March 10, 2014

By Staci Gasser

Champion alpine skier. Accomplished pianist and ukulele player. Sailing instructor. A University of Notre Dame student-athlete. Gatorade National Cross-Country Runner of the Year winner. Self-proclaimed running nut.

Irish long-distance runner Molly Seidel’s resume goes on and on with accomplishments, and she is only a sophomore.

But when you get her talking about running, you can see it’s her greatest love.

“I think about it all the time. My dream day is being able to go out on the trail and run. It just makes everything makes sense,” she explains.

While battling ongoing lower leg injuries, Seidel hasn’t raced as much as she would like—she only ran one race in one track meet last season and was out for half of this year’s cross-country season—but in the middle of the indoor track schedule this year, she held the fastest time in the ACC and 13th fastest time in the NCAA in the 5,000-meter race.

“The first meets have gone well,” Seidel says. “I feel the team has come together really well and getting in some solid work in practice and building on that to get ready for the later part of the season, moving on to outdoor.”

Seidel is coming off a good cross-country season. She was able to run in ACC regionals and championships, although the team didn’t quite hit their goals at the latter.

“We can build off of it in future seasons and use it as motivation,” she says. “I was just very happy to have that chance and run with the team.”

Running with a team was something new for Seidel when she came to Notre Dame.

A Wisconsin native, Seidel comes from a family of skiers, and her high school didn’t have a team. But Seidel ran in gym class, two or three miles twice a week. She realized how much she loved it and convinced her mom to run track for her church team. Then somehow she managed to convince her athletic director to be the only person on the track team for University Lake School (Hartland, Wisc.).

“When I wanted to run, it was out of nowhere, but I’m very lucky to have my family’s full support,” Seidel says.

She was a four-time Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association First Team All-State selection, finished her high school career undefeated and won her fourth consecutive Division 3 state title in an all-class, state-record time of 13:39.59. The only other girl in Wisconsin history to win four state cross country titles is Olympian Suzy Favor-Hamilton.

“Coming from a place where I had to be very intrinsically motivated has helped me to stay confident and reach for my goals self-sufficiently,” Seidel articulates with humility. “It’s really great knowing I have a team behind me now, but I know I can be self-reliant and push myself when the going gets tough.

“But being part of a team is something I draw off of a lot, just having the support system there.”

And even though she is in season year-round with a full course load as an anthropology and environmental science major with a minor in sustainability, Seidel loves representing the university as an athlete.

“I love going out with the team, wearing our Notre Dame gear, and people come up to us and say, ‘Wow, you’re Notre Dame athletes.’ You get this instant connection with people and it’s so deep. You get this sense of honor and pride in your university.”

Seidel has been a lifelong Fighting Irish fan since her mom is a St. Mary alumna, so Notre Dame was an easy choice over Georgetown, Duke, Harvard and Stanford.

“If I had chosen any other school that I looked at, I would always wonder what would have happened if I went to ND,” she explains.

She says she loves going to the line every race against some the best runners in the country and know that it’s going to be a challenge. And answering her which season she prefers is a tough one for the sophomore.

“I love cross-country because you are outside, you’re in the woods and grinding it out. I love track because it’s so exact and fast. People think you get bored running in circles, it’s so exciting,” she says. “Pack racing gives you a sort of thrill that you look forward to.”

The Notre Dame track and field teams have the NCAA Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. starting Friday, Mar. 14. The both the men’s and women’s teams came in third at their first-ever ACC Championships a week ago.