SMWC senior wins USCAA cross country championship again

December 7th, 2012 | SMWC

Stephanie Runyon

For the second year in a row, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) senior Stephanie Runyon has won the title of national champion for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) 2012 Cross Country National Championship. The SMWC cross country team raised in the ranks, taking second place this year over their third-place holding last year. The team won the championship title in both 2009 and 2010.

Despite the snow on the ground, the 6K race was held in November at an Olympic training facility in Lake Placid, N.Y. Runyon, an education major from Noblesville, Ind., said that this year before the race was different in that she had won it last year. Now she told herself she had to defend and own that title. “It was my race to win or lose and I knew that,” she said. With that in mind, she gave it her all.

At the beginning, Runyon’s plan was to be patient and watch her competitors, but once she felt she knew their tactics, she slid into the lead that she would hold for the rest of the race. She jokingly commented, “It was a cat and mouse game and I was the one being chased!” Near the end of the race, when she hadn’t seen any of the other 168 competitors for ten minutes, she decided to just enjoy the last quarter. Tears streamed down her face as she crossed the finish line; she knew she had won it again. When asked what she did after she crossed that line, Runyon replied, “I always like to do a fist pump,” and she did just that. She then waited for the rest of the team to finish.

Runyon said the team and coach Danelle Readinger were “ecstatic about second place.” The team also had two runners, Runyon and Logan Fry, an SMWC junior who placed fourth overall, who earned All-American status.

Throughout the race, Runyon said she recalled tips, both technical and motivational, the team had given each other before the start. “The most important thing about working as a team is remembering that your teammates are there with you [even] though you are separate,” Runyon explained.

Runyon is no stranger to teamwork. Being a resident assistant on campus, as well as the student senate president, she said, are both great leadership roles that help her with teamwork in her sport. These positions have showed her how to take the initiative in a group and to organize and motivate the team to do their best. Runyon added, though, that “it’s been cross country that has helped me in my other roles; it’s taught me dedication, perseverance and the value of working as a team.”

This ability to work well in a team, she believes, will help her greatly in the future, especially as she heads into a career in education. Runyon thanks SMWC for embracing athletes and making students feel valued as individuals. The school’s community, she says, knows her as Stephanie the athlete, the leader, the future graduate; they know her for the different things she has to contribute.

“They let me have more than one identity and let me find my identity for myself,” she said. After graduating this coming spring, Runyon hopes to keep running. “I love running on a team. I’ve been running for ten years and I would love to find a club that runs in competitive marathons,” she said. “Running is a social thing for me but I do it for the competition because I am a competitive person.”
Jessica Claycomb is a sophomore at SMWC, studying graphic design and interning in the Office of College Relations.

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