Last month, Stephanie Chun ’24 led the women’s cross country team to a second place finish in the Maine State Championship. Chun finished the women’s 6k with a time of 22:42.1. Her fourth place finish enabled Bowdoin to finish with 70 points, sneaking past rival Colby College by five points.
“I had no idea where I was in the race. We really wanted to beat Colby. My coach was encouraging us to pass as many Colby jerseys, but also just anyone you can, because that would help our score,” Chun said.
Chun has been a pillar of the cross country team for much of her collegiate career and is now a senior captain. Last season, she finished 20th at the NESCAC Championships and 15th at the NCAA DIII East Regional meet. However, the Maine State Meet was Chun’s first meet of the 2023 season after recovering from an injury. She was eager to get back on the course.
“I think [racing again] definitely made me a little nervous. But also, there’s something special about it being the first one, and I felt like there weren’t too many expectations or too much pressure in that sense…. I was really excited to see what I could do,” Chun said.
Growing up, Chun never considered herself a runner—she got her start as a gymnast.
“I grew up a competitive gymnast, and I loved that so much,” Chun said. “It was actually my mom and my sister who said, ‘Hey, I think you’d be a good runner.’ I always loved the gym mile, which should have been a pretty clear sign, but I was like, I’m not a runner…. But I joined the track team, but I just totally fell in love with it as a sophomore and found my best friends in high school through that. I feel like I found it by accident.”
As Chun grew more comfortable with her new sport, she started thinking about running collegiately.
“Junior and senior year of high school, I wanted to see how good of a runner I could be. It was nice to have a built-in community in high school, so maybe I could find that same thing in college,” Chun said.
Chun has found the community she was searching for at Bowdoin.
“I feel like I have the best teammates in the world. Not only in running, but just in life,” Chun said. “I think that being able to feel like you can be your true self and that you are fully supported in all aspects of yourself really helps you feel good out there on the course. When it’s getting hard, I just think, well, I’m running for them. We’re all doing it for each other.”
Despite missing some runners due to injury or illness, Chun is proud of how the team has performed so far.
“I think we have a great energy going. People are really excited, really passionate and are working really hard,” Chun said. “We are all really excited to see what we can do as a team at NESCACs and regional championships.”
The Polar Bears will race tomorrow afternoon at the Suffolk Invitational in Boston, Mass. The NCAA East Regional meet will also be held at Suffolk in November, so the team is using this weekend as a preview.
“This meet will be about running the course and seeing what it’s like. Colby will be there but not a lot of other NESCACs. So, it’s just another competitive opportunity,” Chun said.
The team is also looking toward the NESCAC Championships, which take place at the end of the month in Amherst, Mass. The top 15 runners from each team will compete at NESCACs.
“I have big goals. So I’m definitely just trying to take it a day at a time—to trust the training that we have already done and look forward to the training coming up,” Chun said.
Chun is trying to soak up her last season as a Polar Bear.
“I’m definitely starting to feel more like a senior as the weeks have gone on. I think it’s really exciting that I feel more confident in my racing and in my training in college,” she said. “I’m trying to enjoy it a little bit more because I know it’s my last [season]. I’m just trying to remind myself, I only get to feel the butterflies for so much longer. It’s nostalgic in a way, but I think it makes me really excited because I want every race to be meaningful.”