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The GW Hatchet

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Sophomore sets pace for A-10s

It’s a cold and cloudy afternoon in Foggy Bottom, but the weather seems to be lost on cross-country runner Audrey Noonan.

She sits in University Yard in jeans and a “George Washington Cross Country” T-shirt, smiling and laughing.

With the passion she exudes, it’s hard to question how the sophomore has helped transform the women’s cross-country team into a contender for this weekend’s Atlantic 10 Championships.

After losing most of her freshman season and the first half of her sophomore year to injury, Noonan has found her way to the top. During the Carnegie Mellon Invitational two weeks ago in Pittsburgh, she took medal honors, the first of her career, while leading the Colonials to the team victory. Her winning time of 18:14.80 for the 5-kilometer race was a personal best, an example of the kinds of strides she’s made over the past two years.

“Last year, I didn’t have the best season,” Noonan said. “I started off injured and then I wasn’t progressing. It was hard to get motivated after that because my times weren’t getting any better.”

Cross country coach Brian Beil said this has been a great season for her.

“After being hurt last year, her summer training really allowed her to get back into it,” Beil said. “Unfortunately when she got here, she rolled her ankle on a run and that put her out for our first two races. Coming in, I knew she was going to have a great season just because she’s so fit. (Her results have been) a testament to her work ethic.”

Noonan said she believes that her win is a good sign for the A-10 Championship, and for good reason: the event will be held on the same course as the Carnegie Mellon Invitation.

“The Carnegie Mellon race was awesome for our team,” she said. “Everyone got a personal record in the race. It gave us an idea of where we’re going and that everyone’s coming together at the perfect time. This was our first team win and that was a definite confidence booster.”

Beil said, “We plan it so that we are running our fastest at the end of the season when it matters.”

“(The Carnegie Mellon race) put us on the map. Audrey’s definitely going to be up there for a top 10 spot at A-10s. It was great to get a feel for the course and to know it so that when we go there this weekend, we can be prepared.”

Noonan attributed both the team’s and her personal accomplishments to her coach and her teammates, especially the team’s five freshmen.

“The freshmen have brought so much to the team, it’s unbelievable. They’re so passionate about it. They really lift your spirits. They help motivate. It’s great when you’re all working toward the same goal.”

Beil’s dedication to the team and long-term plan were instrumental in Noonan’s choice to attend GW.

“I had spoken with the coach a few times and had met with him a few times, and how he explained the program and what he was planning on doing with it, the prospects he had for it, I really just wanted what he said he could do,” Noonan said. “He talked to me about what he thought I could do, especially starting my junior year.”

Beil said Noonan’s dedication to the program is also impressive.

“Audrey really had no reason to come to GW, but she believed, she took a big leap of faith and it’s paid off now with both her running and her teammates,” Beil said. “It’s comforting knowing someone’s going to be at the front of races and during practice. She’s really come into her own this year.”

Unlike this year’s quintet of new runners, Noonan was alone in adjusting to the team as the only freshman last year, but being the team’s youngest did not keep her from fitting in. She currently lives with two of her older teammates, juniors Michelle Concannon and Taylor Leavitt, who is also one of the team’s captains. She said that having two runners as roommates has helped keep her focused.

“Audrey’s a very headstrong individual who’s got an incredible work ethic,” Beil said. “It rubs off on her teammates. You can see that when she’s not running, she’s either at work or in the library. She doesn’t have a lot of free time.”

Noonan’s also got another source of support: her mother, who attends each of Audrey’s meets.

“That was definitely my favorite part of the last meet, having her there,” she said.

After the cross-country season ends Nov. 11 with the NCAA Mid Atlantic Regional Championship in Lock Haven, Pa., Noonan will continue training with the school’s unofficial track team. Although the team isn’t registered as an official sport with the school for the NCAA, she said that it’s a good way to stay in shape.

Noonan is used to practicing year round. She began running at age 12 and participated in cross-country and track throughout high school. But she didn’t choose running as much it chose her.

“I kind of fell into running. I have no coordination, so it worked. But I have always loved running.”

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