The Sea Ray Relays are a track athlete’s paradise: warm weather and solid competition usually make for the fast postseason qualifying times that runners are looking for. However, the past weekend’s weather in Knoxville, Tenn., couldn’t have been any less accommodating, as severe weather led to the cancellation of Friday evening’s races and the Georgetown’s flight due to 40 mph winds and thunderstorms.

While the rain stopped the next day, allowing the Hoyas to fly in and the meet to continue, the conditions for running didn’t get much better, as a stiff 25 to 30 mph wind still whipped around the track. All things considered, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect the Hoyas to lower their expectations and hope for the fast times to come a little later in the season. Yet, exemplifying the kind of leadership they have brought to the women’s track team all year long, redshirt junior Maggie Infeld, along with seniors Liz Maloy and Joanna Rodgers, simply stepped up to the occasion in the 1500 meters and placed second, third and fifth, en route to posting three NCAA Regional qualifying times.

In a sense, the difficulty that Infeld, Maloy and Rodgers overcame this past weekend to post their impressive races is reflective of the unique path that each of them took to become leaders for the younger Hoyas.

Infeld, primarily a 1500m runner, had an outstanding freshman season, but after struggling with injuries came a long way to be able to put together a quality year so far in all three seasons. Rodgers, a captain on the squad, was faced with a tough transition period after transferring from North Carolina State and then battling a thigh injury for almost a year on top of that. Finally, Maloy, a second-year captain, after barely seeing the track freshman and sophomore year and dealing with stress fractures, has come on strong late in her career to help lead Georgetown to become one of the strongest women’s distance programs in the nation.

“At the college level, when a lot of athletes face adversity, they’ll start going backwards and never turn around. But all these athletes have faced some adversity, and now here they are; they’re nearing their end of their college running career, and they are all now more motivated than ever, and running their best ever,” added Head Coach Pat Henner.

Having always had a rich tradition in distance running, Georgetown has never really had a shortage of quality runners to fill the leadership roles on the team. Rodgers and Maloy remember back to when they were new to the team and were guided along by the upperclassmen.

“I looked up to [2004 Graduate] Treniere Clement, who’s now a professional runner. I would see her in the weight room doing every little thing she could to stay strong, and I really looked up to that, so I tried to just fill her shoes as I got older,” Maloy said.

The trio has taken to leading by example, preferring simple hard work in practice over flamboyant speeches or meetings. A telling example is early on in the outdoor season, when all three stayed motivated and positive, despite having to struggle with the disappointment of a runner-up finish at Big Easts during indoor, and a narrow miss at qualifying for Nationals in the distance medley relay.

“You don’t really have to say anything, because everyone knows that we didn’t do our best. It’s kind of hard to sit there and be like `Oh, its OK,’ because you know it’s not ok, no one’s happy with losing. You just have to learn how to refocus. If you can refocus yourself, I think a lot of the younger people kind of look to that and know that it is possible and that they can do it too,” Maloy said.

Henner echoed her sentiments saying, “Leadership number one, comes from every single practice every single meet giving 100 percent effort, and I think they definitely do that and perform at a very high level.”

Unique to collegiate distance running is the fact that athletes must compete year round in three separate seasons, cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring. With the demands of three seasons, it can be difficult for runners to be at their best every day, knowing that the rest of the team is looking up to them. However, the Hoyas have three legitimate leaders in Maloy, Rodgers and Infeld.

“I think all three of them are phenomenal leaders. They’re great leaders because all three of them are very different from each other and bring different things to the table which all come together to create a great kind of example and group of leaders for our younger team,” Assistant Coach Chris Miltenberg said.

“It is really nice to have a bunch of seniors this year. Everyone has a bad day. If I’m having one of those days when it seems like the world is crashing down on me, you’ll have your teammates there to look up to and lean on and know that they’ll be there for you,” Maloy added.

Finally, where the trio of leaders helps the team most, however, is on the track. Having three potential all-American 1500m runners on the team gives the Hoyas virtually-guaranteed points for every single meet. Moreover, just having multiple high-caliber runners makes everyone around them better.

“Working out, we always work together to run fast, and I think we kind of utilize that as well in races, and just help each other along,” Rodgers explained.

As the Penn Relays lay two weekends away, and the all-important postseason looming ahead as well, Maloy, Rodgers and Infeld give Georgetown reason to be hopeful, because never before in their careers have all three been running this well at the same time. The excitement is spreading throughout the team as well.

“In the next month, all three of them will be able to run 1500m with anybody in the country. I think it is great now because we have a situation [in which] for the first time in their careers, all three of them are healthy at the same time, all improving at the same time, and I think they are getting really excited about that. They’re feeding off each other, and it’s really helping our whole team getting better,” Miltenberg said.

Hoya Notes:

– Freshmen Chris Kinney and Spenser Carter both had regional qualifying times in the 110m hurdles and the 100m dash, respectively, but due to the high-speed winds blowing down the backstretch, the conditions didn’t meet NCAA standards and the times were discounted.

– Sophomore Abigail Johnson had a strong effort to place second and set a personal record in the 400m dash with a time of 54.77 seconds.

– Johnson, freshmen Deidra Sanders and Kyla Cook, and senior Alex Baptiste all ran well on the women’s 4x400m relay team to take first place with a time of 3:47.56. “This weekend they stepped back up. I think there has been some growing pains in that group and a little bit of a transition, but I think they are now starting to get what they need to do, and develop some Hoya pride in that area,” Henner said.

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