It’s pretty safe to say that there are a multitude of pre-judgments thrust upon the shoulders of the athletic Atlas, each sport obtaining different stereotypical assumptions. Football players are deemed dummies, softball players un-dateable, and lacrosse players unapproachable. The labels come with the territory of being a student-athlete; however, there is a sport that often doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves – track and field.
Track and field undeservingly holds the most obnoxious and uneducated assumption: “All they do is run, that’s not a sport.” Well, to all of you ignorant pre-judgers, a guaranteed embarrassment would be all you have left after a race with Springfield College women’s track and field senior captain, Gabriella Gaudreault.
Gaudreault’s name has been permanently bolded into headline format since early January. She has captured significant recognition, received several awards, and has set an impressive amount of new records.
Just last week Gaudreault was named ECAC Division III New England Women’s Track Athlete of the Week after she ran the fastest time in the 800-meter in college history at the 2014 Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational. Out of 160 runners, the Applied Exercise Science major finished 10th with a time of 2:09.57, currently the fastest time in Division III this year and the seventh-fastest time in the history of Division III. She shattered the previous record, which was held by Heather Cayward, who ran a 2:12:82 in 1993.
“Setting a new record is exciting! It is an awesome feeling to work so hard towards something and finally achieve your goal,” explained Gaudreault. “During the lap last of my 800 I wasn’t thinking too much besides that I wanted my legs to keep going to the finish line. I was focusing on staying strong and relaxed.”
Following her 800-meter record, Gaudreault broke her second school record at the Cupids Challenge at Tufts University. She knocked Marisa Clapp’s time of 2:58.80 right off of the record wall and replaced it with her winning time of 2:55.37 in the 1000-meter run. This accomplishment garnered Gaudreault the title of Division III National Athlete of the Week by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
With such an impressive track record (pun intended) it is important for an athlete such as Gaudreault to have that extra support system to lean on. Balancing academics and a successful athletic career is a vigorous task, so an encouraging voice is certainly a relief to this track star.
“I would have to say my mom is my biggest support system. She is the first one I call after a meet, and never gets sick of the amount of time I spend talking about track to her. My mom has always been so supportive of everything I do,” said Gaudreault. “My teammates and coaches are also huge support systems for me. I am very lucky to be part of an amazing team and have outstanding coaches that not only care about track, but care about me personally.”
The coach-athlete relationship is something that is extremely underestimated. In order to succeed, that bond must be strong. A coach is there to help his or her team grow, to give advice and to help an athlete become better.
Women’s cross country and track and field head coach Jim Pennington has held that position for 30 years. During his time at Springfield the Pride have recorded seven Top 20 finishes at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
“Gabby has been fantastic. She is very coachable, listens well and tries everything I ask or tell her to do in training or racing. She has come a long way. She originally was a 200/400 meter sprinter in high school and [her] first two years here at Springfield College,” Pennington said.
“I moved her up to the 800 meters and immediately saw potential. She has the fastest time in NCAA Division III in the country currently and is in the Top 20 of all 800-meter runners in Divisions I, II and III – pretty remarkable for an athlete that very few college coaches showed an interest in.”