Oct. 3, 2013
By Lucy Negash `15
"If you were injured and could never run again, what school would make you the happiest?"
This advice was bestowed on senior runner Kelly Curran when she was in high school by the mother of Kristen Worth Thomas, an Olympic track runner from Curran's hometown of Bloomington, Ill. Curran was trying to find the right college for her, and this piece of advice helped her put her decision into perspective.
"At Notre Dame, I knew I'd be happy," she explains. "The school was strong in every aspect, and I liked the balance of academics and sports that Notre Dame offered. There is a dedication to your group, both as teammates and friends."
To Curran, running was always a way to train for basketball and soccer during junior high. But once she got to high school, running became easier for her and it turned into more of a sport. When it came time to make her college decision, Notre Dame was a clear choice.
Over the past three years, Curran has developed very close relationships with her cross country teammates, including her roommate and co-captain, senior Alexa Aragon. She said that the entire team relies on one another for strength and support, but running with her roommate especially helps during tough moments throughout races.
"It's really nice to have Alexa as both a friend and teammate," Curran says. "We understand how we each race, and we try to stay together throughout to keep our minds focused on each other rather than ourselves. It makes racing a lot more enjoyable and gives you the confidence to run hard."
Running with Aragon and the rest of her team was one of Curran's advantages that led her to place first at the National Catholic Championships last week, earning her honors as Notre Dame student-athlete of the week. Though it is early in the season, Curran says that this was a strong start for her and her team, especially while making the transition to a new conference.
"For cross country, we had a great summer, and as long as we focus and stay healthy, I think we can definitely place in the regular season and go to nationals this year," she insists. "The switch to the ACC is pretty tough, since a lot of warmer-weather schools have great runners. The same goes for track - we have some stiff competition, but as long as we put in our best effort, I think we will do really well."
No matter how tough the races will be in the upcoming season, Curran will always be able to find motivation in Emily Geison, her high school cross country coach. Curran describes her as a quiet and smart leader who always put the team first.
"She was a lead-by-example kind of person," Curran says. "The best way to describe her is that she was a student of the sport. She made sure that we didn't burn out and still enjoyed running every single day."
This motivation by her coach has inspired Curran never to give up and to fight through every race, even when she had a sinus infection or lost a shoe during a race in previous years.
"During the race when I was sick there were so many things wrong," she recalls. "I felt like I was going backwards more than forwards, but I pushed through and finished. I also lost a shoe during BIG EAST last year, but all I could think about was another teammate losing their shoe during a 10K race on an indoor track and how bad that must have been. At least I wasn't on asphalt! I just had to suck it up and do it."
Curran's passion for racing also stems from the team unity and friendships that have been built by the cross country team - not only during their 5K runs, but also during their fall break Thanksgivings, one of Curran's favorite team traditions. Because there are a few runners from Canada, every fall break, the team holds a Thanksgiving dinner as part of sharing American pastimes with them.
"The seniors are always in charge of the turkey, and everyone else brings other sides," she says. "It's a great bonding experience because we get to spend this team family holiday with one another."
This fall break will be Curran's last team family holiday spent on campus. As a science/business major, Curran hopes to go to medical school and study ophthalmology, and she has similarly high hopes for her athletic career.
"I would really like to be an all-American for indoor and outdoor track and for the cross country team to be in the top 10 in the ACC," she confesses. "It is really important for us to stay healthy and confident and keep moving forward, and if we can do that we can send a lot more people to nationals and be really successful."
Curran and her teammates will be running in the Notre Dame Invitational is this Friday, Oct. 4 starting at 2 p.m. on the Notre Dame Golf Course.