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Finding Her Place Within the Pack

Photograph Courtesy of NC State Athletics


Sam Bush, a junior at North Carolina State University, is a two-time NCAA DI All-American that, with personal records of 15:45 in the 5000 meters and 8:54 in the 3000 meters, has presented herself as an elite level talent amongst collegiate runners.

"I fly under the radar,” Bush said. “I’m not what people think when they think of NC State.”

NC State has distinguished itself as one of the top DI running programs in the country with first-class training that focuses heavily on both intensity and aerobic ability, which Bush said has resulted in individual and team success.

NC State has brought in some of the top high school prospects in the last few years and the team has developed into one of the deepest in the NCAA. The university has become known for the strong mindset of the running program: The Pack Mentality.

“We’re going to win.”

A phrase that NC State runners repeated to each other throughout the Fall as they talked about their season goals. The commonality of the wolfpack is the want to win. By building on their teamwork and working together as a pack they knew it would be possible to achieve their program goal: to win the national title in cross country.

The team’s determination has normalized working hard and not taking the easy route. While this mindset may seem typical of any collegiate runner, it’s the consistent talk about winning and building on teamwork that makes the difference between their team and another.

The push to be champions has created so much depth within their team that Bush wasn’t even sure she’d compete at the national championship meet until she was on the starting line. During the final kilometer of the race, one thing was going through her mind, “do this for your team.”

Bush did just that and ended up as an All-American celebrating the team championship title she had helped win.

The accolades and depth are all thanks to coach Laurie Henes, whose ability to develop talent and produce elite athletes is nothing short of remarkable. Henes has brought in top-tier talent to her roster, such as standouts Katelyn Tuohy and Kelsey Chmiel.

Photograph Courtesy of NC State Athletics

While competing with runners of that caliber may be daunting to some, Bush said she was excited. She knew that NC State’s ability to bring in top-notch athletes would provide a new way for her to push herself. And it did.

Due to Tuohy and Chmiel’s no-nonsense attitude and tenacity when it comes to training, the team found themselves really pushing each other to help each other succeed. Bush said their different personalities helped balance each other out in training.

Bush’s outlook on racing and training changed dramatically between the 2021 outdoor and cross country seasons. Due to the pandemic, she had trouble caring about racing as she didn’t see races in her future. When her sophomore outdoor season rolled around, she decided she was done with underperforming. After talking with her coach and explaining that she didn’t want to be mediocre, she decided to cut her season short and begin focusing on the 2021 cross country season. A decision that has benefitted her thus far.

With racing back to somewhat normal, Bush knew she had to go all in. She bumped up her mileage and began taking training more seriously. This new change in attitude gave her the seasons she had been hoping for.

Photograph Courtesy of Joe Hale

After ending her cross country season with her first All-American honors, she went on to break her school record in the 3000 meters along with teammate Katelyn Tuohy – a favorite memory of hers, not only because of the new program record, but because she was able to do it with a friend. The drive continued for Bush and with that came another All-American finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships and shiny new personal bests during the spring 2022 outdoor season.

Bush chose NC State because she wanted a team that would provide enough fun and seriousness to make training enjoyable. With her own hard work and the help of the pack, she’s been able to accomplish goals she once thought were unreachable, all the while appreciating the liveliness of her teammates.

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