When Bailey Hertenstein finished her undergraduate career at Indiana University with her degree and two runner-up Big Ten cross country finishes in hand, she looked for a school to get a graduate degree and use her remaining year of eligibility, seeking, she said when we chatted after a workout earlier this month, a school where she could “run happier.”

Mike SandrockOn Running

Hertenstein found her happy place at the University of Colorado Boulder, as did seven other graduate transfer student athletes — Gabrielle Orie, Ella Baran, India Jones, Charlie Sweeney, Andy Kent, Seth Hirsch and Brendan Fraser. The graduate transfers came from different schools, backgrounds and undergrad success, but all were united by the common theme of finding the best place to pursue educational and running success.

This is by far the largest number of grad transfers Colorado coaches Billy Nelson, Heather Burroughs and Mark Wetmore have brought in, due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic that canceled many collegiate sports’ seasons and gave athletes extra eligibility. “We are pleased with all of them,” said Wetmore, CU’s longtime head coach. “Everyone has made a special contribution.”

One reason for the transfers’ success, several said after a session of 500-meter repeats on the football practice field — “fun hard” is how Wetmore described the presumptive pace as he went over the workout with his runners — is the supportive atmosphere they found on the team.

From left, Bailey Hertenstein, Ella Baran, Gabrielle Orie, Brendan Fraser, Seth Hirsch, Charlie Sweeney and Andy Kent are the seven graduate transfer students who competed for the University of Colorado Boulder cross country team this fall. (Zion Atwater ??

“I am running much happier here,” said Hertenstein, the Pac-12 cross country champ who sped to a fifth-place individual finish at Saturday’s NCAA championship. “I love the team; I love the coaches.”

Hertenstein smiled as she described how after one not-so-stellar workout — yes, even conference champs have off days — her teammates boosted her spirits, saying, “You’ve helped us so much, let us help you.” The “safe, positive” environment fostered by returning runners such as Emily Covert helped make her more outgoing, Hertenstein added.

Another of the supportive teammates is Orie, who is working on her master’s degree in Integrative Physiology. After graduating from Cornell University, “I wanted to go somewhere where I would have the best chance of chasing my dreams,” she said, “and this was the program that would let me do that.”

Orie added that being in Boulder, in the mountains and in nature, was part of the appeal of joining the Buffs. Now, she said, looking over at her teammates changing back into training flats after the workout, “These women are my best friends. We work hard to lift each other up.”

One of CU’s key runners this season, Brendan Fraser, matriculated at Notre Dame. Sitting in front of the Indoor Practice Facility after cooling down with his teammates, Fraser said that when it came time to transfer, he looked for a school that would let him find “a balance with everything, running and enjoying life.” At CU, he said, “I’ve found happiness and success at the same time. I wish I had more time.”

Don’t we all, Brendan, don’t we all.

Listening in was CU’s top runner this fall, Andy Kent, who finished his collegiate career Saturday. (The other transfers have 2023 track eligibility remaining, including Jones.) Kent’s reason for transferring to Colorado after completing his undergraduate degree at Georgia Tech was simple — the chance to train under Wetmore. “Mark has so much experience and knows exactly what workout is right for us. We might be feeling good, and he’ll have us run an easy day, instead of a workout. He knows what’s best.”

Before and after the set of 500-meter repeats, the Colorado runners exchanged easy banter. There was, a visitor could sense, a feeling of quiet confidence and satisfaction, the kind you get from sharing “hard fun” with your peers. That is what Sweeney found here after finishing his undergrad at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison.

“Everyone here is like family,” said Sweeney. “I really enjoy the team and always have since I got here. The older guys look out for the younger guys more than I personally have ever known on a team. The younger guys are never afraid to reach out and ask questions or for anything from the older guys.”

Added Sweeney, who is working on a master’s of science in Organizational Leadership, as is teammate Fraser, “I look forward to going to practice every day and just being able to catch up with my best friends who also happen to be my teammates.”

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Michael Sandrock
2022-11-20 19:00:04
Boulder Daily Camera

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