XC teams take Olympian Molly Huddle's advice to heart

Molly Huddle addresses the crowd at Lynchburg College on Sept. 21, 2017.
Molly Huddle addresses the crowd at Lynchburg College on Sept. 21, 2017.

Lynchburg, Va. -- You're either a warrior or a worrier.

But either one is OK.

The key, Olympic distance runner Molly Huddle told a crowd of more than 160 in Lynchburg College's Sydnor Performance Hall on Thursday evening, is self-awareness.

Huddle, visiting the Hill City as the special guest of the Virginia 10 Miler races this Saturday, spoke to the audience, which included members of Lynchburg College's cross country and track & field teams, about the importance of mental fortitude, teamwork, and introspection to success as an athlete.

It seemed only fitting that this year's 10 Miler guest would be a cross country runner, given the early-season success of the Lynchburg women's cross country team. The Hornets have finished as the top Division III team in their first two meets of the season, enjoying the continued success of All-ODAC performers Samantha Schreiber (Gladys, Va.) and Morgan Watson (Concord, Va.) to go with breakout performances from a number of other runners.

But it wasn't just Huddle's experiences as a two-time Olympian and three-time New York City Half Marathon champion that caught the Hornet harriers' ears. Instead, Lynchburg's athletes took the most away from Huddle's encouragement to be introspective.

"She had all these things to say, and it's like, 'Oh, I see that in this person on our team!'" Lynchburg sophomore Michela Cholak (Ocean Township, N.J.) said. "It gets you excited to go out and run together."

Cholak has had plenty of reason to be excited this season. The sophomore burst onto the scene with a breakout run at the Covered Bridge Invite in Boone, N.C., on Sept. 1, and she followed it up with a top 10 6-kilometer time in program history last weekend at the Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational.

She asked Huddle about the importance of team camaraderie off the course, too, which her teammates took to heart. Huddle, who ran at Notre Dame, encouraged her audience to become as close as they could away from the course or the track.

"That's something we've been really working on, like as far as what to do to get people together," Schreiber, a junior who holds the fastest 6k time in Lynchburg history, said. "I think that's a really important aspect of running as a team. Sometimes we run, and we focus on just that. We get in our zones, and then we go home. And we don't have the friendship aspect of it. So it was nice to hear [Huddle] talk about that."

But as important as a close team is knowledge of one's self. Huddle advised that a routine is as important as anything. Know what and when to eat before a race, she said, and know the steps that it takes to get into a racing mindset.

Huddle is a worrier, she admitted, rather than a warrior. She combats the thoughts of what may go wrong in a race. A warrior, on the other hand, could be too confident headed into a big event. She asked the audience to analyze themselves, too.

Watson classified herself as a bit of both.

"Knowing that kind of gives you a way to deal with both sides," the junior said.

For Watson, it was Huddle's accessibility as a speaker which stood out.

"She kind of put everything that you feel, everything that you're thinking into words," Watson said.

It's something the Hornets will put to good use when they next don their running spikes, Friday, Sept. 29 at the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, Pa., hosted by Lehigh University.

Huddle will spend the weekend in Lynchburg, speaking to the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance at a luncheon on Friday before Saturday's race-day events.

To learn more about the Virginia 10 Miler, Lynchburg's largest road race, visit www.virginiatenmiler.com.