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Cross Country: Tracy prepared to defend Big East title, lead team to victory

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, September 15, 2011

For Irish junior Rebecca Tracy, visiting Notre Dame was initially more of an appeasement than anything else.

“I visited [Notre Dame] on the way to Michigan mostly to appease my mom,” Tracy said. “But I fell in love with this place and nothing else compared to it.”

The Barrington, Ill. native has now made the most of her time at Notre Dame, excelling in not only cross country, but also in track and field. Tracy claimed a Big East title during last year’s indoor track season, finishing the mile run in 4:46.61.

“You can always challenge yourself,” Tracy said. “Whenever you reach a goal or don’t reach a goal, you can always go faster. You can always improve.”

Tracy attributed that hunger for improvement to her determination to compete with the best runners in not only the Big East, but also the nation.

“I’m not afraid to compete with the best people. The only way to get better is to race with tougher people,” Tracy said. “The Big East is a great conference and there is always someone there to push you harder.”

Tracy continues to push herself, aiming for a 6-kilometer run closer to 21 minutes. Her current personal best stands at slightly less than 22 minutes.

The psychology and preprofessional major, however, is not just interested in personal goals this season.

“As a team, we want to win the National Catholic Championships,” Tracy said. “We want to score some points at the Notre Dame Invitational. We want to win our regional. We want to be in the top 20 teams at nationals.”

During cross country season a year ago, Tracy finished 69th during the NCAA Regional, crossing the line in 22:10.81 and aiding the Irish to a sixth place finish.

Tracy continued her strong running during outdoor track season, narrowly missing qualifying for the NCAA meet. She finished the 1,500-meter run in 4:21.81 and in eighth place — one spot and less than one second away from qualification.

“It was difficult,” Tracy said of the NCAA Regional meet.

Tracy is no stranger to top finishes, having won three state titles in high school — two with her state record-setting 4×800 relay team and another as a senior in the 1,600 meter race. She is now considering returning to the pre-race ritual she used in high school.

“I used to dance before every race just to get my muscles moving,” Tracy said. “I must have looked like a goofball in high school. It’s usually just me jamming to my iPod in the corner.”

She said the dancing may return during track season, when there are many different events occurring simultaneously.

The Irish host the National Catholic Championships Friday.