StephanieRunyon.jpgStudent-Athlete Spotlight:
Stephanie Runyon

Dec. 4, 2012


Congratulations on being the USCAA individual champion for the second year in a row! How does it feel to achieve such an amazing accomplishment?

To be champion two years in a row is bittersweet. Last year’s win was a huge weight off of my shoulders because I had been runner-up in 2009 and 2010 and I wanted the win so badly. This year’s win felt awesome in a different way than last year’s. Each time I laced my shoes for a run or prepared for a workout I did it with the intent of preparing myself to win at nationals. I was injured after last year’s nationals, and it took me until May to be back to 100 percent. I had to work exceptionally hard to make up for lost time through rehabbing and taking the proper measures to get back into shape, but all of the patience and hard work was definitely worth it.


Describe the feeling of finishing runner-up as a team in this year’s national meet. Was it a harder race than in past years?   

Finishing second as a team this year felt more rewarding than did the two national championships (2009 and 2010) combined. As a team, we did not know the team score prior to the awards, so it was quite nerve-racking listening to the countdown of teams. When they announced third place and it wasn’t SMWC, we knew that either we placed or we didn’t. (Only the top three teams received awards from the USCAA.) When they announced that we were the runner-up team, we were ecstatic. The conditions for the race were much better than they were in 2011 because it was a warm and sunny 30 degrees (compared to 22 degrees and snow) and there was only about an inch or two of snow on the course. The course itself is very difficult because of its hills, numerous turns and spots of total silence and seclusion.


In your four years of running cross country at SMWC, what is one of your most memorable moments?

Learning that we had placed second this year was actually my most memorable cross country moment. I physically screamed in excitement and started jumping up and down upon hearing we got second. As a team we were exceptionally happy to earn the runner-up title, and I think our smiles in the team photo with the trophy illustrate our excitement.


Describe your relationship with Coach Readinger. How has she made you become a better runner over your athletic career?

Coach Readinger has definitely challenged me and has made me a better athlete and person. The first time I met her was during my senior year after running in the IHSAA Cross Country State Championship. I was already on the team bus, but she wanted to talk to me about running at SMWC. She gave me a huge hug, which really surprised me because she seemed so excited to see me. What I love about Coach is the fact that she has treated me as an individual throughout my entire time at SMWC. This has really helped me because she knows that what one athlete needs might differ from another. Over the years, I have appreciated the fact that Coach has been willing to let me grow. I want to be a cross country and track and field coach, so I ask her a lot of questions about running philosophy and the science behind running. She is very patient with my questions. She is also extremely patient with me as an athlete. I’m extremely competitive and I like to push limits, and she has been wonderful in reeling me back at times and to help me realize my limitations. I have a huge amount of respect for her not only because of what she has accomplished, but for how she inspires me to always work at being a better person first and a better athlete second.


Describe your thoughts on the 2012 season.

If I had to finish my college career with any team, I’m so glad that it was with this group of young women. The team this year was just so different from a dynamic standpoint than in years past. We had some really difficult practices, but somehow we always went home at the end of the day with smiles on our faces. Personally, this season was everything that I hoped it to be in regards to my performances, and winning nationals was only the topper of a great season. I managed to stay injury-free this season and I just felt stronger this year than I ever have. I think this year I just ran smarter, and this enabled me to end my senior cross country season on a high note.


What is one thing you are most proud of in your life?

I think I am the most proud of my ability to balance my involvements while at the same time maintaining my sanity. While it is difficult at times to balance my schedule, I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I weren’t a resident assistant, the student senate president, an enrollment ambassador, a tutor and a student athlete.


Who is one athlete that you look up to or idolize and why?

Anyone who knows me is well aware that I am a huge Colts fan. I was devastated when Peyton Manning was traded to the Broncos, but he is still my favorite athlete because he is a class act. He is very much a team player and is dedicated to being the best athlete and person he can be. Despite adversity, he is resilient and not complacent. I love how he has made his performance as a football player into something of an art. It is his hard work that has enabled him to be one of the greatest athletes in history.


Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?

I like to put makeup on before I race because I like to dress for success! In regards to superstitions, I have a few. I have a pink pair of spikes that I got when I was a freshman. I wore them for my freshman and sophomore year and had a lot of success in them because every personal record I ran was in those shoes. I got a pair of cotton candy-colored spike shoes at the start of my junior year. I still ran some great races in those spikes, but no personal records. This year I misplaced my cotton candy spikes for a few days and had to resort to wearing my pink ones for our first six-kilometer race at Manchester College. I ended up running a personal record at the meet by over 40 seconds. Needless to say, I never went back to my cotton candy spikes. Another superstition is that I will not run through the finish line during a pre-meet run because I feel it is bad luck.


Do you have a favorite quote? 

My favorite quote states: “You don’t get what you wish for; you get what you work for.” I firmly believe that hard work and dedication pays off. Although working hard doesn’t guarantee a victory, one won’t finish too far from the top if they put in the effort and have the mindset of success.


What do you look forward to once you graduate from SMWC?

I look forward to being a Woods alum who is still extremely active in the community. I feel a special connection to this place, and I look forward to helping SMWC in any way that I can. I also look forward to continuing my running at a very competitive level. I have a lot of miles and races left in me and I can’t wait to smash my personal records. I am getting married in July, and I look forward to running lots of races with my favorite running partner and soon-to-be husband, Mitchell.


If you had any advice for your teammates who will return next season, what would it be?

I will greatly miss my teammates next year. My advice to them is to take the time to celebrate their success, no matter how big or small. One’s experience as a college athlete is too short to take it for granted. Enjoy the moment, but don’t get caught up in it. After you reach a goal, set bigger ones, even if they scare you.


Any final comments about the cross country team or your experiences at SMWC as an athlete and/or student?

I am incredibly blessed to have been an athlete at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for four years. The community support has just been amazing. As an athlete, I have felt a part of something that is bigger than myself and bigger than any expectation I could have imagined. I feel valued as an individual at SMWC and I have appreciated the fact that I have been allowed to find my own voice, to clear my own path, and to pave the way for future students. I have been told that I have made people proud for what I have done athletically and in my leadership roles, but it has been SMWC that has enabled me to do all of this.