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SMC Cross Country: Freshman emerges as future of program

Michael Blasco | Thursday, November 12, 2009

While the Belles have long looked to senior captain Megan McClowry to lead them, Julia Kenney may be the future of the program.

The breakout freshman has finished at least second for the Belles in every meet this season, while placing first in each six-kilometer meet, quickly making a name for herself as one of the MIAA’s top youngsters.

Even more remarkable, the Livonia, Mich., native did not begin running cross country until 2007.

“My high school coach, Rick Brauer, sparked my interest,” Kenney said. “Almost immediately, I fell in love with competitive running and decided to discontinue soccer and basketball, devoting myself to year-round training.”

Although Brauer left Ladywood H.S. after Kenney’s junior season, he continued to mentor Kenney until she graduated. When Kenney came to Saint Mary’s, it was the tandem of McClowry and Belles coach Jackie Bauters that stepped in to motivate the freshman.

“Megan McClowry continuously pushes me and encourages me,” Kenney said. “Running alongside her in races has gotten me through the race’s challenging points. Watching her succeed encourages me to succeed.”

Bauters acknowledged Kenney’s raw talent and cited the freshman’s fanatical drive as her key to success.

“Julia is a talented runner, and, in my opinion, hasn’t begun to reach her potential yet,” Bauters said. “I think she will continue to grow and improve in the next four years. It will definitely be exciting.”

Kenney opened her collegiate career with three consecutive second-place team finishes in the five-kilometer matches of the schedule. After a midseason break, Kenney led the Belles in each of the team’s six-kilometer races.

Kenney expressed gratitude for Bauters’ coaching, which the freshman feels was an important factor in her success in the long distance races.

“My success at the 6k’s would not have come without Jackie Bauters’ guidance,” Kenney said. “She really studied mine and my teammates’ races and guided us to improve each week and ultimately peak at the opportune time.”

Looking back over her breakout season, Kenney calls her teammates the most important part of her year.

“I am so privileged to represent the Belles,” Kenney said. “I have enjoyed every moment of it — 6 a.m. practices, mile repeats, races, bus rides with the team, team dinners. I would say that having the opportunity to compete each weekend alongside my teammates has been [the highlight of my season].”