By Kristie Kahl
In most circumstances, experience is usually one of the most helpful keys to success, except for the case of one rookie.
With not even a full Division I college season under her belt, freshman Heather Giovagnoli has been a force to be reckoned with on the women’s cross-country team. She has given the upperclassmen a run for their money, claiming first place for the Broncs in all four of their meets this year.
Starting off her college debut at the Fordham Fiasco, Giovagnoli finished 37th overall among 233 women runners. She covered the 3.1 mile course in 20:12. In the following race at the Old Nassau Run, Giovagnoli, stayed on top of her game coming in first for the Broncs and 39th overall out of 99 runners.
With two invites worth of experience, Giovagnoli ran her best race yet at the Paul Short Invitational. She claimed 115th of 300 runners with a time of 22:24 on the 6,000 meter course. Head Coach Bob Hamer said that it was the fastest a Rider cross-country runner had ever run that course.
At the Penn State Nationals, the last race the team has competed in this season, Giovagnoli found success yet again. This time she moved up in the ranks, taking 84th among 300 runnners in the 6,000 meter course with a time of 22:32.
With such success in college, it is no wonder Giovagnoli had a standout high school career as well.
“Heather was a very successful runner in high school, so I expected the success to continue on the college level,” Hamer said. “She is handling the increased training load very well and she continues to impress in every competition.”
Before becoming a Bronc, Giovagnoli attended Spring Ford High School, where she obtained numerous athletic honors.
By the end of her freshman year in high school, Giovagnoli was running close to district-qualifying times in the 800 meters. As she went into her sophomore season, she emerged as a leader on the team. By her junior year, Giovagnoli became one of the best cross country runners in her league, taking second at the PAC-10 (Pioneer Athletic Conference) Championships.
By her junior year, Giovagnoli captured 10 conference titles while breaking a few school records here and there. She was the district runner-up and fifth at states in the mile, and was rated one of the best distance track runners in the state.
Prior to graduation in spring 2008, she claimed first place in the 400- and 800-meter at the PAC-10 Championships, as well as second place in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter. Giovagnoli also left with school records in the 1,600-meter with a time of 4:57.57 and the 3,200-meter with a time of 11:13.8.
After leaving a mark on her high school and joining the collegiate level of competition, Giovagnoli has seen a few differences between the levels.
“Division I sports are a lot more competitive than high school sports,” she said. “It’s a lot different. You go from being one of the best in high school races to finishing in the 80s in college races. In Division I you have to compete against the best of the best.”
With all of her accomplishments thus far, Hamer sees his rookie as a great addition to the program, while she raises the level of competition everyday.
“She really wants to be great and her work ethic and desire fit in nicely with the rest of the team,” he said. “She is very talented and willing to train hard on a daily basis to achieve the highest level of success. She is willing to pay the price and not just get by on her talent. I think her level of success also raises the level of expectations for the rest of
the team. They train daily with Heather and then race with the confidence that they can achieve a high level of success as well.”
Although she is one of the youngest members on the team, Giovagnoli has already stepped up into a leadership position.
“I’d like to think that I lead by example,” Giovagnoli said. “The rest of the girls see what I’m accomplishing and they’re striving for the same things. And it helps having a front runner in terms of our team score at meets.”
Giovagnoli has made a name for herself on the cross-country team, and it seems she’ll continue such success in the years to come.
“She is only a freshman and she is still making the adjustment to college training and racing,” Hamer said. “She is having tremendous success right now and she will have even more success once she has more time for the training to take effect. This is only the tip of the iceberg, the future for Heather and the team is really bright.”
Going 4-4, Giovagnoli seems to be a stellar athlete as only a freshman. She’ll have room to grow with an athletic future of endless possibilities. She is a threat that other athletes need to watch out for, especially in the years to come.
“Heather has all the intangibles that are necessary for success at this level,” said Hamer. “I am real excited to watch her grow and develop into a tremendous student-athlete at Rider.”
Giovagnoli will continue her season with the cross country team at the MAAC Championships on Nov. 1.