Traditionally speaking, cross country is an individual sport with self-motivation and simply pushing oneself. A sports philosophy regarding an individual sport could entail self-reflection while competing. Much like other collegiate cross country teams throughout the nation, Seton Hill University (SHU) has turned this individual sport into an incredible team sport, which highlights the encouragement of teammates and most importantly, pushing each other to get a better time.
There is a high chance that you saw the women of the cross-country team running around the city of Greensburg, and up and down the infamous “Hill” at the beginning of the fall when it was warmer weather. SHU also offers quite the terrain for a cross country course and has hosted tournaments in the past so the women were well prepared going into the season; crafting their mentality, legs, endurance, cardio and many other facets that make up the sport.
Some of the most successful runners on the team are the most experienced in the terms of collegiate competition. They were able to put another notch in their belt when they competed in their first NCAA Division II championships down in Florida.
Chelsia Poole and Alyssa Brandis are seniors on the team this year and proved the most successful on the team. They represented the Griffins down in St. Leo, Fla. in the top places for their squad. For the successful cross country team on the Hill, it did not go as hoped down in Florida as the team finished in 32nd place overall. However, it does not define the moments that the women put together throughout the whole season.
“It was amazing having the opportunity to compete amongst the best in the country. The entire experience was unforgettable,” said Poole. “The trip was a great bonding experience for the team that was filled with so many laughs and pictures, of course.”
It is always a skill to keep a light heart after a competition, especially like a National Championship. However, the build up to the competition was something the team and Poole will never forget. This is the first time that the women’s program has qualified for the Division II National Championships. Coach Jenna Fatica expressed her pride, being the coach of a National championship qualifying team.
“It truly says a lot about the talent level this particular group of women has,” said Faitca.
Poole said that this is something that the team will “never forget” and is something that she had been working for throughout her time on the Hill. Regardless of the runners’ times, what counts is that they got the opportunity to even place a time on such a stage.
“Seton Hill has given me something that nothing else has; an overwhelming confidence in myself to accomplish anything,” said Brandis. “The people that I have met in my time here are people that I will never forget and a lot of them will be lifelong friends.”
The Poole and Brandis duo led the way both in grade classification and on the cross country course for the Griffins.
“Senior captains Chelsia and Alyssa were both a huge part of the team’s success, especially at critical races such as PSACs and NCAA Regionals. They have played significant roles in the team’s success in previous years, but this season by far they have both made their marks,” said Fatica. “Not only with each of their abilities to run well, they have done a great job with leading the team this year.”
Since the two were captains this year, the coach, as well as the other women on the team, relied on them to set the example. It’s not hard to do, as they have improved significantly since their freshman year. They have set records that are going to be a striving goal to beat in the coming years of this younger program. Motivation is a key component of the sport and these seniors have never shied away from the challenge of the race and keeping the rest of the team on the same path.
“Next year we will certainly have big shoes to fill with Chelsia and Alyssa being absent, but they have set the bar high for the rest of the team to pick up where this past season left off,” said Fatica.
The teammates are familiar with the term motivation as Poole said that the two find themselves talking before races to get each other in the correct mindset before a race. This is a trickle-down effect to the other teammates as far as motivating and pulling each other along during practice and races. These same methods also translate off the regime and in real life as well.
“I try to learn a lesson from everyone that I meet and thankfully this university is filled with like-minded individuals that share common goals and have similar values,” said Brandis.
The relationship between Brandis and Poole this year is something they both will cherish for many years after they graduate, and they both said that they each have made a tremendous impact on each other throughout the four years as a Griffin.
“Each season of running grew to be more and more important to me,” said Poole. “My four years being a Griffin allowed me to become an ultra competitive runner and bond with an amazing team of girls that feel like family.”
There is a theme of family that seems to be an umbrella over the hill and goes for all athletic programs. As athletes progress through their four years at the university they cannot fail to not take every moment as a learning experience and capitalize at their chances at competitions. These two women were able to make their chances count and push each other as student-athletes and are a model for other athletes at the university as they leave in the spring of 2017.