Photo courtesy of patriotleague.org
Crossing the finish line first in the Patriot League Cross Country Championships has been on Rose Willey’s mind for a while. As a junior last spring, she ran the 3000 meter steeplechase in a winning time of ten minutes, 56 seconds.
Now a senior, Willey is already impressing coaches and teammates in the cross country season. Willey won last Saturday’s Lehigh invitational with a time of 22:45 for the 6-kilometer race.
“It means a lot to me, to be honest,” Willey said. “It’s the first cross country race I’ve ever won in college.”
Willey was named a cross country team captain for this season and led her team to a third place finish out of thirteen teams at the invitational. She is impressed with the way her teammates performed, especially Steph Benko ‘16, who also runs the steeplechase with Willey during the track season.
Benko had nothing but praise for Willey, admiring her ability to “lead by example, with her work ethic and attitude to running. She’s a great captain and fun to have on the team.”
Willey’s path to running is not uncommon for other track and cross country runners. Growing up in Brookfield, Connecticut, Willey said she wasn’t great at any of the sports she tried as a kid. In middle school, she decided to try out for the cross country team and found a passion in running. As she continued to high school, she won her first competitive race. She began receiving recruitment letters and drew particular attention from now-retired coach Julio Piazza.
“Coach Piazza was awesome, really helped me throughout my time at Lafayette, with my running and at school in general,” Willey said. Piazza retired this past spring following a 27-year coaching career of both the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field programs.
In a retrospect of her time on College Hill thus far, Willey says her three years have gone by “way too fast.”
Her freshman year began quickly, as she was named Patriot League Rookie of the Week less than a month after beginning school. She finished third in her freshman year Lehigh-Lafayette dual meet with an impressive 6-kilometer time of 21:44.
Sophomore year was no less eventful for Willey. She took tenth place at the Lehigh Invitational and third at the Lafayette-Lehigh Dual Meet later that month. She concluded her cross country season by being named to the Academic All-Patriot League team. By the end of her sophomore year, she had set herself a goal of winning the Patriot League Cross Country Championships.
In track, she ranks No.2 all-time at Lafayette in the 3000 meter steeplechase, a race that involves almost two miles of running with hurdles and a water pit that runners must clear or trek through.
A double major in mathematics and economics, Willey is also a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. Currently, she does not have any specific plans for after college, but has plenty of time and an impressive resume working for her.