Nine minutes and 26 seconds. That’s all it took for redshirt junior Lindsey Brewis to set a new school record for the 3,000-meter run. Brewis beat former Rambler Gina Valgoi’s time by nearly three seconds.
Brewis, an information systems major, wasn’t always a track and cross-country star. Before she began running, she played soccer and basketball. She said she fell in love with running when her parents forced her to attend her older sister’s race.
“I was so cranky the entire time and then when the gun went off and they started running I followed my dad around,” Brewis said. “I was running after him as he was cheering in different spots. I just felt this urge to jump in and run with them so the very next day I joined the cross-country team.”
Brewis, 22, said she loves running long distance most and she never expected to run track in college. Although no one pressured her to take up the sport, she decided to give it a shot.
“I knew it was something I definitely wanted to try my freshman year [of college] then see if it is a good fit for me,” Brewis said. “I am really glad I did, it has given me everything.”
Along with the 3K, Brewis runs the 5K and mile races. She said the 2012 graduate Valgoi, who’s also the record holder for those two races, is one of her biggest motivators.
“Even though [Valgoi] isn’t here anymore, we have all [the school] records outside our locker room so when you walk past you see her name at the top … every day,” Brewis said.
Since her first year, Brewis has been running alongside senior Emma Hatch, another one of her motivators. The two runners have helped each other during both the cross-country and track seasons by not only training together, but also creating friendly competition between each other. Hatch said Brewis is one of the most competitive people she knows.
“It is never a bad [type of] competitive,” Hatch said. “We are pretty good at keeping it light and staying focused. Just trying to bring out the best [in each other] in training and races and stuff. We like to work together on pacing [too].”
Because of her redshirt status, Brewis has one more year to compete in cross country and track while Hatch is on her final season. Hatch said it’s going to be different not training together next year.
“I wish I could have another year but we are just kind of making the most of it,” Hatch said. “I’m just hoping that she can just push me as hard as I can go for this last year and really get the most out of my last season.”
This past summer was the first summer Brewis stayed on campus to train with Hatch and their teammates. She said she attributes her successes this season and during the cross country season to her time spent at Loyola this summer.
“I have just been trying to work as hard as I can during the off season to make sure I have a solid base going into the season,” Brewis said. “I am feeling stronger than ever and I think that has really attributed to staying here this summer and running with my teammates.”
Her time at Loyola hasn’t always been filled with success — Brewis has had to overcome several obstacles, including three different injuries.
After her first year of cross country, she had a 10-pound weight dropped on her foot resulting in a stress fracture. The injury caused her to fall behind in her training and redshirt the indoor track season.
With the outdoor season around the corner, Brewis was back into shape and ready to race again, but another injury caused another redshirt.
“I redshirted outdoor because I got a concussion, my third one,” Brewis said. “Long story short, I hit my head in my closet. That took me out for four months. I didn’t race for ten months; I couldn’t run until the summer. It was a long time to be out.”
Her third year of cross country came to a halt after her first race. Brewis was suffering from plantar fasciitis — an injury that causes sharp pain in the heel — in her left foot. She said taking the time off and watching the rest of her team succeed was hard but was worth it in the long run.
“It was really difficult from going to have a really good first race and then not being able to walk normally and then not being able to run for the rest of the season,” Brewis said.
This past fall, Brewis won the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) cross country title and was named MVC Cross Country Athlete of the Year. She’s the first Loyola athlete to earn a MVC cross country title. Assistant coach Alan Peterson attributed her success this year to her health.
“I think [health] is the biggest reason for her success because she has been a lot more consistent throughout the year now,” Peterson said. “I think this is her first full year where she has been healthy. I think just the consistency in training is what is bringing her to the next level.”
Peterson, who became the assistant coach in 2016, and Brewis have a relationship that goes beyond athlete and coach; Peterson is Brewis’ brother-in-law. Brewis has known Peterson since she was 14 years old and said his experience makes him a better coach.
“It just brings a whole other dimension to his coaching,” Brewis said. “When he says do this, he allows you to ask why but you don’t even need it. You don’t need to ask for the reason behind his training because you know what he is doing is right. Getting him as a coach, I couldn’t imagine a better one. He has obviously done good things for me and this program.”
Not mixing their family and coach-to-athlete relationship is something they work hard on. Even though they maintain a professional relationship on campus, Peterson said sometimes having that family connection makes things easier.
“It has been kind of interesting not trying to blur those lines at all but I think that really helps our relationship because she can be more open and honest with me about what is going on and we are going to figure out what it is,” Peterson said. “I think it becomes an extra trust and I think that has helped our relationship both personal and [on the track].”
Head coach Bob Thurnhoffer has helped Brewis by making sure nothing is handed to her and that she works to earn her spot at the specialty races, according to Brewis. She said having him there has helped her work harder and become a better athlete.
This year, Brewis is hoping to travel to Raleigh, North Carolina to participate in Raleigh Relays. She said it’s a good meet for athletes running the 5K and the 10K.
“I didn’t get to go down there last year because [Thurnhoffer] actually didn’t take me,” Brewis said. “I was really upset that I didn’t get to but that goes along with you have to earn it. I am really looking forward to that and showing him what I can do.”
Brewis will look to win her second MVC title of the year as she travels to Cedar Falls, Iowa Feb. 24 to compete in the MVC Indoor Championships.