Cross country: Uncertain no more, team going to nationals

Five years ago, senior Katie Clark was in England, helping take care of her family as the second oldest of six children.

But deep down, hopes of being a professional runner began to surface.

Head cross country coach Matt Roe and then-assistant coach Darren Gauson tried to get Clark to come to Butler multiple times, but Clark said she couldn’t see herself leaving.

“One of her strengths as an individual can sometimes be a shortcoming as an athlete,” Roe said. “She’s very selfless and aware of others around her. But that makes her very easy to be around.”

Clark said she declined the opportunity in America five times.

But Roe and Gauson never gave up. Gauson even flew out to England to meet with Katie and her father over coffee in an attempt to put a face to the name.

“After that, it became easier with the communication,” Gauson said, “but she was still unsure about whether she wanted to come over or not.

“I think it was just one of those things—too good of an opportunity to say no. And she wanted to give it a try.”

Once Clark received a full-ride scholarship to Butler, her decision was sealed.

“I just couldn’t imagine being so far away from home,” she said. “But then I was like, ‘If you don’t do it now, you won’t get another chance.’ It’s amazing how you get used to being away from home.”

Roe said Clark has always been a good competitor, adding that Clark has made leaps and bounds not only as an athlete but as a person since coming to Butler.

“She’s become more assertive over time, and I would say how she’s grown as an individual has paralleled how she’s grown as an athlete,” Roe said. “She’s the most consistent female cross country runner that we’ve ever had here in terms of performance.”

Clark has run well since becoming a Bulldog, improving her personal records every year.

Last cross country season, Clark didn’t compete because of injury, but she still managed to shave nearly 10 seconds off of her personal record in the 5,000-meter run during track season.

Gauson credited not only Roe’s training methods but also Clark’s work ethic and spirited determination.

“As an athlete, you have to be focused and have an edge and assert yourself,” Roe said. “That’s something that she initially struggled with.
“She’d do it enough to run well, but now she’s the same selfless, giving person—except she’s got a competitive edge. And she’s even more well-rounded that way.”

On Nov. 9, Clark led the women’s cross country team to the NCAA Division I national meet. The Bulldogs placed fourth in the Great Lakes Regional meet to earn a bid.

In the regional, Clark posted a time of 20:10 on the 6-kilometer course and was barely out-kicked by Ohio junior Juli Accurso (20:07) for the title.

Clark recorded the second-best individual finish in Butler history, good for individual qualification for nationals.

Her finish was also a major contribution to Butler’s at-large team bid to the national meet.

All five of Butler’s scoring runners placed in the top quarter of the 220-runner field.

Junior Kirsty Legg placed 18th in a time of 20:49, and sophomore Mara Olson was 28th with time of 21:02.

Senior Lauren McKillop clocked a time of 21:30—good for 44th place —while freshman Olivia Pratt was 52nd in a time of 21:35 to round out Butler’s top five.

Clark and Legg also received All-Regional honors.

“(Clark) really leads by example more than anything else,” Roe said. “She’s got an even-keeled demeanor, which I think we need.”

People who know Clark well are even bigger fans of her personality.

“She’s very well-liked by everyone on the team,” Gauson said. “One downside is she’s too nice sometimes and (as team captain) might not always call people out. But she’s still someone everyone respects.”

McKillop, a close friend of Clark, said she’s a hard worker both athletically and academically.

Clark is double-majoring in criminology and psychology, boasting a  3.67 GPA.

“She’s determined, but she’s also very modest, which is a good characteristic to have,” McKillop said. “She’s a team player, and she always cares about people besides herself. Katie goes out of her way to encourage others.”

Butler cross country alumna Rosie Edwards, who joined the Bulldogs the same year as Clark, said “she definitely has a good head on her shoulders.”

“Katie takes such a sensible approach to everything,” Edwards said. “She’s just a very positive influence to have around.”

Clark said she’s ecstatic she decided to come to the U.S., especially after getting to know her teammates.

“I’ve met some people at Butler who are absolute keepers, who I want to keep around for the rest of my life,” Clark said. “I’ve never had friendships like I’ve had out here. Some people here are just absolutely stellar.

“I feel quite well looked after, and I’ve always had a good relationship with coach (Roe). We really get on well, which makes a world of difference.”

Clark, her teammates and her coaches are excited about the year to come as well.

“We’re working into that assumption that she’ll stay for a fifth year,” Roe said. “If Katie can stay healthy, this next year, athletically, for her is going to be an outstanding one.”

Clark and the women’s squad head to Louisville, Ky., for the Division I Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships Saturday.


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