Nov. 12, 2008
By Amanda Gonzales
To be a student-athlete at Notre Dame, considerable dedication, time commitment and sacrifices are required to be successful. For sophomore cross country runner Marissa Treece, the sacrifices of being a student-athlete at Notre Dame are well worth it.
"I'm enhancing my experiences and meeting people I never would've met otherwise. My life would be totally different, for the worse, if I wasn't a student-athlete," Marissa says.
The dedication Marissa has to her sport is evident judging by her success in just two years at Notre Dame. Already this season, Marissa helped her team finish sixth at the BIG EAST Cross Country Championships and first at the National Catholic Championships where she placed second overall.
Perhaps a contributing factor to the perennial success Marissa's had stems from running abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland last March at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. She competed in the junior women's race as part of the six-person USA Junior Women's Under-19 team.
Although Marissa did not know anyone going in to the cross country championships, she made friends quite quickly and considers running in the meet, "pretty much the best experience of my life."
Marissa realized almost instantly just how talented the athletes were at the meet. "It was really an eye-opening experience because you think you're okay where you come from, then when you race over there and get 40th, you're like `Wow, these girls are pretty good!'"
Open to the insight she could gain from these influential and accomplished athletes, Marissa talked with other runners including Notre Dame graduate and 10-time All-American Molly Huddle, who ran for the US in the senior women's race.
For Marissa, meeting and sharing stories with these athletes was incredible because, "you idolize them and that's what you want to be when you grow up and to see them in action is pretty cool."
Probably the biggest lesson Marissa ascertained from the other athletes was the passion that was necessary in order to do well in this sport, "I learned that you need to put in the work to succeed."
Fortunately for the Irish, Marissa's newly acquired knowledge and fervor for running at the World Cross Country Championships has not been wasted. "If you don't apply something you've learned then it's just a wasted opportunity," Marissa says. Already in just her sophomore year, Marissa has become a young leader on the team, providing support for her teammates and leading them by example in the meets.
"With running, the only goal is to get to the finish line fast so you have to just feed off your teammates energy and talk to each other beforehand to get pumped up together," she says.
Although Marissa admits that when she initially started running, she thought it was harder to stay motivated than in a sport like basketball which she loved. As Marissa began running competitively, she met Joe Shay, father of the late Ryan Shay, a distance running legend at Notre Dame. Shay recognized Marissa's talent and helped to coach her in high school and inspired her passion for running. The two developed a close-knit relationship and Shay helped her research colleges for which she could continue to run. While Marissa says Shay never urged her to come to Notre Dame, he definitely opened the doors to the possibility.
Marissa's passion for running took a little while to evolve. She admits, "Running is difficult at first and I had to learn to love it." She now considers running part of her lifestyle and says, "I can't go a day without running or I don't know what I'm going to do!"
This enthusiasm for running is a driving force in Marissa's personal success and will continue to be throughout her collegiate career at Notre Dame. For this young standout on the Irish cross country team, running has become tremendously important to her.
"Running doesn't define me, but it certainly is a big part of me."