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ND Womens Track and Field: Miler rises to second in NCAA with 4:42.14

Andrew Gastelum | Tuesday, January 25, 2011

As a little girl growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Rebecca Tracy would keep a jar filled with little pieces of paper, detailing her latest aspiration. Unraveled, they spelled out dreams like soccer player, interior designer and paleontologist, among many more.

At that young age, nowhere in the jar did she scribble college runner, let alone second fastest miler in the NCAA. Ten years later, the sophomore distance runner finds herself surprising everyone who sees her run, as well as herself.

“[I’m] thrilled,” Tracy said about her personal record mile time this past Saturday. “Every time that I [set a personal record] I am utterly surprised. Coach tells me to just run to win the race and the times come. So I just ran.”

By just running, Tracy posted the second fastest mile time in the NCAA with a 4:42.14 at the Notre Dame Invitational. Not only did she set a personal best, but Tracy also beat out Michigan State senior and NCAA finals veteran Emily MacLeod by a mere 0.61 seconds in a stunning finish that came down to the wire.

“I knew I was in front of her on the homestretch but not by much,” Tracy said. “But I remembered my friend telling me before the race of how great it would be if I beat [MacLeod]. So it just pushed me even more.”

Not bad for an athlete who was too small to play soccer and didn’t begin to run competitively until she was in fifth grade.

Once she started running, Tracy steadily improved, winning state championship after state championship at Barrington High School in northern Illinois. She continues to build on her past success in the college ranks, shaving a whopping seven seconds off of her personal best from a year ago in her first mile time of the season.

“Last year, I was really intimidated by making the big jump to the NCAA,” the miler said. “Seeing all the great runners at regionals was remarkable but now I am striving to be one of those that go on to the Championships.”

Tracy, who didn’t even consider Notre Dame before stopping by on the way to visit the University of Michigan, attributes a lot of her work ethic and improvement to head coach Tim Connelly, who realizes the potential of his young superstar-in-the-making.

“Rebecca is really finding her stride,” Connelly said after Saturday’s meet. “She is just starting to find the confidence that she needs to perform at such a high level that she is capable of doing.”

But if there is a glowing confidence from Tracy, it is buried deep behind her modest grin and calm disposition.

“I was more than just a little bit nervous before [Saturday’s] race,” the sophomore said. “I didn’t know how it would go being the first one of the year, yet I knew that this would be the one to set the tone for the rest of the season.”

Almost everything from the 19-year old seems rushed, from her hectic pre-med schedule to the pace at which she spoke, which should be expected by somewhere who runs a mile in under five minutes. When asked whether she ran to class, the sophomore answered in the broadest of terms.

“Not really, unless I am late or forget something,” Tracy said. “I usually power-walk though.”

Her power-walk is basically equivalent to the standard sprint. So the next time you feel a gust of wind, don’t worry, Rebecca might just be late for Organic Chemistry.