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Running after the right dreams empowers any athlete to be a hero

Nov. 10, 2006

By BRITTANY MCGUIRE

By age 11, I knew I was going to be an Olympic 400-meter runner. After seeing my sports hero Michael Johnson win gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, how could I not follow in his footsteps? By eighth grade, I came to my senses.

Instead of running the 400, I was going to run both the 400 and 800 meter. With my distance talent starting to show coupled with my speed, why not go for it? By ninth grade it was the 800 and the mile.

I still can't figure out if everyone else was just getting faster in the sprints, or if I was just getting slower. One thing I did know for certain: I could run, and run, and when I started feeling a little tired, I could keep on running.

At 17 I finally grew out of my Olympic-hopeful phase, but I wasn't ready to give up on running as a career. Plenty of distance runners can make a fruitful living without ever having competed at the Olympic games.

Last year's ING New York City offered a $130,000 prize for the top female finisher, the largest first-place prize in marathon history.

I could definitely make a living off of $130,000 a year. Hey, if all went well, I could still make my Olympic debut in the marathon. Sadly, all that changed four years ago.

Enter Baylor University, home of some of the greatest track and field athletes and coaches. Freshman year crushed my ego like a sledgehammer.

Here I was, just turned 18, and one of the top athletes in the state.

I thought I'd easily transition into college cross country and track.

Now enter Baylor women's cross country team, where everyone is just as good as you are.

What a blow that was. I was our eighth runner that year (for those that don't know, only seven run at the NCAA championships).

And just my luck, I missed out on nationals that year. It was Baylor's first appearance since 1998.

To turn what could be a very long life story short, I trained harder than I ever had in my entire running career, pushed out 70-mile weeks of nothing but running, and earned my spot on the team the following years here.

Even better, the women's cross country team has made it to nationals the past three years, an amazing feat since only 31 teams from the entire country qualify.

From my senior year in high school to my senior year of college, I've learned a lot of things. I finally figured out that my chance at Beijing in 2008 are slim to none, but I refuse, repeat REFUSE, to ever let my team down.

The NCAA South Central Regional Championships are being held Saturday at Cottonwood Creek Golfcourse here in Waco, our doorway to nationals. The top two teams from each region are granted automatic bids, but why settle for being No. 2?

I've learned that while I might not be breaking the 400-meter world record any time soon, I, along with the other girls who pound out the miles with me, still have a chance to be a hero.

Brittany McGuire is a senior business journalism major from Humble.