The focus of the women's track and field team during the last two weeks has been on getting to Nationals and running well. Lost in the jumble of seed times and relay lineups was the success enjoyed by many Jumbos other than the eight that made the trip last weekend to Minnesota.
Senior tri-captain Becca Ades and classmate Arielle Aaronson are not new to their leadership positions, but this season, they made huge strides in their performances. And with the indoor season behind them, the two close friends and housemates will look to lead the team into the outdoor season this spring.
Ades is no stranger to success. The long distance runner competed in the 3,000 meter steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Championships during her sophomore year, taking thirteenth. She built on the success of that season by qualifying individually for the cross country NCAA Championships as a junior, placing 118th out of 214 runners at Wisconsin-La Crosse.
But since the end of that cross country season, it's been an uphill battle for the Shelburne, Vt., native. Ades studied abroad during the second semester of her junior year, foregoing both the indoor and outdoor track seasons. When she returned, an IT band injury slowed her summer training, which is vital for cross country runners to get in shape and prepare for the upcoming season.
The injury put Ades on the outside looking in during the beginning of the season, and she had to work to get back to form while other runners started the year in shape and spent the season improving their times.
"The whole season was very frustrating because I never felt I was performing where I was capable of," Ades said. "Especially at the beginning, it was really hard to stay focused."
But Ades followed the road back to success with a perseverance and humility that was an inspiration to her teammates.
"I admire her to the max," Aaronson said about her friend. "I always have. To push through some of the races she's pushed through, to push through all that pain is something I wish that I could have. Her heart is something she gives to the team and everyone sees it."
Ades approached the indoor season with a mission to get to Nationals.
"She is so tough and such a driven runner," senior tri-captain Megan Sears said. "She sets a goal high and then goes after it. A lot of people set only par goals. She has goals to do well and then she'll go do it. She kind of has a strong will inside of her."
In her first 5,000 meter race of the season, Ades ran 17:36.32 at the St. Valentine's Invitational at Boston University. The time was almost a full minute faster than her previous personal best of 18:28.15, set during her sophomore year, and easily surpassed the provisional qualifying mark for the 5,000 meters.
Although Ades would try two more times to get a more competitive provisional qualifying time, running 17:50.60 at All-New Englands and 17:53.50 at the Last Chance Meet, her time was not fast enough to merit a trip to Minnesota. But the improvement has made Ades more eager for the outdoor season.
"I'm really excited about the steeple[chase] because I'm running better than my sophomore year," Ades said. "I think some really good things can happen this season."
With the success of Ades and sophomore Catherine Beck, Aaronson's times in the 5,000 meters were often overshadowed this season. Out of the limelight, the senior dropped her personal best time in the race by over a minute, from 19:18 to 18:19.
"It's so funny because I remember thinking I'll never ever, ever break 19 minutes," Aaronson said. "I didn't think that my body could physically go that fast. I just thought that was for the Beccas and the Caputos [Lauren Caputo LA '04] in the world. It's like you reached a whole other pleateau of competition. I'm not [provisionally qualified for nationals], but it's visible, which is really cool."
Ades, who describes Aaronson as her best friend, has also noticed the change.
"Racing-wise, she's more competitive," Ades said. "She took some risks and put herself out there. I think she had a lot left after cross country season. She had something she wanted to prove and I think she did that."
Ades was quick to point out that 18:19 would have been the fastest 5,000-meter time on the team only a few years ago.
"It really shows how the program is growing and how Arielle has grown," Ades said.
Aaronson's racing strategy has not changed in light of her increased success.
"My race philosophy has kind of been the same," Aaronson said. "I don't try to put a lot of pressure on myself. Especially in track this year, I feel like when I have too many expectations of myself, I just think too much about the race and then I choke."
Aaronson upped her training over the summer here in Boston, a strategy that proved successful in both her much-improved cross country season and her indoor performances.