Emma Becker ’22 competed in the NCAA Championships on Saturday, Nov. 20. She placed 104th out of 292 runners with a time of 22:29.7 at the race in Louisville, Ky. The Collegian caught up with Becker to talk about the meet, her Kenyon career and her experience running.
What got you into doing cross-country?
I started in about third grade because my whole family’s a running family — it was my dad’s side, and all my cousins would run. We just did cross-country to hang out with them. It’s fun and I just like the kind of inertia. I kept doing it. I started, in high school, getting better at it. And so then, you know what, I was looking at colleges that were Division III, like I’m from around here [Ohio], running would be fun. And then one thing led to another.
So how did you feel about going to nationals? This is your second time, right?
Yes. In terms of it, I was thinking: I’m going to get one more race until I’m done forever. And I just love racing so much. So, I was very excited. Yeah, that’s a great opportunity. I was excited to have a chance to improve, and try to get a PR, but I did not get there, unfortunately. But it was still exciting to go back.
What was this race like?
I didn’t do as great as I had expected. I actually got pretty much the same time as I did my sophomore year. The race itself was much, much faster. The course my sophomore year was very cold with a ton of mud. The times were super slow and this year super fast because the weather is great and it was a perfect day. So, you know, my time is actually the same place-wise as before. I’ve moved back 50 spots because everybody else’s improved, too. It was the same course as it was two years ago.
What’s your favorite condition to run in?
Usually at around 50, sometimes a little bit lower than 50 degrees. It’s perfect for every workout; easy runs. It’s a little bit cold, but makes group workouts easier. I have a friend who loves when it rains. And every time it rains when I’m with her she’s like, “Oh, this is amazing.” And I’m like, “No, stop. Stop saying that.”
Do you see yourself continuing to run?
I really enjoy doing it. And I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve been doing it so long, that when I stopped running, it’s like, “Oh, I just am in a terrible mood all the time.” So I feel like it’s going to have to keep going. I don’t know how far I’ll go with it, like racing and stuff, but definitely just continuing to run as a way of exercising.
What was the comparison with your sophomore year? Your feelings, your excitement, level, your speed?
I’m a person who tends to like courses that are a little bit worse off, because I’m at the point where there are a lot of people who are a lot faster than me. So I feel like we have a really fast growth with weather conditions, though it’s very difficult for me to move up in general. But if you have more rough terrain, a very difficult course, like it’s really muddy and deformed, getting the times is kind of a free-for-all or you can play the race smart. You can actually beat people who are faster than you. I feel like it was almost a little bit more exciting my sophomore year because there were more variables in that race. This year, I felt almost homesick. I was just trying to keep up with people. The excitement level was definitely very high, but I think my sophomore experience was a little more enjoyable.
I know that cross-country is more of an individualized sport. But what would you say about the connections you’ve made?
I like the team aspect of running. It’s one of the most important parts about it. Because, especially when we had the COVID-19 lockdowns and we’re obviously running individually, my fitness was so down. lt was instead, motivate yourself when you don’t have people pushing you and helping you and motivating you. That’s the community aspect. When you have friends and coaches encouraging you, that’s what makes it enjoyable.
What are the coaches like here?
They’re really great, new. [Ciara] Kissane is the head cross-country coach. She came here last year. She’s really great. Everybody likes her — we clicked really well. I can tell she’s a really good fit for the team already. Coach [Julius] Higginbotham is going to be the head track coach. This is his first year. I actually learned more because he used to be the coach at Wooster and so I had considered going there. He’s also a really good fit and everybody likes him. I feel like we’ve got a good set of coaches.
What’s the comparison for you between track and cross-country?
The distances are similar. A lot of times the workouts would feel pretty similar, except track is a lot more consistent, and I feel like your times matter more because you’re on the same course whereas cross-country can vary so wildly. You can get an insanely fast or a bad course. So I guess I kind of like that about cross-country, the variability of it, because I like running from place more than time. A lot of the time just because it’s more exciting in the moment. Track is a lot more of a social sport because it’s so much easier to see everybody’s times in different races.
What was your favorite memory running cross-country?
I have to say probably the conference our sophomore year. I really loved that race because a lot of people were doing really well. Our team did really well, way better than expected. The weather was good, people were pumped up. And it was an exciting race, and the course was kind of all over the place. Everybody’s in such a good mood, at the end and even at the beginning when we were warming up. And yeah, it was really a great thing for us. Looking back, we didn’t know at the time that would be one of the last meets before the pandemic screwed everything up. It’s bittersweet.
How was running through the pandemic?
It’s pretty hard to stay motivated, to go fast when there’s no people with you. But it also was a lifeline during the summer. I had nothing else to do and I had a remote job, so the only time I’d get to do anything that wasn’t at the computer was when I was going at four o’clock for my run every day. I’m like, “Alright, here we go. We’re going out of the house.” So it was kind of a mix.
Where should we expect to see you next? Hitting any personal records?
Absolutely, yeah. My freshman PR was 17:56 for the 5K. I’m hoping to beat that for the track season.