CHOOSING to take “the road less travelled” and not been afraid to live an unconventional life, is something Cork athlete Stephanie Cotter is happy to have done.
The former West Muskerry AC athlete and current Adams State University runner picked up bronze at the recent European Cross Championships in Lisbon and this was just one of the highlights of her year.
Stephanie has won many individual awards, which also included the NCAA Woman athlete of the year for 2019, and although running was in her blood and she has ran from an early age, she really only regained a love for it during her leaving certificate year.
“My initial love for this sport definitely came as result of my parents Michael and Sheila. Both ran to a high level when they were younger, with my dad still doing so to this day, being my training and chatting buddy and keeping me company on most runs. My dad ran and competed at Michigan for five years back in the eighties on a running scholarship, which was a huge achievement in itself and definitely is something I admired and aspired to emulating whilst growing up.
“I started out with West Muskerry A.C., under the guidance of my club coach Collette O’ Riordan, who to this day are still very supportive of my running endeavours over in the States.
“Going into the beginning of my Leaving Certificate year, a year when many students choose to give up sport in favour of academics, I chose instead to go against the grain and take running back up! I knew that if I didn’t get back into it that year, I would never get back into it. So, that Fall of my final year, I made the conscious decision of truly committing to achieving what I knew I was capable of within my own mind.
“Unknowingly that Fall, I had embarked on a lifelong love affair with running. Running has changed the course of my life completely and provided me with opportunities that never would have been provided to me otherwise; to this day I am forever grateful for choosing to take “the road less travelled” and to not be afraid to live an unconventional life.”
The 20 year old from Coachford enjoys running full stop. A certain distance isn’t something she has decided or settled on just yet.
“I haven’t made my mind up on which distance I should focus on just yet. I believe that if you’re a good runner, then you can be good across all distances. I enjoy both the longer distance and thrill of racing middle – distance events.
“I really am loving life in the States. My daily runs are based off a mix of either mileage or time. Wednesday is by far and away one of my favourite days of the week, which is the day we go to the mountains for our midweek mountain run. We run on trails up to elevations of 11,000ft (3,350m) and the scenery and landscape are always absolutely stunning and beautiful.
“The views out in Colorado are something that will never become old for me, and still catch my breath every single time.
“Summing up how the States has been for me to date is Pretty simple; one of the best years of my life. I love the way of life out there.
"The landscape is literally built for running; I cannot think of a more perfect training environment; miles upon miles of soft surface dirt roads, endless mountain trails, three hundred days of blue sky a year and the beautiful landscape dominated by the breath-taking Rocky mountain skyline.
“I’ve made some wonderful friends out there, both on the team and off, and I love how close knit our team is; the team feels like one big extended family. Colorado has definitely become home for me and I’m very lucky to have stumbled across this tiny town of Alamosa, and for the recruiting staff of Adams Sate and Coach Damon Martin to have stumbled across and taken the chance on me.
“To be awarded NCAA Athlete of the Year is a huge honour not only for me, but more importantly for my school. There’s a great saying, “You’re celebrated in public for what you practise in private” and I think these awards are a reflection of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s amazing being celebrated or rewarded for doing something that you love.
“With regards to my recent medal, our team silver, would not have been possible were it not for my two Adams State teammates, Eilish and Roisin Flanagan, and it was so special to share that moment alongside both of them on the podium.
"It’s practically unheard of, to have three athletes from one single university make up the team scoring members of the silver medallist position at a European level, or anywhere on the international stage as a matter of fact.
“I think there is a wealth of talent in Ireland at the moment amongst the underage level, and I hope we showed that when given the adequate training tools, environment, opportunities, backing and support, to the extent to which is provided to us by the US collegiate system, Irish athletes are equally capable of competing to the same level on an international stage as other nations, such as our neighbours Great Britain.
“My aims for 2020 include setting some PR’s on the track and trying to remain healthy and as free from injury as possible.
"Sometimes in falling short of our goals, we end up achieving so much more in the long run, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing to dream crazy. ”