Welcome back to another edition of Rookie of the Week, where we interview first-year athletes making a major impact in their chosen sport. This week, I sat down with Audrey MacLean ’27 of women’s cross country, who has finished in the top two in all three of the Panthers’ races this fall, to talk about her background in running, her goals for the season and her favorite runs in Middlebury.
Charles Crounse: We’ll start with the obligatory “Why here” question — what was it that drew you to Middlebury?
Audrey MacLean: I was looking for a smaller, division three liberal arts school, but most of what appealed to me was the team. Everybody seemed super close and super supportive of each other, and as soon as I met the team I thought ‘Okay, I want to be in an environment like this.’ That was definitely the main selling point for me.
CC: You’re from California: How have you found running here compared to running back home?
AM: The running is definitely very different. I lived in an extensive trail system so I would do a lot of trail running with hills. Here, there are much more dirt roads, so it’s fun because it’s different. Back at home, I wouldn’t really do a lot of big group runs so I would mostly run on my own or with a few other girls. Here, it’s super fun because all of our runs are super fun because it’s a huge pack of people going down the road.
CC: Do you have a favorite run you’ve done at Middlebury so far?
AM: We sometimes run through Battell Woods, and I definitely love the trails, so I think I like those runs the best.
CC: Did you always know you wanted to run in college or was that only something that you thought of later on?
AM: I first started running on a team in my freshman year of high school. Before that I played a bunch of other sports like soccer, lacrosse and swimming, but I never really had a serious passion for any of them. Occasionally I would go for a run with my mom or my dad because they both run casually, so then I joined the [cross country] team in high school. I really liked the people on the team and loved the act of running, which a lot of people might not agree with, but I think it’s super fun and it became an everyday thing. I’m happier when I get to run every day, and so I thought the best way to weave that into college life was to be on a team. And I’ve really liked having that group of people around me.
CC: Now that you are racing, you’ve come in second place twice and first place once. Was that what you were expecting to happen in your first collegiate races?
AM: I had no idea what I was expecting. I came in here blindly thinking this would just be a fun thing and was mostly just excited to be part of the team. I am excited about the races too, but I wasn’t really expecting that. It was a nice bonus.
CC: After a race or a hard workout, do you have a favorite way to unwind outside of running?
AM: Right after a race, I enjoy getting a meal with the team and decompressing or talking about the race. A lot of the races have long bus rides to get back from the competition, so singing along to whatever song people are playing and just debriefing the race is usually what we do.
CC: Looking ahead towards the rest of the season, do you have any specific goals for yourself or for the team?
AM: Last year, I know the team had some trouble with injuries, so I’m hoping that later in the season everyone is healthy enough to race and be involved in the racing. A team goal is for everyone to be able to run and race their best. Another goal is to make it to the NCAA [championship], since I don’t think that happened last year.
CC: When you are training, do you have a favorite workout that you get excited for?
AM: Yes, I do. This is not a popular opinion, but I really like the hill workouts. On Tuesdays we’ve been going to Chipman Hill to run hill repeats, and I think they’re super fun. I’ve always been drawn to hills and climbing things, and maybe that’s because of where I grew up or what my family likes to do. That’s definitely my favorite workout, especially since we get to do them on trails and there are nice views at the top.
CC: Have you had a favorite moment at Middlebury since you got here?
AM: I don’t know. Maybe one general theme is the locker room dance parties with the disco lights and the big speakers, but it’s hard to pick one moment. The other day we went up to Falls of Lana on a whim to watch the sunset, and we missed the sunset but we sat there as a team and watched the afterglow which was really nice. I really like everything about Middlebury so far.
Charles Crounse '24 (he/him) is the senior sports editor for the Campus. He has previously worked as a writer and staff editor for the section. Charles is pursuing a major in environmental policy and a minor in French, and in his free time he enjoys biking, hiking, and exploring Vermont. He is also a member of the club soccer team on campus.