By Andrew Kada
It was during practice in high school when sophomore Hayley Sullivan learned of University of Mary Washington’s interest in her as a cross-country runner.
When her high school coach received an interest letter from UMW coach Stan Soper, he brought it to practice where one of Sullivan’s equally impressive teammates assumsed that the letter was for her. Soon after, Sullivan was given the letter and was excited that she had received interest. However, Sullivan says that she found it funnier that her teammate had assumed the letter had been for herself.
Sullivan said that her passion for running started at a young age.
“In the fifth grade, I really looked up to my teacher who was a runner and I broke the school record for the mile in the fourth grade,” Sullivan said.
Ever since, despite playing varsity soccer for her high school and various select teams, she kept running her priority.
During high school, Sullivan earned All-District and All-Region honors on many occasions competing for her AAA Virginia School, Lake Braddock Secondary School. In Sullivan’s sophomore year, she participated in the Foot Locker South Regional meet and earned All-South honors.
During Sullivan’s junior year in high school, she contributed to her team placing fourth at the AAA state cross-country meet and 2nd her senior year. Maybe one of Sullivan’s most proud achievements of her high school career was 4×800 squad winning the 2006 AAA state title and breaking Lake Braddock’s school record.
When she came to Mary Washington with its Division III athletics, she did so to keep time on her hands.
“I came to UMW because I didn’t want running to take up everything even though it still does, but that’s because I love it so much,” stated Sullivan.
However, despite the time and dedication she puts into her work, she said her teammates make it worthwhile.
“I was excited that everyone was so cool,” Sullivan said.
Looking back, Sullivan said she wasn’t happy with her freshman cross-country season.
“When winter break came around, I was tired and knew I needed to take better care of myself and train harder,” she said. “Coming back, I was in a lot better shape and got a lot stronger in track which was reflected in how much I improved in the mile.”
Sullivan’s personal records from her freshmen track season were 5:10 for the mile and 4:44 for the 1500 meter.
Fueled by her improvements and reality of losing UMW’s top two runners to graduation, Sullivan dove into her summer training for her sophomore cross country season.
“Working off my mileage in track, I did even more getting up to 55 miles per week. I also did more strength workouts and workouts on the track,” Sullivan said.
“Working by myself every day, if I was ever struggling, I tried to push myself even harder to get what I wanted, Nationals,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said that coming into the new season, she was a bit apprehensive to her new role. In spite of this, as a newly appointed co-captain, Sullivan said that her job ended up not as difficult as she expected.
“I had never been the number one runner on a team before so I was kind of nervous,” she said. “The entire team has been such a tight knit group, more than it ever has been.”
Sullivan’s season progressed well, finishing as the number one D-III finisher in many of her races and usually in the mix of D-I schools. She said that her first collegiate 6K was about 24 minutes and her most recent was 22 minutes and nine seconds, almost a two minute improvement.
Sullivan dominated the Capital Athletic Conference home meet with her first place finish of 22:53, a full minute and twenty three second gap ahead the next competitor. At the South/Southeast region meet in Seguin, Texas she placed fifth with a 22:31.
Then, as the only Eagle to qualify for Nationals, Sullivan completed her season strong with a 64th place finish and a time of 22:09 among a field of 279 of the nation’s fastest D-III runners. Sullivan was 25 seconds away from earning All-American honors and produced a new 5K personal record of 18:31.
Overall, Sullivan’s honors from this past cross country season are All-CAC, CAC Champion, All-South/Southeast region, and six time CAC Runner of the Week, all while leading the UMW women’s team to a successful season.
Sullivan says that going forward from cross country in 2008, she has once again raised her goals to see what she can let out on the track as well as contribute to winning a sixteenth consecutive CAC Track and Field title.