Friday, March 7, 2014
Even when you’re as decorated an athlete as Bethanie Brown was at Waterville Senior High School, going away to college is still a massive learning experience.
As a freshman on the cross country team at Iowa State, one of the things Brown has learned is that the Big 12 has a “Newcomer of the Year” award for its conference meet. Brown finished fifth overall at the Big 12 meet, but had no idea there was such an award,
“After the race, one of the older girls on the team was like, ‘Oh Bethanie, you did so well. You’re the Newcomer of the Year!’” Brown said. “I thought she was just being really sweet and nice. I was like, ‘Awww. Thank you!’
“And then I got a trophy. I was like, ‘Wow, I guess there really is a Newcomer of the Year award.’”
It’s been a superb debut season for Brown in every respect. Through three collegiate races, her lowest finish was when she placed 32nd out of 288 runners. She’s already in the top five for a team ranked seventh in the country in Division I.
Brown, of course, was not planning on attending Iowa State. Her coach, Andrea Grove-McDonough, was coaching the University of Connecticut at the time, and thought so much of Brown that she made the third in-home recruiting visit of her college coaching career.
“She put up some marks — I’d say a lot of us were pretty aware of who she was,” Grove-McDonough said. “There are so many things to like about her. One, I just liked her on the phone. You could tell she was a smart kid. I think it was a good start to my relationship with her.”
Grove-McDonough left UConn to coach at Iowa State, and called Brown to tell her the news. Brown had the option of staying at UConn, following Grove-McDonough to Iowa State, or choosing another school. From the time she was allowed to talk to Grove-McDonough again, she had less than a week to choose her university.
“I got contacted by a bunch of different schools in that week,” Brown said. “So I had to make some quick decisions. I did a little researching, and I felt comfortable going to Iowa State.”
“My ending up at Iowa State was as much a surprise to me as anyone,” Grove-McDonough said. “When I recruited her, I told her I had no intentions of going anywhere. (She and her parents) took a real leap of faith, and trusted me. They didn’t get a chance to see the campus.”
When Brown arrived on campus, she began to handle the usual adjustments that come with being a college freshman, like dorm life and getting used to having a roommate. Brown doesn’t have a car in Iowa, and it’s a big campus, so she usually has about a 10 or 15-minute walk to class. She also knows that she’s exactly 22 hours from Waterville.
“I think it’s been good,” Brown said of the college experience. “I don’t think anyone really understands the extent to which college is a super-transition.”
There has been no sign of the adjustment process while Brown is running. If anything, Grove-McDonough is more impressed with Brown now than she was when she was trying to get Brown on her team.
“She is everything I thought she would be when I recruited her,” Grove-McDonough said. “She handles everything so well. She races like a senior.
“I use this word a lot with her — she’s just relentless. I try not to use sports clichés, but sometimes you can’t help it. There’s no quit in this girl.”
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