season was due to simply being comfortable in nearly-constant stress.
Not all of this stress was bad stress however! While it was very difficult to move in, learn an entirely new lifestyle, start classes, and try to build a community of friends, it all felt like exactly what I’d been looking for. The communal artist-athlete space of SCAD is truly a special one and I feel so thankful to be a part of it. Even when it was hard, I knew that I felt God calling me to be at SCAD and that it would be worth it. Even though I’m only one third through freshman year now, I feel confident that for the time being this is where I will thrive, even if it’s difficult. The people are fascinatingly unique, the art that’s constantly being made around me is inspiring, and my teammates help me aspire to higher accomplishments often.
This season has likewise been about learning to seek help when I need it, which is something that I have always struggled with and have had to view differently here in college. The dysautonomia that I was diagnosed with last season reared its ugly head in an unfortunate race mid-season, stopping my PR streak and forcing me to acknowledge that dysautonomia is something that will always been present in my running career. I'm blessed that after that experience I got to start working in depth with my coach to build mental skills to counteract the DA (dyasautonomia) and ever since I've been encouraged with the new conclusion that DA will always be a part of me, I just have to be able to control it and learn new ways to prevent any bad episodes from happening during races. In the same way and on a more personal note, having teammates who are close friends and who care about me deeply has helped me to be more honest when I'm struggling, emotionally or otherwise, which is something that I've had trouble with in the past. I tend to not want to share as much when I'm struggling, so knowing that I'm in such a supportive space is wonderful. Being at college so far away from our families has forced my close friend group of cross country freshmen to really be each other's family, and with that I've made some incredibly special connections to those around me. You can truly find "home" in the people around you, and doing so much travel this season has showed me that.
On paper accomplishments of this XC season:
12th NAIA South All-Region (second freshman in the region)
Sun Conference Women’s Runner Up
Sun Conference Women’s Freshman of the Year
First ever Sun Conference perfect score
NAIA XC Nationals team qualifier with first place women's team
5k XC PR: 18:28
6k XC PR: 22:47 (plus TBD nationals this Friday)
Off paper accomplishments of this XC season:
learned to be a teammate again
got up far too early for a few meets
traveled to 5 different states for meets
slept in far too late on the morning after late night arrivals home after meets
spent multiple days’ worth of hours on buses
helped our coaches move out of their house
saw my family at one race!
listened to more German rap with my roommate than ever before in my life
shared smores with friends in two different states
made some of the funniest, sweetest, and most special memories
so so many more...
There are so many more wonderful memories that can't all fit into a blog post, so I'll leave it here with the reflection that I just feel so blessed to be where I'm at. One year ago I could have only hoped to be where I am now with these opportunities. It has been so hard, but the fruits of our labor are paying off. There is such beauty in the pain! All the glory goes to God for these experiences and opportunities, and I can't wait to continue to see what He does in the future!!
The lady bees lace up one more time for the season, this Friday at 10:30am PT in Vancouver, Washington. Go bees!!!!! 🐝⚡️
Below are photos from all of our races this season! Here's a record of each of them so you can follow along:
1) Fire Tower Project Meet - Boone, NC
2) Queen City Invite - Charlotte, NC
3) Akiah McMillan Invite - Columbia, SC
4) Royals Challenge - Charlotte, NC
5) NAIA Appalachian Challenge - Knoxville, TN
6) Sun Conference Championships - Ave Maria, FL