By Claire Murphy
Special to GoHolyCross.com
"My first cross country race was in college" is not something you expect to hear from a Division I cross country athlete. Holy Cross junior Paige Sutherland (Groveland, Mass.) is a unique athlete. As the captain of her high school's soccer, softball and track teams, being a leader is nothing new for the junior captain, but cross country itself is.
Sutherland switched from basketball to track late in her sophomore year of high school to stay in shape for soccer and found out she's "not that bad at it." Sutherland wasn't bad at all, she ended up working harder her junior year and qualified for nationals her senior year in the mile. Holy Cross recruited Paige for track, only to quickly learn she is a very talented cross country runner. Sutherland joked, "in high school I didn't think running was a sport." Only to realize and admit it is a lot harder than she thought. "It's funny how it works."
Coming in for preseason her freshman year, the switch to cross country was a bit of a shock for Sutherland, from running 25 miles a week to 60 miles a week, but her outstanding results show she was able to make the adjustment. Sutherland has been the team's top finisher in 18 of 19 races in her Holy Cross career and the top finisher in all her races thus far in the 2010 season. Sutherland was the only Crusader to run at the Pre-Nationals this season, finishing 12th in the open division.
During Sutherland's freshman season she was named Patriot League rookie of the week twice, while being the top finisher in six of seven races. In her sophomore campaign she was named first team All-Patriot League, becoming the first Holy Cross runner since 1998 to earn the honor. She also earned Patriot League Runner of the Week and improved from a second place to a first place finish in the Blue Devil Invitational, jumped from 95th to 25th in the NCAA Northeast Regional and improved her time by an entire minute to reach her personal best time of 17:58:16 at the Murray Keatinge Invitational. In addition, Sutherland's second place finish tied the highest individual placement for a Crusader women's cross country runner at the Patriot League Championship.
Although Sutherland is looking forward to running the tougher races in order to run against stronger competition, she understands her role as a top finisher and leader for the Crusaders. "It feels nice to be a leader on the team and to show my teammates if you try really hard you can improve," commented Sutherland. In comparing cross country to other sports, Sutherland understands how hard it can be because you are fighting as an individual against a time.
Despite the races being individual, Sutherland loves the closeness the team has. She feels that bond is something beyond what you would get on a field or a court because you are training eight miles a day where you can run together and talk. "The team is like your family," says Sutherland. "I don't know what my life would be like if I wasn't on the team." Although Sutherland's running career started only as a way to stay in shape and be close to her friends, she has "to run all these miles now" but likes it a lot better, and is looking forward to future success for the Crusaders.