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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

ND Women's XC: Madia will never say never

No goal is ever out of reach.

Such a mantra is often spoken, but rarely followed.

Stephanie Madia has taken these words to heart and made them her motivation for running.

Has the tactic worked? Results speak for themselves.

The senior led the Irish by finishing 23rd at last season's NCAA championship meet. Madia was the first runner to cross the line for a Notre Dame team that earned a fourth-place finish at the meet. She also had a break-through track season where she finished fifth in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA championships, earning her All-America honors.

The Wexford, Penn. native entered Notre Dame with many high school accolades, including a state cross country championship her senior season. Coach Tim Connelly recognized Madia's talent early in her career.

"She had the potential, we knew that, but [success] was not going to be instantaneous," Connelly said.

Madia had to grow into the college running scene. Throughout four years of hard work and determination, Madia now finds herself as a nationally recognized long distance talent. She credits her development to her teammates and coaches.

"When I got here, I was surrounded by better people like Lauren [King] and Molly [Huddle]," Madia said. "Teammates are so motivating. They just pulled me along to perform at a higher level. Coach Connelly has always believed in me, as well."

Though Madia is quick to credit others for her achievements, distance running requires internal motivation. Madia has proven capable of setting lofty goals for herself and then putting in the necessary time to make dreams become reality. She takes great pride in her work ethic and the results it produces.

"Running is so rewarding, most people don't realize that," Madia said. "It's something where if you put in the time and dedication, results will come."

It's that philosophy that has drawn Madia to running and has caught the attention of teammates who try to emulate her desire to win.

"She has been a leader since she got here," Connelly said. "When [seven-time all-American] Molly [Huddle] went down [with a foot injury] last year, Stephanie was the one to take the responsibility and step up and get it done."

It was Madia who trained with then-freshman Sunni Olding last year and was critical in her development into a long distance force. Olding finished 32nd at the NCAAs last fall. Madia downplayed her leadership role, choosing instead to focus on the team.

"[Leading]'s a way to give back to the team," Madia said. "But everyone has a responsibility to be a leader. There's no competition among teammates, just striving to make the team the best it can be."

With Madia and a healthy Molly Huddle, expectations are for the team to at least match their performance from last year. Both Connelly and Madia cited the importance of staying healthy throughout the season so that they can be confident entering the NCAAs.

"No one has higher expectations than the team itself," he said.

Madia reflected the coach's words when she offered her opinion on the team's potential.

"We want to be the best in the Big East and one of the best in the country," Madia said. "Everyone's looking good right now. It's infectious."

Are these expectations realistic when the Irish lost two of their top seven runners to graduation?

"No goal is out of reach," Madia said.