Madison ’26 has only been running for three years. So, being recognized as Collegiate Conference of the South (CCS) Rookie of the Week, Athlete of the Week and Rookie of the Year in her first cross-country season at Berea College is an astounding accomplishment. Though she began running on a treadmill to cultivate a healthy lifestyle in middle school, the West Virginia native officially took up the sport her junior year in high school at the recommendation of her history teacher.
“My high school history teacher, who was the track coach, asked me to run track because he thought that I would be a good distance runner,” she said. “Once I realized that I was placing well in meets, I decided to stick with it, and then I received offers to run collegiately.”
One of the offers Madison received was from Berea College. During her campus visit, she fell in love with the campus and the emphasis Berea puts on academics.
“Berea allows me to focus on my academics while participating in the sport I love,” Madison said. “It was not an opportunity I thought I would have. I was interested in running for Berea College because I can run without the stress of losing scholarship money if I were to get injured. I want to go into pharmacy school, so I want to do well win undergraduate school.”
Like most first-year students, Madison found the transition to college to be both refreshing and challenging, and she credits courses like General Studies 110 in helping her transition from high school to college.
“[The course] introduces students to the Writing Resources lab, where students can go to receive help with essays,” Madison said. “It also helps transition their writing to a college level.”
While certain academic supports were in place to help Madison find her place in the classroom, being involved with the cross-country and track-and-field programs also smoothed Madison’s transition from high school to college.
“It has given me close friendships with my teammates,” she explained. “It has given me people I can lean into when things become difficult. It has also given me something that can relieve the stress that comes with being a Berea College student. While I love being at Berea, stress comes from trying to do well academically with a heavy course load along with sports practice.”
In addition to the awards she earned for cross country, in track, she placed second in the 1,500-meter race and fourth in the 800-meter race at CCS meets.
“It made me feel really proud after all the hard work at practices and workouts that I was able to have a lot of personal bests in meets and continue to improve,” Madison said.
Being a dedicated student-athlete requires Madison to be disciplined, organized and in control of her schedule. From waking up at 6:50 a.m. to eat breakfast before her 8 a.m. chemistry class, to afternoon track practice, to eating dinner early so she still has time to study, the demands of her schedule as a student-athlete are rigorous.
Madison successfully managed her rigorous schedule and had time to savor her favorite memories, like placing second in the conference for cross country and track. “It was special to celebrate with my teammates and be proud of all the hard work we had done throughout the season,” she said.
As her first year came to a close in May, Madison had some advice to offer this fall’s incoming class: “I would encourage them to participate in one of Berea’s many clubs or athletic programs because they are a great way for you to make lasting friendships and become more familiar with college life at Berea,” she said. “I would also recommend that they focus on their academics because Berea provides students with many resources and opportunities to succeed.”
Berea’s student-athletes are found to have higher academic success and retention than students who don’t participate in athletics. Madison is clearly on to something.