Just days before the Big East Cross-Country Championship, Marquette cross-country freshman Kellie Greenwood was walking around with a boot on her foot due to achilles tendonitis. She posted the second fastest time for the Golden Eagles that day. Her secret was embracing the pain.
“I was going through the race in my head, and I kept telling myself, ‘This is going to be great. It’s going to hurt so bad, it’s going to be almost funny. We’re all going to be dying going up this hill.’” Greenwood said. “As soon as you get to the top, you’re just coming all the way down.”
Greenwood made the race a game, and she got that strategy from coach Mike Nelson. Before the race, he tells his runners the way things are going to be without sugarcoating the course.
“I’ll tell them which part of the race is going to suck, and which part of the race is going to hurt real bad,” Nelson said. “It’s going to hurt bad for everyone. So just know it, embrace it, and go with it.”
Greenwood appreciates that honesty and uses it to push through the mental and physical pain of a race. This is something she learned to do in her high school career.
Her coach at Two Rivers High School, Amy Gallagher (previously Amy Erickson), ran at Marquette in the 90s. She was one of the first to bring Greenwood to Nelson’s attention after Greenwood was named the Raiders’ most valuable performer three of her years at Two Rivers.
During her freshman year of high school, Greenwood started off running the 400- and 800-meter races. As time went on, she worked her way up in distance to the two-mile and competed at the state championship only having run the race a handful of times.
She admits she did not imagine herself running Division I in college. Now, Marquette could have a steeplechase runner in Greenwood for the outdoor season. She has the speed and endurance but also brings a skill set from nine years of gymnastics to the race.
“My freshman and sophomore year, I looked at colleges where I could possibly do gymnastics,” Greenwood said. “I battled through some injuries and progressed as a runner more as a result.”
Her gymnastics injuries healed, and she was in top shape coming into Marquette in August. Greenwood was the team’s second best runner at the Alumni Run to start off the season and picked things back up at the conference championship. She hopes to run just as well in Friday’s regional championship.
Greenwood’s roommate and teammate Sarah Poirier has seen her develop on and off the field. She has a good sense of humor even when she gets in the zone on race day.
“(Greenwood) is known as the peppy, hyper one,” Poirier said. “She’s pretty superstitious before a race. She always has to eat the same thing and warm up the same way. She gets in her little moods before the race, but she’s always great.”
Nelson says Greenwood never put herself down or moped about the injury. She kept herself set on getting back to contributing for the team and did everything assigned to being healthy again.
“One of my goals is to maintain a positive attitude,” Greenwood said. “I’ll take the struggles as they come and continue to get better.”