by Michael Naughton
Junior Lauren King loves a challenge. If you can’t tell by her resume, spend five minutes with her and you will feel the drive and intensity of her personality.
She has the focus and determination that any great athlete must have, and combined with her exceptional talent, King is now running into the Notre Dame record books.
Her running career started with a dash across the playground in kindergarten and the passion that defined her early on has now yielded three All-America honors and an individual BIG EAST championship in cross country.
After a successful high school career in her native Canada, King made an immediate impact at Notre Dame by winning her first collegiate cross country race, the Notre Dame Invitational. It has been mostly smooth sailing since then, as she has anchored the Notre Dame team and drove them to a third-place finish at last year’s NCAA championships.
“Lauren is one of the most intense people I have ever known,” cross country standout Todd Mobley says.
“Her dedication and intensity is all geared to getting better.”
What may be more impressive about King is her unyielding intensity in not only running but also in life.
“Intensity and focus are key parts of my training,” King says.
“There is an advantage to being mentally stimulated.”
Her training is very structured and regimented much like the rest of her life. She runs 13 out of every 14 days.
“The real intensity comes in the hours of training that lead up to an event that lasts only minutes,” King says.
“With practice and in training I like to be organized, I set high standards and goals. I like to know where I am going and then work towards it.”
With King there is never an easy training run and she demands only the highest quality out of the time she spends training.
“Lauren is very intense in everything she does,” women’s cross country coach Tim Connelly says.
“She has talent and wants to see how far it takes her. She is not intimidated by competition. The competition excites her.”
King has developed a strong relationship with Connelly. He constantly challenges King day in and day out. He forces her to respond and go beyond her comfort level to reach higher goals. The more she is out of her comfort zone in training the better prepared she is to face adversity in a race.
If attempting to be one of the best distance runners in the world wasn’t enough of a challenge, King has participated in two Outward Bound experiences that are designed to test an individual’s mental and physical strength. During these two experiences in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and in British Columbia, King was forced to look inside of herself. She found that she is not going to settle for being just mediocre.
The Outward Bound experiences taught her how to respond when things fall apart and the meaning of teamwork. The program pushed her limits and the experience has made her both a better person and a better runner.
Lauren took those experiences and applied it to her training. She learned the value of teamwork and a support network. In training, a network of support is critical and King’s training partners feed off of her intensity and desire just as they push her on mile after mile.
“The more experiences you have out of your comfort level the better prepared you are to respond,” King says.
“The same is true in running, the harder I push myself in training the more prepared I am for pushing myself in critical races.”
King pushes herself in the classroom as well. The biology major has her sights set on medical school but only after she tests how far she can go as a runner. Judging by her past performance and her desire to be the best, people shouldn’t expect to start calling her Dr. King any time too soon.
Running is King’s focus right now. While running is essentially an individual sport, in cross country more emphasis is placed on the team. Last year, the Notre Dame women’s cross country team surprised people with a third-place finish at the NCAA championships.
The finish was the best in school history and it solidified Notre Dame’s position as one of the top programs in the country. King’s leadership set the pace for the Irish who are looking to capitalize on last year’s success.
The team wants to build off last year’s success. King claims that the key to the team’s success will come in its ability to not worry about others.
“We need to stay focused on who we are as a team and what we can control,” King says.
With King and teammate Molly Huddle pacing the Irish, Notre Dame is in the midst of another solid season. The Irish are currently ranked second in the nation which bids well for their national championship aspirations.
“I want to be the best I can possibly be,” King says.
“I want to see my full potential and I refuse to set limits.”
With the talent and aspirations that she possesses, King and her Irish teammates may be running right towards a national title.