Senior Autumn Sands breaks 31-year-old track and field record


Senior Autumn Sands is currently having one of the best seasons in Lafayette cross country history as she breaks a 31-year-old record among other accolades. (Photo Courtesy of Autumn Sands ’22)

By Issy Bongiovanni, Staff Writer

Two weeks ago, senior Autumn Sands was one of the select few from the track and field team to attend the Villanova University Open Invite.

At the meet, Sands competed in the 3,000-meter run and finished in 9:50.07, breaking a 31-year old school record for the event.

Despite it being a long-term goal, Sands did not expect herself to accomplish the feat at this point in the season. 

“I just went out there and it was a really competitive field of girls and they just kind of dragged me to it,” Sands said. “It was really exciting.”

Sands is a Spring City, P.A. native and comes from a family full of soccer fans and players, which motivated Sands to play soccer up until her junior year of high school. Sands said she was “falling out of love with soccer” when her high school’s track and field coach approached her after she ran an impressive time at a local color run. 

“I just started doing it to increase my endurance and my speed for soccer,” she said. “I really enjoyed it and I felt like I was improving a lot every single week” Sands said.

To her surprise, Sands made it to her district meet that first season in high school.

“I wasn’t even thinking that that was something that was in the realm of possibilities in my first season, and I thought that was really cool,” she said. “I just completely made the transition from soccer to track after that. My junior year I did cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track.”

When Sands was playing soccer, she was under the impression her athletic career would come to an end once her high school career did. When Sands transitioned to track, those plans changed. 

“I was getting letters from college coaches for cross country and track,” she said.

Sands then made the decision to further her track career and began to look at collegiate programs. 

“I did an overnight [at Lafayette] which is an extended visit where you get to see the team dynamic. I really liked how close everybody was,” she said. “I just really liked the personalities of the girls on the team, so that inspired me to come here to run.”

Sands is a biology major, a member of the Happiness Club, Athlete Ally, a teaching assistant for general biology labs and works with the Oaks Leadership Academy.

“I got here and I just blossomed into the sport. It’s been a huge part of my life ever since and I’m so happy that I started doing a sport that I chose for myself not some sport that somebody else chose for me,” Sands said.

In 2018, Sands earned a silver medal in the 5000M at the Patriot League Outdoor Championships and placed second in the 1500M at the Leopard Invitational. She went on to win the 5000M in the Lafayette-Lehigh outdoor dual meet as well as the indoor Mile at the Bison Open and Spartan Invitational.

In 2019, she placed fifth at the Towson Invitational and Lafayette/Lehigh Dual Meet and ended 23rd at the Patriot League Cross Country Championships. This led Sands to finish 69th at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Cross Country Championships that season.

While Sands is proud of her track and field and cross country accolades, her favorite part of running for the Maroon and White is her fellow Leopards.

I think because we’re a smaller team, we get to be close. I really like how everyone motivates each other on the women’s team, and how we all try to be better each day, improve each day, and try our best,” Sands said.

Sands said that the biggest challenge is the difficulties caused by the Covid pandemic. Teammates have had to sporadically practice individually over the past few seasons due to intermittent Covid outbreaks.

“That was tough during interim, that was like our preseason. That’s a really important time for us all to train together. Our sport’s extremely mental, when you’re practicing with your teammates and you see everybody around you, it’s really motivating,” Sands said. “They hold you accountable. It’s a little bit harder to motivate yourself.”

The Leopards have three more meets to attend this season before the Patriot League Indoor Championships. Sands is in good spirits, and hopes the team will continue to improve.

“I think we’re getting there. This past weekend was the Laf-Lehigh dual and we were competitive in some events. Some girls are really close to qualifying times. I’d like to see a lot more women on our team qualify for Patriots before the season ends,” Sands said.

Looking forward to post-graduation, Sands has recently accepted an offer to attend a graduate program for Marine Biosciences within the school of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware. Sands will run for the Delaware Blue Hens during her first year of graduate school.

Correction 2/4/22: This headline has been updated.