It's hard to settle for number two. But that's what Jody Dushay--after three years of being number one--has had to face.
The Harvard freshman cross country runner ran in the top spot for her first three years in high school but took it in stride when another runner took her place her senior year.
"Jody's the kind of person that will succeed no matter what she tries," says David McLaughlin, Dushay's cross country and track coach at Brighton High School in Rochester, N.Y.
It might be said that Dushay is the quintessential cross country runner: she combines her outstanding talents with an intense desire for team success and has already become an integral part of the Harvard cross country squad.
Dushay comes to Harvard with a string of successes behind her, and, if her impressive performances in her first two meets in a Crimson uniform are any indication, that string will continue to grow.
Dushay left a large imprint in the Brighton program, although she was bumped to the number-two slot by an All-American in her final season.
Still, Dushay was one of the top runners in New York, a state which boasts some of the most competitive high school runners in the nation. A three-year captain of the team, she helped lead Brighton to the New York State Federation Cross Country Championship in 1984.
In 1985, she was a member of the New York state indoor 4 x 800 meter champion relay team. And last spring she ran a leg of a 4 x 1 mile relay that set a national scholastic record of 20:11 at the Eastern States Track Championships at Hofstra University.
Her list of individual successes is also impressive. It includes a second-place finish in the 10,000 meters at the Empire State Games in 1984 and a fourth-place showing at the National Pathmark Indoor Classic at Princeton last winter.
The Empire State 10,000-meter race was Dushay's only competition at that distance in high school, and she's looking forward to running it more for Harvard.
But, says Dushay, "succeeding as a team far outweighs succeeding as an individual."
Experience proves her point. In the fall of her junior year at Brighton, Dushay tore ligaments in her right foot and spent six weeks in a cast. She did not fully recover from the injury for almost a year.
Nevertheless, says McLaughlin, "She's the kind of person who could let [an injury] bother her, but she has always come back."
Jody's determination and maturity impress Harvard cross country Coach Ed Sheehan.
"She has always been a hard worker," says Sheehan. And, after looking at Dushay's high school accomplishments, "I knew that was only the tip of the iceberg.
"She's very level-headed and a very mature girl. That's unusual for a freshman," Sheehan says. "Those are important qualities for a Harvard student and especially for a Harvard athlete."
Dushay visited Cambridge three times before deciding to come to Harvard. The school's comfortable feeling and Sheehan and Head Track and Cross Country Coach Frank Haggerty's coaching philosophies were all important factors in her decision to enroll.
"They [Sheehan and Haggerty] didn't bother you," she says. "They let you know what they had."
While many college coaches exercise a firm hand on their athletes, Dushay sees Harvard as different.
"I haven't felt much pressure [from the coaches]," she says. "I feel like I'm expected to do the best I can. He [Sheehan] really places the emphasis on individual responsibility."
So far, Dushay has had little trouble adjusting to college life and college athletics.
"There are always girls to run with at your ability. It has never been a struggle to fit in," she says.
The potential History and Science concentrator finds juggling academics with athletics "challenging but managable." She has even found the time to be a student liason at the Institute of Politics.
Dushay's performances so far this year have been very strong.
She finished fourth for Harvard and 20th overall in a meet against nationally ranked Stanford and Northwestern. And last Saturday, she ran an outstanding race at Frankling Park to place second for the Crimson and third overall.
"I'm very pieased with what Jody's been able to do," Sheehan says.
Dushay has no specific goals in mind for the remainder of the season, but, as always, the team is foremost in her thoughts.
"My personal goal is to keep contributing to the team," she says. "If I can fall in place on the team, that will carry me through the bigger meets."
Sheehan has not set any goals for Jody either. With freshmen, "I want to let them get their feet wet without worrying about the burden of expectation," he says.
So, for now, Jody Dushay will continue doing what she does best: giving everything she has to the team.
Even if she's not number one.