ND Cross Country
Outstanding female senior athlete: Molly Seidel
Marek Mazurek | Friday, May 13, 2016
Track and cross country star Molly Seidel to leave university as a decorated NCAA champion
Winning is in Molly Seidel’s blood. She has four national championships to her name, and with the outdoor ACC and NCAA finals coming up, Seidel will have even more opportunities to add to her trophy case.
The Hartland, Wisconsin native is the reigning cross country national champion, and in March, she won both the 3,000-meter and the 5,000-meter national championships. Yet, when considering these three recent accolades, Seidel said it is her first championship — the 10,000-meter title back in June of 2015 — that stands out to her.
“The 10K stands out, you always remember your first,” Seidel said. “Just because it was so unexpected. It just kind of came out of nowhere. It was kind of the start of, ‘Ok, I can really be competitive on the national level.’ I’d never run at a national track meet before. … It was kind of that moment where I realized, ‘Ok, you can do this again.’”
Now, Seidel’s success is anything but unexpected. With her four national titles, she is easily the most decorated women’s track and field athlete in Notre Dame’s history. She is the first woman ever to win an individual national championship at Notre Dame, and her cross country championship marked the first time an Irish runner — men’s or women’s — accomplished the feat since Oliver Hunter claimed the national title in 1942.
And although Seidel is arguably the greatest runner in school history, she said she prefers to keep her eye on the future rather than the past.
“On a day-to-day thing, you’re just focusing on putting in the work and doing all the little things,” Seidel said. “It’s kind of cool to be able to get the chance to maybe stop and appreciate it, but I try to always keep looking forward and not rest on the laurels.”
Despite her incredible success the past two seasons, Seidel’s road to this point has not been free of bumps. During her first two years on campus, Seidel struggled after battling a slew of injuries, including illness and stress fractures in her fibula and tibia. During her recovery, Seidel said she relied on her training and her love of running.
“I think it’s just trusting in the training,” Seidel said. “Trusting in my love of the sport. Regardless, I’d still be going out and doing it, no matter what. Just hanging with it and trusting in the training I was doing that I could get back where I had been.”
However, Seidel’s time at Notre Dame should be defined as more than just a list of championships. In her final seasons, Seidel has become a mentor to the younger runners on the team, including freshman Anna Rohrer, who finished sixth overall in this year’s cross country NCAA championships.
“It’s been great being able to have not only Anna but a number of freshmen this year who are extremely competitive on that national scale,” Seidel said. “It really speaks to the strength of the team and makes it that much more exciting when you can go to a national race and have one of your teammates right there with you.
“[It] definitely helps in training too, being able to run with another one of the best runners in the country and get to work with her. It’s been fun, and I’m very excited to see how all of our freshmen grow and progress in the next several years.”
The training partnership between Rohrer and Seidel benefits both runners, Rohrer said.
“I think it’s been really helpful to have someone to train with that I can look up to,” Rohrer said. “[Seidel] has accomplished so much, and I’m hoping to do the same, so it’s really cool to have someone like her to run with every day and to see what I need to do to get to that level.”
And when she isn’t running, Seidel also shines in the classroom. Seidel was recently named the ACC’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive season, and she has received All-Academic honors since her freshman year. On April 27, Seidel was also awarded the Byron V. Kanaley Award, which is awarded to senior athletes who have been exemplary students and leaders.
“I think at a school like ND, you get the chance to be a full student and athlete at the same time,” Seidel said. “It’s not like you’re going and just not playing school. You definitely have to put in the work on both ends, and I think they really compliment each other.”
Through her studies as an anthropology major, Seidel said she is glad she came to a school which emphasizes academics as well as athletics.
“That’s definitely what I wanted coming into college,” Seidel said. “I wanted, not only to be an athlete, but to be able to have that incredible academic experience. It hasn’t always been easy — there have been a lot of nights where I’ve been seriously re-thinking my decision to go to a school that’s so challenging academically. But in the long run, it’s been incredible. I’ve gotten to have an amazing academic experience. I’ve gotten to go and do independent research in different countries and gotten to explore all these classes that I never thought I’d get the chance to take. It’s been really fun and incredibly rewarding.”
And while graduation will conclude her undergraduate career at Notre Dame, Seidel already has her eyes on an even bigger goal: qualifying for the 2016 Olympics.
“Knowing that the trials are coming up this summer has definitely been a big inspiration for me to work hard and keep going towards that,” she said. “You never know how it’s going to go. In races like that, it really just comes down to who’s ready on that day and who sets themselves up well. I’m just going to do everything I can to try and stay healthy and keep my training progressing so that I can be as ready as possible on the day [of the trials]. From there, it’s kind of in God’s hands.”
And as her time at Notre Dame nears its close, Seidel said she wants people to remember her not for her four championships but rather for her love of running.
“I love this sport more than anything. No matter what happens, I’m going to never give up, and I’m going to keep going for it,” Seidel said. “And that’s just something I always try to instill in the freshmen and some of the younger girls. You do the sports because you love it, and I love running more than just about anything.”