FAIRBORN — Wright State University senior cross country runner Hailey Brumfield, wearing her glasses with a green ribbon on her short blonde hair, was braving a hot and hilly course Sept. 1at Northern Kentucky. She finished with an 18:15 5,ooo-meter time in the harsh conditions, the type of performance that has often defined her running career.
In middle school, Brumfield sustained a stress fracture injury when she was a competitive cheerleader and runner. She fought through it and was eventually able to earn a scholarship at WSU following her senior year of high school at Tipp City Tippecanoe.
She admits it certainly hasn’t been the easiest road garnering her legacy at WSU and that if someone had told her where she would be today, she might have to do a double take.
“I might have laughed, to be honest. My senior year of high school, I was a little burnt out and wanted to get back to the point where I really enjoyed running,” Brumfield said. “It was different my freshman year at WSU, because I dropped a lot of time and continued to. I think that comes from being confident in myself, learning when to take a step back and learning when to push myself.”
Fellow senior Aurora Turner and Brumfield have often been neck and neck when it comes to times. This doesn’t make them bitter rivals, but rather constant companions.
“If we’re doing a speed workout one day, I’m relying on her to help me push through, whereas if we have a long tempo workout, I try to help her as much as I can,” Brumfield said. “I love having someone right there with me in races. It motivates me and I wouldn’t ask for anyone else to be a training partner.”
That tight friendship was on display at the Horizon League track outdoor league meet in May. Brumfield followed up a second-place finish in the 10k the previous night with a victory in a 3000-meter steeplechase event that Turner was runner-up in.
“When she finished, I gave her a big hug. It was awesome seeing our hard work pay off and having a teammate there,” Brumfield said.
In collegiate cross country, setbacks are a given, often in the midst of the race. Brumfield, who is a member of the Christian sports organization Athletes in Action, looks to her faith in those moments.
She also turns to her Raider teammates that have her back.
“Having my teammates at the side yelling, ‘Don’t rely on your own strength, Hailey,’ when I’m hurting helps me push through when it’s really tough,” Brumfield said.
Under the guidance of WSU coach Rick Williamson, Brumfield has appreciated his philosophy of having a gradual buildup of intensity during training.
“It’s hard to put into words. He helped me not just as an athlete, but also as a person and a student. One big thing is learning to take a step back when my body is telling me to,” Brumfield said. “There are a lot of coaches out there who would make you finish even if you’re not having a good day, but he would rather have you rest and do it when you’re feeling good.”
One attribute that teammates, coaches and competitors alike often notice about Brumfield is her compassion. With that type of caring personality, it’s no surprise that the sports science major is interning at Soin Medical Center’s Maple Tree Cancer Alliance location, an organization that strives to keep cancer patients active. She also excels in the classroom, carrying a 3.68 grade-point average through her last semester.
Brumfield has been synonymous with fast times, but there is one thing she’d like to move at a slower pace.
“Senior year came really quickly. I definitely want it to slow down,” she said.
With her Raider running career in the final stretch, Brumfield has a piece of advice she has learned during her four seasons: “You don’t have to start off great to be great,” Brumfield said.
She would also like to be remembered for her energy before races. This includes a pre-race routine.
“I eat Skittles and I just like to be goofy and jumping around,” Brumfield said with a laugh. “It gets your mind off of nerves and anxiety during a race.”
For more information on Raiders athletics go to www.wsuraiders.com.