When senior Emma Hatch walks through Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus, she can’t help but reflect on her time at the university and all she has accomplished as a runner on the cross country team.
Her training is in full swing and Hatch, 21, has already begun the preparation for the most important meet of the season, the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). After dealing with tendinitis last season she is more determined than ever to make her final season a memorable one.
“I would like to be top three individually at conference, that is my main goal,” Hatch said. “I haven’t thought a lot about where I want to finish regionally, but [I] definitely [want to] improve on prior years. Get under 21 mins in the 6K, hopefully get lower in my 5K … lower 17s at least. But, that kind of depends on the conditions of each race day and since we don’t race very often, you can’t really put a lot on the times. You just want to focus on competing with who is there that day.”
Hatch began playing soccer, volleyball and basketball in grade school. While attending Mother of Mercy High School in Cincinnati, she joined the cross country team. She soon realized that she was more successful running cross country than she was playing basketball.
“[I like cross country because of] the team aspect as well as the individual runner putting in the hard work, and you can really see it translate,” Hatch said. “I got to the point where I was stagnant in basketball and I wasn’t improving as much as I wanted to. I felt like I could really go somewhere with running and I could do that in college.”
Hatch began her first year at Loyola tied with her teammate, redshirt junior Lindsey Brewis, as the top first-year runners. Since then, they have pushed each other to do better. Now in their fourth years, they are still the top runners of their class and are still fighting for that top spot.
“It has been a lot of fun,” Brewis said. “We were the top two [first-years] and it just kind of stayed that way as we have gotten older. It’s a lot of fun to grow with someone by your side. I will win one [race] and then the next race she will get mad and beat me. We have gone back and forth. She is such a good motivating factor on the team.”
Assistant coach Alan Peterson has been coaching Hatch for almost a year now and said he has high hopes for her this season. With the MVC meet approaching at the end of October, Hatch will begin to change how she trains to ensure she’s in peak form come conference time.
“Individually, I think she has a really good shot at challenging for that MVC title,” Peterson said. “Obviously, we have Lindsey as well on the team and she will be doing that as well. [Hatch] is coming off that 10K championship during the outdoor season. I think she has a really good shot of doing really well.”
During races, Hatch said she doesn’t worry about anybody but herself. Brewis and Peterson both agree that Hatch is a hard worker and “isn’t afraid to take the bull by the horns.”
“[The team] 100 percent [sees] her as such a leader,” Brewis said. “She is a vocal leader. She leads by example. She is one of those athletes that just does everything right, from the way she eats, to her academics, to the amount of sleep she gets and the training she puts in. She just spends so much extra effort doing everything it takes to be the best she can be. She is one of the best leaders this team has ever had. I just love Emma Hatch.”
At the Illinois State Invitational on Sept. 8, with the finish line quickly approaching, Hatch pushed herself into the seventh place spot, with a time of 17:57. She said having confidence in her training is what helps her during the last leg of races.
“I just like to think about how you can overcome so much pain if you have a strong enough mental game,” Hatch said. “They always say that confidence plays such a big role because if you know your body can push this hard, then you know you’re going to be able to do it. But if you think, ‘No, I can’t possibly go any harder,’ then you are going to kind of let yourself relax. Just having confidence in your training really helps.”
The women’s cross country team races on Sept. 30 at the Greater Louisville Classic in Louisville, Kentucky.