Priyanka Fouda ’16 and Mary Keenan ’17 have led the Wellesley cross country team to a strong first half of the season, including a tenth Seven Sisters Championship on Saturday where Fouda and Keenan finished first and third respectively. The pair has run every race this season within eight seconds of each other and has shared top finisher responsibilities for the Blue. As neck-and-neck as these competitors are in races, the two teammates are even closer off the course.
The Wellesley News spoke with Fouda and Keenan about their sport, motivations and goals for the rest of the season.
Anna Cahill (A.C.): When did you realize that running was something you wanted to compete in collegiately?
Mary Keenan (M.K.): I realized my senior year [of high school]. Just as I had in mind “Man, this is my last season” and I was thinking “What can I do in my last season,” and I realized that I loved trying to figure that out and wanted more time to see what I was capable of. I thought that I had more potential to realize.
Priyanka Fouda (P.F.): I think I knew I wanted to run collegiately probably starting my junior year. It was actually a big part of how I looked at schools and different running programs. Like Mary, I graduated high school feeling like I wanted to see what else I could do and if I could run faster.
A.C.: What motivates you as an athlete?
P.F.: Cross country is a really interesting sport because there’s a big team aspect. So I think the team is a big motivating factor, having people you enjoy running with all the time, but also there are goals that you can set yourself. I think it’s a more nuanced version of teamwork where you train as a team and you race as a team, but you also are accountable for your own results, and I think that’s very satisfying. On a day to day basis, it’s sort of showing up to practice and being able to run with your friends or having a really satisfying workout.
M.K.: I would agree that its a unique combination of individualism and teamwork in cross country, and it’s because of that that it’s easy to find goals and to be motivated by past experiences and seeing what you did do really shows you what you can do.
A.C.: Which other sport could you see each other competing in?
M.K.: For Pri, I think soccer. One thing she likes about cross country is the unknown climate. When I remember watching my best friend’s brother play, and I was freezing cold and I just remember thinking, “Oh my God, they must be so cold and miserable,” and I think she just thrives in the intensity with that environment. It’s physical enough, and you can get that one-on-one competition as well as have the team competition.
P.F.: For Mary, I would say ice hockey because I think there’s a huge skill component, which is something Mary definitely has. I think it’s really intense and aggressive, and it’s a really fun sport. I think just the sheer brutality, she would respond really well to, not because she’s violent, but because when you see Mary run a 3K, she looks so light and she’s with all these girls who look so aggressive; you know she is aggressive, but she doesn’t show it.
A.C.: What have been some of your personal and team goals for this season?
M.K.: Coaches often tell me to specify my goals more but the goal that works best for me is really just to run faster. For the team, definitely getting a closer spread between everyone and getting everyone racing consistently.
P.F.: Nationals. We want to be competitive at NEWMACS and see a really strong team performance against good competition there.
A.C.: What is a typical workout like?
M.K.: They’re generally as long as the race that we are going to be running, so it will be six 1000s if we’re going to be running a 6K or tempo runs.
A.C.: Do you have a favorite running partner on the team?
P.F.: We basically run together every day, and I think what I really enjoy about practice is if there’s something on my mind, we’ll just go on a run, and we’ve literally covered every subject of interest and lots of subjects of non-interest. But it’s amazing how much you learn about someone when you’re running. This year, I thought I knew Mary pretty well, and then she pulled out these stories on some of these runs and I was shocked; I had no idea.
M.K.: On our easy days, it’s easy to mix it up and run with different people, but I think everyone kind of has that one person that they really thrive with.
A.C.: What was your most memorable run in your Wellesley career so far?
P.F.: The two of us do something we call “adventure runs” and so we’ve had a lot of memorable adventure runs. We recently had a great one called the “miracle run” — sometimes we name our runs. One luxury of being able to run at a consistent pace for a long time is you don’t really worry about getting lost. So if you get lost, you know you’ll just run back the way you came. So we have a lot of fun exploring Wellesley. It’s actually surprising how many trails we have here.
M.K.: I generally like when we end up near the Charles River; it’s a beautiful area. I definitely noticed a correlation between runs I like and the Charles.
A.C.: Who is your favorite athlete?
P.F.: I like Steve Prefontaine, but maybe because he’s my namesake. In high school, the seniors on my team started calling me “Pri” after Steve Prefontaine because they thought we shared some character traits.
M.K.: [Prefontaine] wanted the man with the most guts to win. He doesn’t want to just sit on someone and then win, so I definitely agree with and appreciate his view.
P.F.: I think to do well in cross country, you don’t always see this in track, but in cross country you’re really dealing with the unknown — you need to run a gutsy race.
Fouda, Keenan and the rest of the Blue cross country team will next compete in the NEWMAC Championships on Nov. 1 at Smith College.
Photo courtesy of Priyanka Fouda ’16 and Mary Keenan ’17