Sam Thomas-

Davidson – We’re just trying to keep getting better. You’ve probably heard the phrase before. Press conferences are filled with the phrase. Yet, in cross country and track and field “better” is a measurable, unavoidable dimension of performance.

For Sarah Sears, a five-time Atlantic 10 podium finisher and two-year captain of the women’s cross country and track and field teams, “getting better” has constantly defined her collegiate career and the team’s subsequent growth.

The team’s train of recent success was really jump started by their performance at the A10 Cross Country Championship a year ago when the team finished fourth, significantly outperforming their preseason ranking of seventh. Sears finished 21st place in 18:00, a drastic improvement from her 58th place finish in 18:38 from a year prior. It is no coincidence that her consistent personal improvement since then has translated to team success.

Sears continued her success with a third place performance in the Distance Medley Relay and a second place finish in the mile at the Indoor Conference Championship and a third place finish in the 1500 at the Outdoor Championship.

Furthermore and perhaps more impressively, Sears expanded her range with a fifth place finish in the 5000 outdoors, a race that follows the 1500 in the Outdoor Championship and is widely regarded as one of the toughest possible doubles. On the performance, Sears said, “Trying out the 5k on the track for the first time last season helped me finally get comfortable racing longer distances, which was a huge confidence booster for summer training and cross country.”

The women’s cross country team has continued their success from a year before this fall with victories over regionally ranked opponents at the Adidas XC Challenge and the Greater Louisville Classic such as Wake Forest (5th), Elon (12th), and Richmond (14th).

The two-year captain, five-time A-10 podium finisher attributes their recent success to a strong, young foundation that meshes well with upperclassmen leadership and an understanding of team goals. “We’re definitely aware of our conference and regional rankings, but we try to channel that into positive expectations for the season without feeling like it’s a high pressure situation,” says Sears.

After transitioning from a promising, young middle distance runner to a reliable scoring team member to vying for an Atlantic 10 title in multiple events, it was only logical for Sears to emerge as the Wildcats’ top runner this fall. She has started the season with a bang, finishing 2nd in the Charlotte Preview, 7th in the Adidas XC challenge, and 37th in the Greater Louisville Classic – staying competitive with nationally ranked individuals each time. She was recognized as the Atlantic 10 performer of the week for the week of September 11th-17th. She has posted a best time of 17:19, a collegiate best for cross country.

And yet, despite all of the growing success, Sears carries herself with humility. “Sarah is a true student-athlete whose love of learning is as strong as her love of running. She is very balanced and motivated in the classroom as well as in her sport and that is the best version of a Davidson student-athlete,” track and field program director Jen Straub notes of Sears. She inspires her teammates and everyone else around her with her positivity and love of sport in a way that epitomizes what it means to be a student-athlete. Said Sears, “[Class of 2015 graduates] Olivia Menden and Ashlyn Gruber best exemplify the kind of teammate I would like to be. They made the team atmosphere so much fun.”

Perhaps more impressive than her record on the track is how well Sears has responded to adversity. Sears noted, “I got into a performance rut my sophomore year with a long streak of okay, but not stellar, performances and virtually no improvement.” Though this was frustrating at the time, it led to the development of an incredibly strong relationship with Coach Straub. This helped in developing a personalized “strength-based” training plan in the spring and summer leading up to this season with “running her top-end distance in August” said Straub. Her teammates have noticed the demonstrated grit as well and look up to her in that regard. “Knowing how Sarah responded so well and so diligently to adversity inspires me to do the same, especially considering how much Sarah has improved,” said sophomore Katie Macturk.

Reflecting on her experience, Sears said that she is, “so grateful for the relationships that I’ve built on the team. While we all have different individual goals, it’s such a supportive, fun atmosphere with just the right amount of competitive edge. Being surrounded by great people makes even the not-so-fun parts about collegiate running–like early morning workouts–enjoyable.”

We salute you, Sarah Sears, as a collective Davidson body. Thank you for everything you have done for our school. Best of luck with the rest of this season, the upcoming track seasons, and all of your future endeavors.

Next, the Cats race in Charlotte, NC, on October 13th at the Royals XC Challenge. The Atlantic 10 Championships will take place in Leesburg, VA on October 28th.