Oct. 26, 2011
One of six seniors on the Notre Dame women's cross country team, Gena Bleyer was a three-time all-state cross country runner in high school while attending St. Joseph's Academy outside of St. Louis, Mo. She has competed in multiple events for the Irish, including a third-place finish in the mile at the Blue & Gold Invitational in 2011 with a 5:22.85 time. UND.com's Craig Chval recently got an exclusive interview with Bleyer for her experiences on the team and at Notre Dame.
What's your favorite part of cross country?
My favorite part of cross country is when you are running the last stretch of the race. You are completely exhausted because you have given it your all throughout the entire race, yet you see the jerseys of opposing teams in front of you. Finding your inner strength, determination and drive, you dig deep, fight the pain and do your last pass of as many opposing team members as possible. The exhilaration of giving every last bit of yourself for your team is an indescribable feeling.
What made you decide to come to Notre Dame?
My grandpa, uncle and father attended the University of Notre Dame. Ever since I was born, I have been surrounded with Notre Dame love. When I received the opportunity to come to Notre Dame, it was a dream come true.
What's your favorite part of campus?
The Notre Dame campus is absolutely gorgeous, and everywhere I go on this campus, my heart is filled with joy and my eyes see the most beautiful scenes. The sun shining over the lake in the fall, making the Dome glow with golden rays, and the candles twinkling on a snowy night at The Grotto are beautiful images that will forever warm my heart. However, I can't help but smile every time I walk to South Dining Hhall for dinner after practice. I make my slight turn onto south quad by the Snite Museum and I look up at the steeple of the Basilica.
What's the most played song on your iPod?
"Oops I Did It Again" by Britney Spears. I have to get my daily locker room dance on with my twin McKinzie Schulz.
Do you have any rituals before a race?
Before every race, I go for a 15-minute warmup. Then, I put my hair into a braid. Next I change into my spikes, but before I put my spikes on, I must put on a clean pair of socks. After doing some drills and strides, I head to the start line. As the starter gives us the race instructions, I make the sign of the cross and lower into my start position.
North or South Dining Hall?
What made you decide to be a runner?
My father helped me decide to be a runner. He introduced me to my passion for this sport when we ran our first race together. I was seven years old when we ran the Grace Race in Carbondale, Ill. I can still vividly remember the entire course.
What's your favorite movie?
"Remember the Titans"
What's your favorite memory from your time at Notre Dame?
My favorite memory at Notre Dame happened on my first night at Notre Dame. My roommate and I had our first heart-to-heart conversation. We stayed up all night turning our relationship from complete strangers to best friends. Being randomly selected to room with Corinne Vittori is the main cause for all of my favorite memories from my time at Notre Dame.
What's your most embarrassing moment?
One time in eighth grade, when I was playing tag (which is embarrassing enough), I ran into a door and broke three bones in my hand.
Who's the funniest runner on the team?
Meg Ryan because she spreads her humor through her eccentric dance moves.
What's your major and why does it interest you?
I am a double major in accounting and sociology. With my love for numbers, working in a team and my attention to detail, accounting is a perfect major for me. I chose sociology as my second major because I love people and learning about our society. People-watching is one of my favorite pastimes. Also, I am interested in these majors because I know that they will help me achieve my career dream, which is to be a forensic accountant for the FBI.
What's your favorite food?
Fresh pineapple because I'm allergic to it and it makes my lips feel funny.
What's the toughest course you've run on?
In high school our regional course had a 600m steep hill that you had to climb twice during the race. You also had to fly down the hill around the 1.5 mile mark and you had to keep you hands out wide like a bird in order to keep from falling on your face because this hill was so steep. The hill had a name - The Man-maker.
If the cross country team had a theme song, what would it be?
"Not Afraid" by Eminem because whatever weather, cold or warm, we are not afraid to take a stand on the start line and run the course together through the storm.
Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
The most influential person in my life is my papaw. He is my role model. There is no other person that I know that can positively impact the world as much as my grandpa has. The most influential thing he has brought to my life is teaching me through his actions the importance of giving your all in all you do, continue to raise the bar and expect more of yourself each and every day. I plan to follow his guidance and continue to apply all the talents God has blessed me with in everything I do.
Where would you go if you had a time machine?
I would go back to the 1800s. I have always wanted to wear the old English dresses with the corsets and hoop skirts.
What's your greatest fear?
Actually, my greatest fear is that a scary monster or ghost is going to come out of the TV whenever the TV has gone fuzzy. I am absolutely terrified of static TVs.
What's the most important thing you've learned at Notre Dame?
Like many Notre Dame student-athletes, I have had to deal with injuries. Freshman year, I had stress fractures in both of my shins. Recovery took almost one year. The hardest part of coming back was my mental struggle to give into the temptation to take the easy way out and quit. Every afternoon when I ran on the elliptical or rode the bike, I would look across the turf field and read, God, Country, Notre Dame. Inspired, I never gave up and returned to full competition fitness in time for our opening indoor track meet my sophomore year. Notre Dame has taught me the strength to endure whatever obstacle God puts in front of me.