Senior track runner branches out to cross-country

Over the past four years, senior Cailin Kowalewski has made – and continues to make – a lasting impact on Geneseo running programs; however, her story began much differently than others.

The Fredonia, N.Y. native started her athletic career in middle school when she picked up soccer.

“I was a soccer kid,” Kowalewski said. “I was very anti-running in high school. I was like, ‘No, I’m not a runner; I’m a soccer player. I play a team sport.’ I was very big on it.”

Kowalewski brought her love of soccer to Geneseo, playing for three seasons, her last in 2011. She played both outside midfield and forward for the Knights, although she played defense in high school.

“It was a good experience,” Kowalewski said. “I’m really glad that I did it, but after three years … soccer was becoming a lot of the same thing.”

To diversify her athletic career – joining a small group of students that participate in multiple sports on campus – Kowalewski is running cross-country for the first time this season.

Since her sophomore year at Geneseo, the running family has been pushing her to join cross-country.

“Again, I was very resistant, [saying] ‘No, I play soccer, I don’t want to be totally indoctrinated into the track cult,’” she said. Soon after, though, Kowalewski began to consider it more.

“When I made the choice I was not worried at all, and I was absolutely positive that it was what I wanted to do,” she said.

Compared to her teammates, though, Kowalewski said she recognizes she’s “very new,” since she has only participated in four cross-country races. Despite her inexperience, she’s posting impressive times thus far.

“It’s no surprise to me that she’s made that transition really well, because she’s a competitor,” head coach Mike Woods said. “She knows how to compete and … she can handle the pain that comes along with hard competing. And now she’s learning to extend that pain out a little bit.”

Kowalewski has a head start against the other first-year cross-country runners. She began her running career during her freshman year in high school, only to keep in shape for soccer, her true athletic passion.

At that time, she kept to long distance races and she said, “I was frankly terrible at it.”

It was then that Kowalewski’s high school indoor track and field coach, Mike Marshall, suggested the 800-meter run. At first, she hated the 800-meter since she didn’t know how to run it. Her coach continued to encourage her to compete in the race, but that didn’t change Kowalewski’s mind.

“I told him that I would never run another 800 again,” she said.

Interestingly enough, Kowalewski is most notably known at Geneseo for her success in the 800-meter. After a competitive season alongside Kelly Brunscheen, ’12, and sophomore Keira Wood, Kowalewski was the lone women’s representative at the 2012 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships.

“She’s been a help to the young girls, even though this is her first time in cross-country, but she’s been around the block before in terms of competition … She knows what it takes,” Woods said.

Kowalewski said she doesn’t plan on going for a national title in the fall season.

“If I’m going to be serious and really try to hammer something out and go for it, it’ll probably be in track,” Kowalewski said.

Instead, she said she is focusing on improvement.

“I want our team to win regionals, and I want them to go to nationals, and if I can be on that team, awesome,” she said. “That would be amazing, because that’s something I’ve never done and that’s an experience I don’t want to miss, especially as a senior.”