Two Rivers Flows Deep Through Marquette
Oct. 29, 2014
The Marquette University men's and women's cross country squads will compete in their 10th BIG EAST Conference Cross Country Championships on Friday morning in Carmel, Indiana. The meet will be covered live on the BIG EAST Digital Network, which can be accessed through the FOX Sports GO app or by clicking here.
Despite its relatively small size, Two Rivers has channeled great women’s cross country runners into Marquette for decades, from former MU All-Americans Brianna Dahm and Amy (Erickson) Gallagher to current junior Kellie Greenwood.
Greenwood has been the frontrunner for the Marquette women’s squad over the past two seasons and at the Bradley Classic on Oct. 17 recorded a time of 21:07, the fastest 6k for any MU women’s runner since Cassie Peller ran a 21:05 in 2007. Greenwood has been Marquette’s leading runner since the start of 2013 and has paced the Golden Eagles in 10 of their last 11 races.
Greenwood hopes to lift Marquette back to the heights the team achieved from 2000 to 2005, when the team reached six-straight NCAA Cross Country Championships. Dahm was an integral member of those dominant teams and Erickson, now Amy Gallagher, helped lay the foundation for that success as an NCAA Cross Country All-American and Conference USA Athlete of the Year in 1997.
“The Marquette women’s team was kind of a dynasty between the late ‘90s and the mid-2000s and Amy started that,” MU head cross country coach Mike Nelson said. “After she graduated, Brianna came along a couple years later and kept it rolling along with some other individuals.”
Gallagher returned to Two Rivers after graduating from Marquette and coached both Dahm and Greenwood when they were in high school. Gallagher wanted both runners to attend the college that was best for them, but her experience as a Golden Eagle assured her that Dahm and Greenwood would also find success in Blue and Gold.
“When I have really special athletes and they are looking at continuing their career beyond the high school level, it’s hard for me because I’m very biased,” Gallagher said. “I wouldn’t trade my experience at Marquette for anything.”
Greenwood said she owes much of her development as an athlete to Gallagher’s guidance.
“I never thought that Marquette would be a possibility for me, or that I could run at this level, until Amy told me I should try for it and I could do it,” Greenwood said. “She kind of sparked that dream.”
Nelson said Greenwood was on his recruiting radar after he saw her in the Wisconsin State Cross Country Championships during her junior year in high school. Gallagher reached out to him before Greenwood’s senior year to help get her foot in the door at Marquette.
“Amy told me that Kellie was very hardworking, really good in the classroom and that she had Marquette written all over her in a lot of ways,” Nelson said. “Not too long after that, Kellie came in for an unofficial visit in the summer and the recruiting process went from there. She ended up committing over the winter and the rest is history.”
Following a freshman cross country season when she battled through some Achilles’ tendonitis issues to finish second on the team at the BIG EAST Championships, Greenwood established herself as a leader for the Golden Eagles early in her sophomore year. In the team’s first race of the 2013 season – the Wisconsin Badger Classic – Greenwood paced the Golden Eagles and finished fifth overall.
She went on to lead the team in its next five races, including a 24th-overall finish at the 2013 BIG EAST Championships. That was the best conference meet finish for an MU women’s runner since Jayne Grebinski earned 19th place in 2007.
Greenwood also was an All-BIG EAST performer in the steeplechase last spring, her first season running the event. She finished third at the conference meet with a time of 10:41.19, which is the third fastest in Marquette history behind school-record holder Dahm, who was a two-time NCAA All-American in the event.
“I know that Brianna was a really incredible runner, especially in the steeplechase,” Greenwood said. “Since I also run the steeplechase, it’s really cool to know someone from my hometown who was able to run that fast, and she’s really inspiring to me.”
Having excelled this early in her MU career in both cross country and on the track, Greenwood’s current success is of little surprise to Gallagher.
“You know when you have something special, and when Kellie started her freshman year of cross country, we knew we had something special,” she said. “We knew it right away. Probably before she even raced. She was just that talented.”
Individual talent alone won’t accomplish Greenwood’s goals at Marquette, especially heading into Saturday’s BIG EAST Conference Championships where the Golden Eagles are looking to move up the ranks in one of the NCAA’s top women’s cross country leagues.
“Knowing that my team is also running well really pushed me to run my best and run harder for them,” Greenwood reflected on the last meet at Bradley with an eye on team performance this weekend. “With cross country, it is individualized since you’re running alone, but it’s so much of a team sport. Not only do I want to run well for myself, but I want to run well for them and improve our team finish.”
This weekend, Marquette will converge in Carmel, Indiana, for the BIG EAST meet and Greenwood noted that she is ready to make some noise thanks, in part, to her high school coach.
“Now that I’m at this level and I’m starting to run with these really good college runners, it helps knowing that I can go out and stay with them,” Greenwood said. “I don’t think I would have that mentality if it weren’t for Amy teaching me that in high school. It turned out to be a really good quality that she instilled in me.”
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