Freshman Off and Running to Success

Freshman Off and Running to Success

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

While most of her freshman classmates will be enjoying spring vacation or catching up on academic assignments next month, Maria Cicero will be competing for world and national collegiate running championships.

Maria Cicero (Photo by Mike Mergen)
Cicero will represent the United States in the World Cross Country Championships in Dublin, Ireland, on March 23, an honor she earned by beating 37 other age 19-and-under runners in the USA Junior Winter Cross Country championship in Vancouver, Wash., on Feb. 10.

The fleet freshman from Elmhurst, Ill., has also been burning up the track during the indoor meet season, qualifying for the NCAA Championships in both the 3,000- and 5,000-meter races.

The NCAA Championship meet will be held at the University of Arkansas on March 7 and 8.

Her 16:13 clocking in a 5,000 race on Jan. 24 is the fastest time in that event by a female collegian in the US this year. On Feb. 16, she finished second in the Big East Conference 3,000-meter race (9:34.19) to earn a slot in the NCAA title meet in that event as well.

"My focus will be on the '5' [5,000-meter race] which comes on the first day of the NCAAs," Cicero said. "If I feel OK after that one, I'll run the '3' the next day."

"Focus" is a word that comes up often in conversations with and about Cicero.

"She's a very talented runner, but the biggest thing is that she has a very clear focus on what she wants to do," said Assistant Track Coach Kathy Fleming. "Maria is not a typical freshman. She is not intimidated by all of this, and she never complains."

Cicero said she decided to enroll at Boston College after visiting Chestnut Hill during her senior year at Elmhurst's York High School, where she was the Illinois state champion in both track and cross-country. "I loved Boston, BC, the team and the coaches," she said. "I knew right away that this was the place for me and I couldn't pass it up."

She gave quick notice of things to come by winning her first intercollegiate competition, the Boston College Invitational cross country meet held during the first week of September. "She has gotten better every day," Fleming said.

In November, Cicero was the top freshman finisher in the NCAA cross-country championship, and 16th overall, winning All-America honors for her accomplishment.

"She's a great kid," said Fleming. "The only thing we are trying to change in her is the feeling that you don't have to go hard every single day. You want to be able to peak for your meets."

Cicero said she enjoys training in the variety of settings around the BC campus. "I'm from 'flat' Illinois," she said. "Here we can go everywhere on our runs, into the city or out on the hills of Commonwealth Avenue."

Despite her rigorous running schedule, the first-year College of Arts and Sciences student hasn't lost focus on her academic work. "My teachers have been very understanding," Cicero said. "But I have to do a lot of school work on my trips."

In addition to the upcoming championship meets, Cicero is looking ahead to the spring outdoor season. "I'll run the 5,000 and 10,000 when we get outside," she said.

The freshman also holds dreams of Olympic competition in future years. "Who wouldn't?" she asks. "But right now, we'll just take one thing at a time."


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