That’s how senior Ellie Child sees her collegiate running career at Weber State.
“It wouldn’t change my decision to come to Weber State for anything in the world,” Child said. “I feel like this is where I was meant to be. I’ve not only had an amazing experience competing, but I’ve met lifelong friends, and my future husband, who also ran for the cross-country team.
“Working with coach Pilkington has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience; he’s so knowledgeable, and really believes in me. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I have thus far without his confidence in me. Running at Weber was one of the best decisions I’ve made in life.”
Child recently wrapped up the cross-country portion of her career with a flourish, winning the Big Sky Conference individual title, finishing ninth at the NCAA Mountain Regionals and qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
“It felt incredible (to capture the Big Sky title),” Child said. “There was a point in the race at about 4K, where I analyzed how I was feeling, and I knew in that moment that I was going to win. I think races where you feel so ready and so confident are rare. I am proud to represent the tradition that Weber State has for top-tier distance runners.”
While Child was excited about her individual title, she admitted the Big Sky Championships were a bittersweet moment as the Wildcats narrowly missed repeating as team champions, as they finished second to Northern Arizona.
“Toward the end of the season, we really started to taper,” Child said. “Our longest runs were 60 minutes, but more often or not, we are only running 40 or 50. Our workouts started to get a little shorter, and we started to bring some turnover in the mix. As we were preparing for the Big Sky Championships, my personal mindset was consumed by being a conference champion. I think the whole team's focus was set on winning. Not winning the team title was one of those bittersweet moments in running.”
Child was the fourth Weber State runner in the last six years to win the Big Sky’s individual title, with the Wildcats winning three team titles in that span. Fellow senior Hailey Whetten finished third at the Big Sky race.
Two weeks after the Big Sky meet, the Wildcats were back in action again at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships in Logan, Utah, and Child continued the strong finish to her senior season with a ninth-place finish, good enough to win her All-Region honors and qualify her for a second-straight year to the NCAA Championships.
“It was fun to have (the race) close to home,” Child said. “I love having my family at races. I also feel like I race a little better when I know they are cheering. We had so much support from our team and community as well. Throughout the race, I constantly heard my name cheered and sometimes that little push makes the biggest difference.
“My goals for the race were to place in the top 10 and make it individually to nationals, and I was able to complete both. I take pride in the fact that I have been able to qualify for the national meet individually two years in a row.”
After her strong finish at the Regional meet, it was time for Child to tackle the final race of her Wildcat cross-country career when she headed to Terre Haute, Indiana, for the NCAA Championships. During pre-race workouts and training in the 60s leading up to the race, the weather threw a curveball on the day of the race with 30-degree temperatures and strong winds.
“It was hard to get warmed up, but every runner is in the same circumstances,” Child said. “During the race, I went out hard, I decided to take a risk and put myself in the top 20 pack. For the first half of the race, I kept my position pretty well. Even around the 4K mark, I was still in All-American range, but the race got the best of me; it just wasn’t my day.
“During a race, you want to stay present and always move, and I was having a really hard time doing that for the last 2K. By the finish, I was just trying to hold on… and that’s OK. Every runner is going to have days like that; it’s just unfortunate that it was that race for me.
“I was sad, tired and disappointed after the race, but the more I looked at it, and talked about it with my family, my team and my coaches, the prouder I am of where I completed the season. Running is such a long-term sport, with many stepping stones, and this just one more stone to step over. I am honored to have been running in such a talented field of runners, and wouldn’t have wanted to finish the season any other way. The only thing that would have made the experience better was if I had my girls running there with me. I definitely missed my team. I wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t have them to run with, so it was bittersweet to be there without them.”
During her four-year cross-country career, Child took part in two NCAA Championships, helped the Wildcats win two Big Sky titles, twice earned All-Mountain Region honors and earned All-Conference honors three times.
“The goals I set during the summer were: win the Big Sky conference, place in the top 10 at regionals, make it individually to nationals and be an All-American. The only goal I unfortunately didn’t reach was that of being All-American,” Child said. “After the national race, I was pretty disappointed; I knew that I had just run my last cross-country race, and failed to reach that goal. My coach, my teammates and my family helped me realize that even though I wasn’t All-American, what I’d accomplished during my college cross-country career was pretty incredible. I ended it right where I wanted to be, running at the NCAA meet with the best talent in the country.
“There is a bittersweet reality of not reaching a long-term goal, but you also realize that taking a risk in a race sometimes pays off, and sometimes it's just not your day. All you can do is pick yourself up, and keep working, keep running, so that the races that pay off, the ones that leave you feeling on top of the world are all the sweeter. I've definitely had the moments this season where I've felt on top of the world, and overall I'm very proud of myself. I'm excited to finish out my senior year with a great indoor and outdoor track season.”
Justin Johnson is an Athletic Communications Assistant at Weber State University. For more information about Weber State University athletics, please visit: http://www.weberstatesports.com.