From Hockey to Running
- By Julie Brown
- May 20, 2011 01:29 PM
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – It’s hard to believe that talented West Virginia University distance standout Kate Harrison wasn’t much for running when she first took up the sport. Instead, she preferred ice hockey, where she often played center or right wing.
“I’m from Canada and everyone plays hockey,” she said, laughing. “So I played hockey into high school until I decided to focus on running. In Canada, women’s hockey is big.”
Eventually, Harrison grew tired of the politics that can sometimes occur on hockey teams, so she decided to focus solely on running, which provided the chance to compete in a sport where things were black and white and not so subjective.
Now, only a few years later, she’s the BIG EAST 10,000-meter champion, finishing the race two weekends ago with a time of 33:59.84.
“The race was a lot of fun and I had the chance to run with three other teammates also making their 10K debuts,” she said. “It was comforting to have them in the race, but we were all pretty confident. With Sean’s (Cleary) training you know that you’re ready to run the longer distances and you build up endurance. For all of us to do so well was great to share.”
Fellow teammates Sarah-Anne Brault, Kaitlyn Gillespie and Ahna Lewis placed second, fourth and eighth respectively, all four earning points towards the Mountaineers’ eventual second place finish - the best finish at BIG EAST in the program’s history.
Harrison attributes much of this success to Cleary’s coaching, and the fact that everything seemed to come together at the right time for the team.
“We’ve always been successful, and I think Sean has created a very good program,” she explained. “We’ve always had a really strong group of dedicated girls who are talented and willing to put in the work and make the sacrifices necessary to be really good runners. I think it just came together for a lot of people this year, and the hard work paid off, which is exciting to see.”
Looking back over her career so far, Harrison admits that it’s been a steady progression, and this year especially, she’s learned how to balance all aspects of being a student athlete to reach her potential.
“You have to be good about eating and sleeping and training,” she said. “I think every year you get a little bit better and learn a little bit more about yourself and what you need to do. Once you get it figured out you can be really successful. It’s the combination of years of training, maturing and learning that makes it come together.”
These years of training will hopefully continue to pay off for the Toronto, Ontario resident as next up is NCAA regionals. In order to qualify for regionals, Harrison had to hold one of the top 40 times in her respective region.
Beyond that, in order to qualify for nationals she has to finish in the top 12 at the regional meet.
West Virginia participated in two meets last weekend, but Harrison and several other distance runners opted to the time off and rest up for this weekend’s regional meet.
“The 10K and 5K races are hard on you, and you can’t be racing every weekend,” she explained.
When the season is over and summer officially begins for the redshirt senior, running will still be very much in the picture. She plans to run at least one more race before heading home to spend some time with her family.
But it won’t be long before she resumes training for her last collegiate cross country season. In fact, she’s already been working out with former Mountaineer and 2008 Olympian Megan Metcalfe to prepare.
“One of my goals is to continue running post collegiately and see how far I can go in the sport,” she said. “If I could go to the Olympics that would be a really next experience. It’s always been a goal of mine.”
Harrison will also be pursuing her master’s degree in Exercise Physiology while finishing out her final year of eligibility.
“There are a lot of different directions you can take with this degree,” she detailed. “Some people have been mentioning medical school, but I don’t know if I’m ready for that. I really love working with research and I want to continue down that road.”
But for now, the road is leading to NCAA regionals and hopefully even farther than that. With a season of spring training behind them, there is no doubt that Harrison and her teammates will represent West Virginia well next weekend.
West Virginia University Mountaineers
NCAA women's track and field