Facing great adversity, junior Sadie Gollub and freshman Lauren Norton proved to be formidable contenders on the national stage of cross country running two weekends ago.
Despite never before participating in the NCAA National Championships, both women represented UR well at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind. on Saturday, Nov. 22. Gollub placed in the top third of the field of runners, and Norton finished in the middle third.
Gollub, who placed 92nd out of 279 finishers, was hit with a heavy blow two days before the race.
‘Thursday morning I was notified that my father was killed by a drunk driver,” she said. ‘Obviously I was very upset, but after talking with my mother, I decided to run in my father’s honor. He was a runner also it was something we shared a love for.”
Gollub broke a personal record in the meet by 19 seconds, crossing the finish line of the 6-kilometer race in a time of 22:24.61 a feat that was accomplished thanks in part to the support of her family and teammates.
‘My mother, my sister and friends (including a few of my dad’s college teammates) were able to watch the race via live streaming video online,” Gollub said. ‘My boyfriend and his parents drove for over 10 hours to watch and support Lauren and me. I am so lucky to have such love and support from so many people. I think this experience reminded me of that.”
Head coach Barbara Hartwig commented that Gollub’s feat was something exceptional in running.
‘A personal best is something that is hard to do at a national meet of any kind,” she said.
It was also a difficult accomplishment in that the course was unlike any other in which the Yellowjackets had run.
‘Our courses tend to be flat with a couple of small steep hills,” Gollub said. ‘[However,] the course at Hanover College was dynamic. It was constantly moving up or down, often turning and making loops.”
‘In other years we have been able to run a pre-Nationals race and see the course before,” Hartwig said. ‘But this course was too far away.”
UR’s races this year have had somewhere around 100 participants, this race had nearly three times that, and every runner is one of the best in her region. It is difficult for the group to thin out, so Gollub and Norton were able to pass many runners at once. However, when they were passed, it was by large groups of runners. Another unique characteristic of the race was the size of the field of runners. While most of
‘Competing against so many people who run fast was fun and also scary,” Gollub said. ‘Within the first half mile I saw several girls fall and cover their heads while the herd of runners jumped over and around them.”
Hartwig was very impressed with the women’s reactions to the thick pack.
‘There was no explanation I could give them on how to best run the course, other than experience,” she said. ‘I think they handled it very well, and the good news is that they both have the opportunity to come back next year and run again.”
Norton, who placed 175th with a time of 23:06.53, also came into the race in an exceptional situation. She has been battling injury for much of the season and has been unable to train fully. In addition, the fact that she even participated in the race as a freshman was notable. Only approximately 50 freshmen ran in the race, and many of these were there as members of a team rather than as individual qualifiers.
‘I’m so impressed by her courage to finish the season despite injuries and setbacks,” Gollub said. ‘She never gave up and never stopped working, even when it hurt.”
Gollub and Norton are already looking forward to next year’s cross country season.
‘I hope our team continues to work hard and progress,” Gollub said, ‘because it was such a fun experience and I want to share it next year with the entire team.”
‘I’m proud for our program,” Hartwig said. ‘This is the second year in a row we’ve sent someone to Nationals. Hopefully next year we’ll get the whole team there.”
Philbrick is a member of the class of 2009.