Captains’ Corner: Kathryn McNaughton ’16

Kathryn McNaughton ’16

Kathryn McNaughton ’16

Women’s cross country

State College, Penn.

Residence: Prospect

How did you first get into running before college?

In fourth grade, there were 10 different elementary schools or so in my school district, so just a bunch of different elementary schools, and all the elementary schools would compete against each other in this big intramural track meet. And it was a big deal, and one of the sort of deals with the track meet was that you had to try out each different event before you could pick out which events you wanted to do at the big meet itself. So we all had to run the 800 meter, which is a half mile and was the longest event that they would offer. To a nine-year-old, the 800 meter was the longest thing ever. I got together with one of my friends at the time, and we just basically jog-walked it the whole way and probably basically ran a 20-minute mile pace, which is not even running at all. I went home and I told my mom, and I said, “Oh, long-distance running isn’t my thing, I’m going to do sprinting instead.” And she said, “Kathryn, you can do better than that, go back to the coach and tell her that you want to do that 800.” So I wound up doing the 800 at that track meet, and I kind of fell in love with running in that interesting way.

Any favorite traditions on the women’s cross country team at the College?

It’s not really a tradition, but I think the way everyone honestly cares about each other so much is pretty rare to find – a group of people that go so out of their way to look out for you is a pretty rare thing. And I think that can sort of be exemplified with how we always give “Performer of the Week” t-shirts out, and Meg [Richardson ’16] always puts her heart into writing these cute poems describing whoever is the person of the week and decorating the front and just sort of going out of her way to recognize somebody who stepped up that week. That’s a really cute team tradition. In terms of running traditions, I think the run up Mount Greylock is one of my favorite running traditions that we do. Just because it’s such a … it’s a tough one, but when you turn the corner going into the final mile and you can see all of Berkshire County slowly laying out in front of you, it’s pretty clear that we live in a pretty amazing place to be able to run like we do.

Any favorite memories with the cross country team?

One my favorite things is the Nationals trip. I love the Nationals trip so much because on the surface it’s kind of this crazy tradition where you drive over 10 hours – I think this year it’s going to be 16 hours – to go out and cheer everybody on for Nationals. But, we’re a big team, and I think it really embodies how our whole team comes together to support each other. There’s a lot of face paint, a lot of flag waving and a lot of cheering. It’s a really great atmosphere.

So that’s been a lot of road tripping with the team. Do you have any favorite road trip music to which you like listening?

My favorite theme last year was when Alison [Smith ’15] was driving and we were headed to Columbus, [Ohio], and we saw that we were 90 miles away from Akron, Ohio, and we decided that – I guess for some reason Akron reminded us of Akon – so we decided to play exclusively Akon songs until we arrived at Akron. So we called it “Akon ’til Akron.” And that was more Akon than I’ve ever listened to in my entire life, in a 90-minute period. I had a whole new appreciation for the artist.

Have you had a favorite meet for competing or cheering?

I love all the meets. I really love our alumni meet, the Plansky Invitational. It’s gotten more fun each year as I know more and more of the alums who are coming back. I think one of the wonderful things about running is that it can be such a lifestyle sport, so it’s not something you have to give up once you graduate; there are people still competing and pushing themselves and pursuing their own running goals. And I think our program does a really good job of setting people up to be healthy and be able to continue running throughout their lives, so it’s fun to watch people who are really living that version of the dream continue to come back and keep competing alongside teammates from as much as 50 years ago.

What else do you do outside cross country?

I’m writing a [psychology] thesis this year. It’s been really fun to get to take a project that I’m interested in and see where that takes me and sort of take ownership of something on that level. I also do a lot of knitting in my spare time. I knit a cow hat as my [Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First-years] leader creative project, and I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of it this year, wearing it to cross country meets. It’s fun to do something where, instead of just reading other people’s thoughts, you get to put something creative that you’ve made out there into the world. So I think it’s sort of fun to give myself an opportunity to do that as well.

Do you have any senior year bucket list items?

This is the year I want to learn how to cross country ski. It’s always been my goal every winter, and every winter I don’t accomplish it. And I have no excuse, because we’ve got Hannah [Cole ’17] and Laura [Stamp ’16] and Elowyn [Pfeiffer ’18] all skiing so successfully, so surely I could ask one of them to give me a hand. But I think that’ll be the goal for this Winter Study, to finally get around to it.

Have you enjoyed being a captain this year?

Yeah, I think it’s been a really fun experience because we have so many people on the team who step up in so many different ways, so it’s never been a thing where I have to tell people what to do, it’s really just making sure people have the opportunities to step up. And they’re so good at stepping up, because we have an awesome senior class and awesome underclassmen who are really taking control of their training and reaching out to teammates all on their own. So it’s been fun to watch all the pieces come together with people really being exceptional in their own ways. And I think I was worried about being injured and not being able to contribute points-wise with racing, but I think I sort of reflected on how there’s a lot of different ways to contribute to a team atmosphere, and I think that’s something I am trying to encourage – sort of recognizing that it takes a whole team of 40 people to race successfully, and there’s a lot of different ways that you can do your bit as one of those 40 people, even if we’re only racing seven; all those 40 can come in, in their own ways, and make the team a better place.

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