Interview | Jennifer Van Wingerden

A political science major, Van Wingerden says running now “defines” her life. Photo by Bill Cardoni

The senior trailblazer on her late embrace of cross country, her record-breaking season and the New York City Marathon.

You didn’t join Drew’s cross country team until your junior year. Were you surprised by your success? I didn’t expect to do as well as I’ve done. I wish I’d picked it up in high school. I might have gotten a scholarship for it.

Your coach describes you as mentally tough. Would you agree? I’m very disciplined. I barely ever really make excuses. It’s not like I wake up and say, “I’m really tired. I’m not going to train.” No matter what, I’ll still go do it.

Do you enjoy competition? I do for the most part. Running is like a mental game. It’s very exhausting.

Mentally exhausting? It’s like fighting yourself when you’re running. Your mind gives up before your body does. A lot of me says, “You don’t have to finish this race.” But, no matter what, I finish the race.

So what’s the appeal of running? To be honest, it’s fitness to me. It’s about being in shape. I want to work in the field of fitness or nutrition, so it all comes into play.

This year you became the first Drew runner, male or female, to win the Landmark Conference Championship and the ECAC Championship, and compete in the NCAA Championship, coming in 100th out of a field of 243. Not a bad season. I feel accomplished. It’s how I was training all summer. I would wake up every day at 5:45 a.m., go to the gym, work, then train. I feel my hard work has paid off.

What are your plans for the off-season? I’m sore. I’m in pain. My body needs a rest. I would like to do a triathlon. Eventually I want to do a half-marathon and marathons. My ideal goal would be to run the New York City Marathon.

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