DeKalb | Confidence and determination have been key components driving senior cross country runner Claire McAuley this season.
McAuley and senior Alexis Capps are the only Huskies left on the roster who were recruited by previous cross country coach Connie Teaberry.
McAuley made a splash into the top four Huskie finishers in the Illinois State Invitational on Sept. 13 after struggling in NIU’s opener.
She got into running when she was 12 years old in Glasgow,
“We had to do cross country for gym class,” McAuley said. “I really enjoyed it, then after that I joined a club and it kind of went on from there.”
Gym class was not the only factor in her decision to get into running. In 2006, McAuley won a training day with one of her heroes, two-time Olympic gold medalist Kelly Holmes. Holmes received her gold medals in the 1,500 meter run and the 800 meters during the 2004 Athens games.
“I talked to her a lot,” McAuley said. “She gave me so much advice. She was my idol for a long time.”
In high school, McAuley set team records in the 300-meter and 1,500-meter runs her sophomore season, and she was a gold medalist for Glasgow School of Sports in Scotland in the 3,000-meter run.
One of the reasons McAuley chose NIU to continue her education was because it gave her the opportunity to carry on her love of running.
“I went to a scholarship conference back home, and NIU was the best fit for me at the time they offered me a nice scholarship,” McAuley said. “Back home after graduating high school and going to college running opportunities are hard. It is not easy to fund running and traveling and still be able to go to college.”
Head coach Greg Hipp, who came in McAuley’s sophomore season, has seen his runner grow.
“It was a pretty significant culture change that she has been through,” Hipp said. “She has changed in a lot of positive ways the last three years.”
Hipp said McAuley has grown into a leadership role as a senior.
“Claire has always been a vocal person on the team, a very encouraging person,” Hipp said. “She has played a very positive roll.”
Hipp sees McAuley’s consistent training and drop in times as a preview of what’s to come.
“I think last week was a sign that she is really close to that point where she can have a breakthrough year as a senior,” Hipp said. “Hopefully she can finish her college career on a high note.”