Alison Wade/The Hoya Sicher’s consistent performance gave Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Ron Helmer reason to run her in the No. 1 spot.

Throughout her career at Georgetown, senior Erin Sicher has been a model of consistency. The four-time All-American played a critical role in the extension of Georgetown’s 15-year streak of placing in the nation’s top 10 in cross country. This past fall and winter, her dependable performances helped spark a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, and a third-place finish in the distance medley relay at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Sicher’s accolades speak volumes about her dedication to the sport and to her team, but insiders are quick to point out that her accomplishments on the track are rivaled by her actions off the track, where as a captain, she has continually looked beyond herself, and provided the leadership and guidance that has helped younger athletes improve, and the team develop as a whole.

“The thing I probably appreciate the most about Erin was that she saw far more than what she wanted,” Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Ron Helmer said. “She saw the big picture in terms of what was going on with other people, and she had the ability to take care of her own business and do what she needed to do, and also try to help some other people along the way. Often times that’s not the case – too often people get caught up in their own struggle and they forget there’s a far bigger world going on around them.”

For Sicher, this unselfish approach was merely a reflection of who she was as an individual.

“That’s what I like to do as a person – I like to set good examples and help people out and really listen to what’s going on in their heads,” Sicher said. “It really wasn’t that hard for me to take on that responsibility.”

In a cross country season where the top two returning runners were battling injuries and the majority of the team’s scorers were younger and more inexperienced athletes, Sicher’s emergence as the team’s frontrunner was essential to Georgetown’s overall performance at nationals.

“It was crucial, especially this year, because we did have some young people on the team, and for them to see a senior that was supposedly a middle-distance runner come in and fill a void that we had as a leader was invaluable,” Assistant Coach Juli Henner said.

“For her to go ahead and keep her head above water and consistently perform, and provide the leadership that she did – a sense of calm – I think enabled us to create an environment where some other people were able to step up,” Helmer said. “That allowed us to put together a team that certainly wasn’t the team that we had predicted would line up for a trophy at the national meet, but it was a very good team that did get a trophy.”

Behind Sicher’s 39th place finish at the national championship meet, three first-time NCAA scorers – juniors Sarah Scholl and Treniere Clement, and sophomore Jodee Adams-Moore – along with sophomore Nicole Lee, who placed fifth on the team at nationals as a freshman, helped Georgetown accomplish its goal of claiming one of the meet’s top four trophies.

“Somebody has to fill that role, and there’s far greater responsibility that goes with going up and running number one than there is in putting together a nice, clean, safe race and running a solid number five,” Helmer said. “If somebody doesn’t fill that role up front, then too often you have some people that aren’t prepared yet to do that, who think that they have to, and it can be disastrous. And the fact that she said, `OK, fine. It’s not going to happen like it has in the last couple years, I guess I need to go and do this,’ and having done that, I think, sets the people that were two-three-four-five up to fill a role that they were far more comfortable with than running number one.”

Not only did Sicher’s race at the NCAA Cross Country Championships earn her the first individual All-American award of her career, it also played a crucial part of the team’s broader ability to rally around her, and gave teammates peace of mind in having a senior up front and leading the charge.

“Because she was out there charging, I think it made the next group that came along far more comfortable,” Helmer said. “There’s way too much time to think in a 6,000m race, and as long as people are comfortable, and are feeling like `we’re still in this, we have a shot at a trophy, we can still do what we need to do because Erin’s up there and I’m here,’ then we’re OK. I think it’s far more important than people may realize, and on that particular day, that’s what she intended to do – she went out and did exactly what she knew needed to be done so all that would come together.”

“Going into the season, I knew that some of the girls on our team weren’t as healthy as they had been, and weren’t having the practices like they had been, but the only thing I could do about that was to try to prepare myself and get myself ready to help the team,” Sicher said. “[Running number one] was a lot different from the past years, because I never had to do that. During the race, all I could think about was running well, and hopefully having my teammates right beside me.”

While some athletes may find leading the pack unsettling, Sicher had no reservations about it – even in the most intense meet of the season.

“The thing about cross country races is you never know how everyone else is running at the time – unless they’re around you, you just know where you’re placed,” Sicher said. “You really don’t know if anyone else on your team is struggling until the end, so as long as you’re doing your best and hoping that everyone else is also, then that’s all you can really worry about in the race.”

Sicher’s courage under pressure eventually extended to her next high-intensity meet, the NCAA indoor championships, when she ran a personal-record 4:44.0 carry on the 1,600m anchor leg of the distance medley relay, and earned the Hoyas a third-place finish – the highest the team has placed in the event since Sicher arrived at Georgetown, and the third time she earned All-American honors in the event.

“She really did a very nice job on the anchor, and I think we ended up, as a result, beating everybody that we were going to beat – which is what you want your anchor to do,” Helmer said. “I think those two [All-American performances during her senior year] were far greater accomplishments that anything that she had done up to that point – because of where they happened, and the circumstances under which they happened.”

“When it came to the relay, I don’t think there were many other college coaches out there that expected us to place as high as we did,” Henner said. “Erin had three good carries in front of her, but she finished it off really well to get us to third place.”

For Sicher, the fourth All-American award was emblematic of the four successful years she had spent at Georgetown, and a fitting conclusion to a career that saw her progress both in terms of ability and character throughout her tenure on the team.

“I don’t think I could have really asked for anything to go differently,” Sicher said. “I started performing well right from freshman year, it put a lot of pressure on me, but I didn’t take it to the extreme. I sort of took it as a challenge and set goals for myself higher and higher each season. It’s great to be running faster than I did in high school, faster than I did freshman year, and to keep improving. I’m just really thankful that I was able to stay healthy for the majority of my four years, that I was able to have fun in college, and not regret anything. It’s just been an amazing four years, and I wouldn’t go back and change anything.”

“She’s been absolutely wonderful to work with,” Henner said. “We’re going to miss her.”

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