Hannah Butler ’21 started her cross-country season with a flash, winning the six-kilometer Maribel Sanchez Souther Invitational at a time of 21:58.74. The first-place finish marked the first collegiate victory of Butler’s career. Previously, her best collegiate result was a fifth-place finish. Butler hopes to parlay this week’s success into a breakout junior year.
Butler also led a strong team performance from the women’s cross country team, as they took second place in a four-team field of Dartmouth, the University of Maine and the University of Hartford. Bruno had three of the top five individual finishers. For her exceptional weekend on the cross country course, Butler has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.
Herald: Congrats on your first collegiate victory! What do you think made the difference for you in winning Saturday’s race?
Butler: The summer of consistent training really made the difference for me. Also, having consistent training all throughout last year (with) no interruptions for injury was the first time in a while that had been the case for me. So, just being consistent, and I was excited to get out there and race for the first time this season.
You won the race by pulling ahead in the second half — what gave you that late kick?
I kind of just felt comfortable at the pace we were running and decided to pull away about halfway through. I’ve never been much of a “kicker” in races, so it wasn’t really a kick but more of a gradual separation from the rest of the pack.
Do you think you are positioned for a breakout season and what did you do this past offseason that helped you improve?
I’m hoping to have a season that’s significantly better than past seasons. I can be in position for good races. I improved by just being consistent and I have a lot of past and present teammates that have helped me and pushed me to be where I am today.
After getting off to such a great start to your season, what will you do to keep up that level of performance throughout the year?
Just trying to keep my training consistent and try to stay healthy, and try not to get too high or too low about any one training session or race. I try to keep it even-keeled and think of things in a big perspective.
As a junior, you’re starting to become one of the leaders on the cross country team. How are you taking on that role?
The whole junior class and senior class is trying to bring the team together for a lot of events outside of practice. We have a really young team, so it’s really important that the(first-years) get to know everyone, and that we bring the (first-years) into the team culture and what we strive toward as a team. Also, just trying to lead by example at practice and out of practice.
What are your individual and team goals for this year?
As a team, we’re looking to come together every race and see what we can do. We have a lot of (first-years) and underclassmen that are in a position to make a huge impact which is really important. By the end of the season, we’re just trying to improve upon what we did last year. Individually, I’m hoping to definitely place higher at the Ivy League Championship meet than last year. I placed pretty well last year, so that hopefully will be attainable. Striving to really make an impact for my team at that meet is my main goal for the season.
Mentally, how do you keep up the pace throughout a long race? Do you have any interesting strategies?
Our sport, distance running, typically is very tough mentally, just because it requires you to be uncomfortable for a long time in training. You have to be really well-trained mentally to be successful. In order to do that, when it starts to hurt in training or a race, you just remind yourself that it’s supposed to hurt and that means you’re doing it right and you’re getting better. That’s usually what I tell myself when stuff starts to get hard — that it’s supposed to be hard and that makes it right, makes it good.
The women’s cross country team returns to the course Friday, Sept. 20 at the BC Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown Invitational.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.