Freshman Lindsey Scherf flew to France for the first time last weekend, but her trip was no pre-spring break vacation.
She was the youngest of six runners from the United States who competed in the IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships in Saint-Etienne/Saint-Galmer, and, with a time of 22:12, Scherf managed to place 18th individually, leading the team to a fourth-place finish.
“[France] was absolutely amazing,” Scherf said. “The country was beautiful and the experience of meeting people from all over the world, like Ethiopia, Morocco, and Brazil, was phenomenal.”
Scherf qualified for the championships in February, but first learned about the opportunity as a senior in high school.
“I had heard about [the championships] because I had competed in the trials the year before, coming in 9th place,” Scherf said. “It was something I wanted to do again, and I figured I had a good chance of making it because I improved so much.”
“Improvement” may be an understatement, considering Scherf’s impressive results as a member of both the Harvard cross country and track teams.
Scherf qualified for the NCAA finals and earned All-America honors for both sports—most recently, during the NCAA finals for indoor track, held on March 11 at the University of Arkansas, she placed seventh in the 5000 meter race with a personal-best time of 16:09.38.
On November 22, Scherf placed an impressive 38th out of 250 collegiate runners at the cross country NCAA finals, running the course in 22.12.5 minutes.
Meet competition is far from over, however, as Scherf is currently running for the outdoor track team.
She is focusing on the 5000 meter, an event which she hopes to master before too long.
“Eventually, I’d like to win the NCAAs in the 5000 m,” Scherf said.
Scherf, who has been running competitively since the eighth grade, only got involved in the sport after playing soccer, which she began in kindergarten.
Scherf competed in club soccer in addition to running for a cross-country club during her first two years of high school, but she chose to focus exclusively on running during her junior year.
“Through soccer I always kind of figured out I was quick and had a talent for running,” Scherf said.
“I ran my school mile in fifth grade and broke the school record for girls and boys. I entered our local town road race [after that] and everything progressed.”
When the time came to apply to college, Scherf—who is interested in environmental policy—liked Harvard’s Environmental Science and Public Policy concentration and, as a result, she decided to pursue her passion in Cambridge.
“I feel really strongly about issues of conservation, and environmental policy addresses all of these issues,” Scherf said.
Scherf also enjoyed her recruitment visit to Harvard during the fall of her senior year in high school.
“When I visited I liked everything—the people, the academic opportunities, the athletic opportunities, just the whole atmosphere that I wanted to be part of,” Scherf said.
Upon her arrival in Cambridge in September, Scherf first met one of her teammates on the Cross-Country team, freshman Shari Grossman, as they trekked through the mountains of the Northeast as part the First Year Outdoor Program.
“I’m glad I got to meet her before we started practicing because I got to know her outside of running,” Grossman said. “She’s pretty outdoorsy. She likes camping and that kind of stuff.”
Scherf will show this “outdoorsy” side more during the summer, when she will work at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors—camping, hiking, rock climbing, skiing, biking,” Scherf said.
“I was in Colorado this summer and it was absolutely beautiful. I found this job on the internet and knew I wanted to go back.”
As for the future, Scherf, who is currently 18 years of age, is interested in training for such events as marathons and possibly the Summer Olympic Games.
“From my experience from the world championships in France and talking to the senior athletes who competed in the Olympics, it’s definitely something I’d want to try and do for a couple of years,” Scherf said.
However, Scherf emphasized that she wants to give herself time to accomplish these lofty goals. She plans to focus only on the immediate future, and to take things one step at a time.
“I’ll see how I feel after NCAAs is done and judge from there,” Scherf said in reference to running a marathon this year.
“There are always great opportunities [during the offseason].”
Another key concern for Scherf right now is avoiding becoming injured. This worry comes from the fact that she has alread dealt with injury while at Harvard.
In January, at the beginning of the indoor track season, Scherf experienced pain in her right knee, and despite efforts to shake it off, this kept her from running for several weeks.
“My meniscus was bulging because of irritation in my knee,” she said.
Nevertheless, based on her most recent results at the NCAAs in Arkansas and the World Championships in France, Scherf has fully recovered from the setback and is ready to move forward.
“[My knee] feels great. It hasn’t been bothering me since I started racing again,” Scherf said. “I’m just very cautious of it.”
Scherf—along with several of her teammates on the track team—will be spending her spring break training in Houston before returning to Cambridge for the main part of Harvard’s outdoor track season.
After having such a great time in France, Scherf does not mind traveling once more.
“It’s refreshing to see another place and take it all in,” Scherf said. “It’s kind of exciting, going on new adventures.”