Oct. 28, 2013
By Tayler Turner ’14
For most people, the thought of running three (or more) miles at a 5-6 minutes per mile pace sounds brutally exhausting-but maybe you would be surprised to know a member of the Notre Dame cross country team feels the same way.
“The distance is a little bit longer than I’d like,” confesses Emily Frydrych, a junior cross country runner.
Frydrych, though, has reasons for her lack of excitement about the distance of a cross-country race. She was originally a track runner who specialized in the 800 and the mile.
“I like track better,” she explains. “I come from more of a middle distance background. I like cross country too; it’s just harder for me.”
Once she enrolled at Notre Dame, however, Frydrych was encouraged to place a more of a focus on cross country. In the span of three short years, she has transitioned from a cross country skeptic to one of the teams top runners.
Frydrych attributes her collegiate cross country success largely to head coach Tim Connelly. She recounts how the transition was hard for her at first. She wasn’t used to the intense mileage of cross country races and practices, but Connelly tailored practices to ease her and the rest of the runners into the longer distances.
“His training has been a really good fit for me,” says Frydrych. “I didn’t run a lot of miles in high school, so Coach Connelly eased me in and built me up in training so it wasn’t too big of a jump. It’s allowed me to go on an upward progression.”
In addition to the coaching staff, Frydrych credits her teammates with her success as well.
“Honestly, if I got on that line by myself, it wouldn’t be the same thing,” Frydrych admits. “Running and knowing that there are six other girls doing the same thing as you are and they’re counting on you to do well totally changes the race.”
This reliance on the team is an aspect that very few people realize about cross country. Frydrych explains that it is a balance between the individual and the team, but at the end of the day, the team is most important.
“We kind of pull each other along,” Frydrych jokes. “Getting through workouts – we wouldn’t be able to do it ourselves. We need our team.”
Specifically, Frydrych describes the concept of running as a pack and how it has improved the team performance.
“In the big races, there’s so many people that it’s easier if you can find your teammates and push each other through,” she explains. “If you are falling back a little and your teammate comes up and pushes you, it’s going to be easier for you to run faster.”
Thankfully for Frydrych and the rest of the cross country team, the girls are all very close. Most of them are best friends and many live together as roommates.
“We have a really good team dynamic- we want to do well but we want the team to do well. We want everyone else to do well too.”
This team dynamic that Frydrych describes of competition versus cohesion is something particularly prevalent between Frydrych and other top runners Kelly Curran and Alexa Aragon, who are both seniors. Each race, the three are constantly duking it out for the top spot, but Frydrych insists that this doesn’t get in the way of their friendship.
“I see them kind of as mentors,” says Frydrych. “They’ve always kind of been a little bit ahead of me. They try to get me through workouts. They’ve been great team leaders.”
As Frydrych looks towards her senior year, Curran and Argons leadership example is particularly important. When the two of both graduate, the team will rely on Frydrych for leadership.
“It’s going to be different next year because coming in, Alexa and Kelly were always a strong presence on the team-their grade has always been strong,” Frydrych explains. “But I think this year, running better in cross country has given me a lot more confidence, and I think that will help me going into next year just to be more confident and be more of a leader.”