Cate Cunningham stumbled upon running by accident.
The junior raced for the Hilliard Bradley Girls’ Track and Field Team in her first two years of high school and found she loved the 3,200 meters when she started running that race last spring. .
But because running on the cross-country team might have forced her to give up her other fall passion – field hockey – Cunningham decided to participate in both sports instead.
Cunningham is one of the Jaguars’ top runners in her debut cross-country season and is also a starting midfielder for the Hilliard Lynx club field hockey team, who was 4-8 after scoring. lost to Columbus School for Girls 1-0 in overtime on Sep 28.
“I’ve been running since grade seven and fell in love with the distance,” Cunningham said. “I’m not the best sprinter, but you can be a good long-distance runner if you work at it.
“I started running the two miles (3,200 meters) last spring and started losing time quickly. I knew the best way for me to improve within two miles was to run cross country, and I wanted to keep things going by doing that.
Bradley’s first-year women’s cross-country coach Izzy Dawes, who is also a distance trainer for the women’s track, said Cunningham made a quick adjustment to the 5,000-meter (5-km) cross-country course.
“Cate isn’t used to the longer mileage, but handles it well,” Dawes said. “She tried the two miles on the track and absolutely loved it.
“(The 3200) is probably the least popular race on the track. This is the one where people go to the concession stand before the departure of the relay (1600). Eight laps (of the 3,200) isn’t the funniest thing you can do, but she really fell in love with it.
Cunningham’s first varsity cross-country meet was the Hartford Twilight Invitational on August 27 at the Hartford Fairgrounds. She finished 62nd overall in 23 minutes, 30.9 seconds, good for the team’s third place.
“I like being able to pace myself,” Cunningham said. “I have always run the mile, but for me it was very difficult to follow. Four laps on the track isn’t much and it was always like a sprint.
“When I first experienced the two mile last spring, I realized that a race doesn’t have to feel that way. I felt super strong all the time and you are not completely sprinting or jogging. It was not in a hurry. It was great to be able to run like that.
Cunningham battled shin splints, causing her to miss the McGowan Invitational on September 11 at the Watkins Memorial. She returned to action on September 18 in the Newark Invitational, where she finished 39th in 25: 47.7, which was fifth for the Jaguars.
“Cate is the kind of person who prides himself on doing everything right and doing it 100 percent,” Dawes said. “She is always looking for ways to improve and do more. It’s so much fun watching her.
Lynx coach Cami Kowalski echoed the sentiment, saying Cunningham always wants to be there for his teammates.
“Cate is an amazing player and a great teammate, even with the pain of an injury,” said Kowalski. “She’s there every workout, and sometimes she works too hard despite the pain. She is always ready to replace during the pain and wants to help the team in any way she can.
“Her endurance is a bit higher than the other players and she has a lot of mental toughness. Even when she’s tired, she knows she still has a sprint in her. Then she can take a break for a minute or two, and she can be ready to go home immediately. “
Cunningham said she loves to compete in both sports and they can complement each other.
“I would say cross country probably helps field hockey more than the other way around,” she said. “The running distance really helps me with my endurance in games. It helps a lot.
“I guess since field hockey is a faster type of game, it helps me get through the last mile of a cross country race. There is more sprinting at the end like in field hockey.
Cunningham has a 4.3 GPA and will likely major in biology or math, but is unsure if she will participate in sports in college.
“When I play a sport, I don’t think about the other,” she said. “I like to do both and I want to be able to do it for as long as possible.”