By Sean Savage
Perseverance is the ability to forge ahead despite setbacks that threaten to undermine all efforts to succeed. For Kate Bonanno, it provided the stepping stone for her collegiate career.
Perhaps her teammate, senior Arianna Vessicchio, explained her work ethic best.
“Kate is the type of person that never settles. She is always looking to achieve something new – even when she is not feeling 100 percent, she never uses that as an excuse and always works out to her full potential,” Vessicchio said.
Bonanno, a junior on the Springfield College women’s track and cross-country team, put in copious amounts of work and is having her most successful season to date.
Born in Ellington, Conn., Bonanno developed a burning passion for running at an early age. That passion bloomed with her mother and father, Ellen and Tony, right by her side.
“Kate started running with her dad early on, who always made it about having fun,” Ellen said. “Kate has always been extremely hardworking, both on and off the track.”
Throughout Bonanno’s childhood, they used to do trail runs together. “We are a running family,” she said. Even to this day, they still enjoy going on runs together. Now older, though, “Kate is faster than him now” said Ellen.
Bonanno arrived at Springfield through a recommendation from her mom and one of her high school coaches. Aside from the exercise science and internship program, Bonanno said she fell in love with the atmosphere and coaches – she knew it would be the right fit.
However, upon arrival, it was not easy to get acclimated to running at the college level. During Bonanno’s first year, everyone was sent home, and the team did not have a fall season. Additionally, for the seasons they had up to this year, they had to compete in masks – which ultimately made running much more difficult.
“It has made us really grateful for every opportunity. Now, we race as if it is our last,” Bonanno said.
Her realization is a significant factor in the leader she has become. During her sophomore year offseason, Bonanno and Vessicchio would run over 50 miles per week.
They would be up at the crack of dawn, either 5 or 6 a.m., and run more than 10 miles around Springfield.
Vessicchio had to stay on campus for the Physical Therapy program over the summer, and Bonanno worked at East Campus.
“Having her support meant a lot. We were able to bounce off one another, which made training seem easier,” Bonanno said.
As for Vessicchio, she saw how Bonanno’s work ethic remained strong even through the offseason.
“Kate’s ability to balance her time while working a full-time job as a Camp Mass counselor inspired me to put in the extra work in the gym even during a hard semester of Physical Therapy courses.”
Bonanno’s offseason efforts translated into her season this year.
“It is evident she brings intensity in terms of how much she likes to run and train; this also helps her teammates,” said Springfield cross country head coach Anna Steinman.
This year, Bonanno has been arriving to practice up to 15 minutes early, and is often seen doing extra mobility work and stretching beforehand.
Sometimes even after practice, she will even stay and ensure she gets in her hurdle mobility.
“I think that has a big contribution to her staying healthy and her constant improvement,” Steinman said.
Vessicchio took note of her level of commitment this year as well.
“Kate may be faster than all of us; she is very inclusive and does not make anyone feel left behind or lower than her. She is there after a hard workout or race and checks in on things outside of just running. She also leads by example by focusing on fueling her body, working hard, staying consistent, and getting enough sleep,” Vessicchio said.
Additionally, coming into her junior year, Bonanno and Steinman talked about her mindset.
“I have encouraged her to think, not just think about the numbers and the times. But, also think about how you can really compete, and then the times will follow. I think that is what is helping her even achieve some pretty good times. However, also really just because she is competing so hard,” Steinman said.
As of this season, Bonanno’s times have been notably better. The Pride’s first 5K was at the UMass Dartmouth Cross Country Invitational.
“I was surprised when I crossed the line. I crossed the line and was like, ‘Oh that is a minute faster than I ran last year.’”
She placed 19th this year, and 44th the year prior.
This performance was followed up on Oct. 8. She placed fourth at the James Earley Invitational for the 5k with a time of 19:04.5. This is opposed to her previous season, where she had a time of 19:50.3 – and placed 34th.
The jarring time difference is rarely seen between the span of just a season. However, Bonanno demonstrated her improvement again on Oct. 15 at the Connecticut College Invitational.
A year ago, she placed 86th for the 6k with a time of 24:29.3. This year, she ran to place fifth in the same event at 23:28.1.
Bonanno’s leadership style has excelled this year and it has been recognized.
“She always does the extra mileage,” Steinman said. “I think that is an excellent leadership style for her just to get out there and show everybody what it takes and what needs to be done.”
As for Bonanno’s parents, the answer was obvious when asked if they were proud of her accomplishments this season. “Of course, we are proud of Kate! How could we not be? She is an amazing person,” they said.
Her ability to give encouragement to her teammates has also made an impression.
“She also really supports everybody and where they are at as well,” Steinman said. “She goes above and beyond by hugging everybody after their races.”
Bonanno provided insight to the succinct success she has seen this season:
“You have to be patient because the results can take a long time to come,” Bonanno said. “But if you keep showing up and you stay hungry the results will show – especially at the times you least expect it to.”
Photo Courtesy of David Wong