A 6th year dedicated to the Georgetown Hoyas.
I spent six years competing for the Georgetown Hoyas. Each year holds a special place in my heart for its own unique reasons.
Below I will only be reflecting on my 5th & 6th years; however, it goes without saying that my first four years at Georgetown played in integral role in shaping who I am today. Those four years brought about priceless memories, friendships and lessons that I will carry with me forever.
The words that follow are a personal reflection of the most transformative 12 months of my life. My story is far from remarkable, but it is the reason why I firmly believe there is no greater catalyst for growth than overcoming adversity — and no greater happiness than doing what you love with people that you love.
Standing on the starting line with Georgetown across my chest and my best friends by my side — one of the greatest feelings in the world.
Seconds before the gun goes off time seems to move in slow motion. Deep breaths and sharp thoughts. I’m ready to hurt like hell for the girls next to me and get the chills knowing they’re preparing to do the same. The starter raises the flag. I channel words my mom texted me before every meet.
Run this race as if it’s your last.
Time to get after it.
I got to live that precious moment six times this past fall. Six gifts that just a year before, I never thought I’d have the chance to experience. Six races that left me wondering, how did I get so lucky…
It started with a 5th year
At this point, you’ve probably realized that when I referred to my 6th Year earlier, it wasn’t a typo. It took a bit of misfortune to garner the title, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. In August 2018, the day before the start of the cross country season, one step — rather, one misstep — on a run set the tone for my entire 5th year.
As I rounded a turn on the path, my foot struck a rock in just the right (wrong) way and the next thing I knew, POP!
I was coming off of the best summer of training in my life and the only thought racing through my mind was, This can’t be happening.
I spent the rest of that day on the take ibuprofen, ice a few times, and be fine by tonight denial train. Reality finally set in when I got to the end of the day and couldn’t even come close to fitting my foot in a shoe. At that point, I knew I had no choice but to send the one text I was dreading.
Coach, something happened…
That pop was my fifth metatarsal. I went all out in the pool and training room every day that fall, trying to maintain fitness and crush rehab. I hoped that the break would heal fast and I could salvage the back-half of the season.
When I think back on that time now, I can’t help but ask, where was I?
Technically speaking, I was at Georgetown. But my mind might as well have been a million miles away. Anyone who’s been injured knows it can be an isolating process. I felt like I barely knew our freshmen and it was tiring telling the same story on repeat every day.
Today feels the same as yesterday.
November rolled around and I was still reminded with each step that something was wrong. A CT scan mid-November showed no signs of healing.
I had surgery the next day, and I spent the rest of the semester at home in Chicago with my family.
A little screw goes a long way
That surgery restored my hope.
I was finally getting a chance to heal and I was ready to go above and beyond to get back to running with my teammates. I watched the NCAA Cross Country National Championships from my couch that season and despite the fact that at the time the extent of my physical activity consisted of a 30 foot crutch downstairs each morning and upstairs each night, I was determined to get the Hoyas to the big dance in 2019.
The months that followed were hard, but I loved every second of them. I started listening to a podcast called Jocko Podcast, followed Coach Baker’s return-to-run plan to a T, and did my first run on land in March.
30 minutes of pure bliss.
The rest of the comeback was far from easy or perfect. For a while, every run felt hard. PT and rehab took hours every day. Muscles and tissues I didn’t even know existed were sore.
I attempted to squeeze out an outdoor track season — let’s just say it was NO BUENO.
But at the end of the day, none of it mattered. My foot was completely pain free and I was training with my teammates again. After the year I’d had, it was hard to ask for much more than that.
My coaches graciously offered to bring me back in the fall, and as soon as the NCAA granted me a 6th season in cross country, I was all in!
A 6th year dedicated to the Hoyas
I was committed to doing things differently this final time around. My 5th year gave me a perspective and appreciation for the sport that I’d never had before. Summer running wasn’t anything special, it was simply solid. Each morning I rolled out of bed and stared at a sticky note on my mirror:
NCAA’s with the Hoyas in November.
I poured my heart into trying to make that happen. Not a day went by where I wasn’t so grateful to be at practice. The youth of our team was infectious. I tried to soak up every second with my teammates and coaches, and it was some of the most fun I’d had in a really long time.
Even on Thursdays when, without fail, I’d go lactic on hill sprints.
Of course, the competitor inside me wanted to race well. I was focused in workouts and times that required attention. And on race day, I unleashed a whole different side of myself. But I also knew how easily a season could be lost, so with that in mind, I tried not to take a single second for granted.
Look on TFRRS and you’ll see I fell short of my ultimate goal — we were one of the first teams out of NCAAs.
It still pains me to see those regional results. I went on to compete individually with my teammate Sami. It was my first and last time at an NCAA Championship Meet, and I never would’ve been there if it wasn’t for my teammates and coaches. They have shown me more support than I have ever deserved, and they have given me more than I could ever give to them.
While I was incredibly grateful to end my season in Terre Haute, especially knowing where I was the year before, I was ultimately overcome by the feeling that by not getting my team there with me.
I didn’t quite complete the job.
Time away to process
I’m about 6 months into retirement now, and I have a bit of a softer perspective on the end of the season. Part of it could be that I’m no longer trying to process the end of my career from a semi-hypothermic state in the middle of an Indiana XC course.
These days, I don’t remember a single individual place I finished all season, but I still know exactly where Georgetown finished at every meet. We had strong days and we had challenging days. We pushed and supported one another, and although it may not be reflected perfectly on paper, we grew a lot as a team throughout the season.
Blasting Dance Monkey at 6:45 a.m. to get hyped for barefoot walking drills. Getting chased out of a pedestrian tunnel by a 12-point buck on our way up to the Tow Path for a fartlek. Friday Vo2 max workouts at the Polo Fields, ripping the last rep. Long runs in the pouring rain.
Burt and Sandy leading the charge on Tuesday Thresholds. The legendary F-It speech after Wisconsin. Team Camp with Mr. Calcagnini. Monday Circuits. SMAK Attack. Monument Run. Halloween Costume Contest. Ins-and-Outs.
10 Moments — these may seem meaningless to those reading, but to myself and my teammates, these are the moments that shaped our fall.
These are the lasting memories of my 6th year.
At the end of the day, no personal accolade could’ve meant more to me than fostering a strong team culture and leaving our young team in a better place than where we started. In my mind, I was there to support my teammates and get them to taste the next level so that they’d be primed to do even bigger things in the years to come.
I believe whole-heartedly that the Hoyas are on track for greatness, and nothing excites me more than the thought of watching them compete in the many seasons ahead.
MADELINE PEREZ — GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
5000 Meter Run (Track): 16:21.59
6000 Meter Run (XC): 20:07.30
10000 Meter Run (Track): 34:39.71
2019 NCAA Cross Country Championship Qualifier
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