Winnie Wang ’24 is in the thick of her final cross country season with the Middlebury Panthers. In addition to running, Wang, a neuroscience major and linguistic minor from Newton, Mass., is leading the pack as one of the captains of women’s cross country. In this installment of seven questions, Wang discusses her running origin story, her favorite Vermont running route and what songs get her pumped for a race.
Charlie Keohane: I will start with the question everyone asks: How did you get into running?
Winnie Wang: I started running track in seventh grade, and I actually started as a sprinter and I really hated long distances. I also really lack hand-eye coordination. So I started as a sprinter, and one day, I was running a race and one of the coaches was like, “She looks so much more like a distance runner,” so I was scratched out of the 100 [meter] and was put into the 800 instead. So that’s how I got into distance running. I did not enjoy my first 800, but eventually I grew to like it. Then I did cross country the next season.
CK: Now that you are a senior, looking back on your Middlebury cross country career, are there any favorite memories that stand out?
WW: One was NESCACs my sophomore year. That was my first normal season since freshman year with Covid-19, so it was my first experience being at a really big meet and seeing just how hype we get. We also all dyed our hair pink. Just that whole build-up and knowing how fit and strong everyone was, and having the whole team there, was a really fun day. It was a fun reminder of why I love cross country so much. I was sick that day so I didn’t even end up running but it was still one of my favorite days just because of how much excitement there was.
CK: As a captain this year, what is it like stepping into a leadership role?
WW: As an underclassman, I didn’t realize how much work the captains did behind the scenes beyond just organizing practice, leading runs and organizing social events. I didn’t realize how much background work there is, like helping out Bruce and Nicole, our coaches. One thing I’ve really loved about being captain is that it’s helped me be a lot more in tune with the team; just being able to form closer bonds with a lot of teammates and checking in on people more regularly, I think, has given me really good insight into the team.
CK: What is something people might not know about running cross country?
WW: One big one is that even though we’re all running our own race, cross country is very much a team sport. There’s a big physical aspect to it, but your mental game is a really big part of your success in running. There is a lot of strategy over the course of a 6k for the women or an 8k for the men. You have a lot of miles to really think about what your next move is. Your ability to pass someone towards the finish line can make all the difference.
CK: Do you have a pre-race ritual?
WW: I do always wear the same sports bra when I race, but I try not to put too much emotional attachment to it. It just happens to be the most comfortable one. Usually, on the day of a meet, I really like getting ready with the whole team. A really big part of it is “Look good, feel good.” We put on glitter eyeliner and bright blue mascara; we braid our hair. I feel like that is a really fun part of our pre-race routine.
CK: What’s your favorite running route at Middlebury?
WW: Probably my favorite is going through Battell Woods, then you go to Munger St., which is a beautiful dirt road that is maybe three miles away from campus. You just get the best foliage, soft surfaces, which is always nice for the feet, and then you get gorgeous mountain views. You end up running past Happy Valley Orchard. That one always goes by really quickly.
CK: Last question, what is your running power anthem?
WW: It definitely changes all the time. As of lately we’ve been listening to a lot of “Meet Me Halfway” by the Black-Eyed Peas. I also really like old Selena Gomez, “Love You Like a Love Song.”
Catch Wang and the rest of the team in action at the Connecticut College Invitational in New London, Conn., on Oct. 14.
Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Charlie Keohane ’24 (she/her) is an Editor at Large. She previously served as the SGA Correspondent and a Senior Writer.
She is an environmental writing major and a psychology minor from Northern California. Outside of academics, Charlie is a Senior Admissions Fellow at the Middlebury Admissions Office. She also is involved with the women’s track team and hosts Witching Hour, a radio show on 91.1 WRMC. In Spring 2023, she studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching Greta Gerwig movies, polar plunging, sending snail mail, and FaceTiming her rescue dog, Poppy.