A year ago, senior Karin Swartz never would have guessed she'd be where she is today.
After enduring three cross country seasons with injuries to her feet, this year's captain of the Harvard women's team has beaten the odds, finishing her long-distance running career with a spectacular season.
She placed either first or second for Harvard in very meet as the team raced to a strong 8-1-1 finish. And, in the Heptagonal Championships on October 30, Swartz ran her best time of the season 18:18, leading Harvard to a second-place finish behind Cornell.
That performance was the culmination of Swarz's most successful collegiate seasons ever. Her achievements are all the more considering she's been injured every season prior to this one.
In her first three years, she suffered from plantar fasciitis, a malady common to runners in which the arch ligament tears away from the bone.
Why keep going on in the face of such adversity? Swartz avoids talking about the injury. Rather, she focuses on why she began running in the first place.
"Running is something which you set a goal for. When you see your achievement, you can't help but want more," Swartz says.
When Swartz talks about running, she becomes animated and excited. The normally reserved Swartz talks about "endorphins," the "runner's high" and the joy of running "those few great races."
As she continues talking, however, she grows more self-conscious. Blushing, Swartz, who has been running cross country since junior high, denies she's obsessed with her sport. "Sometimes my parents and my coach disagree," she admits.
Like all great captains, Swartz credits her team members with her success this season. A cross country team, Swartz insists, in interdependent: the success or failure of one team member affects the entire team.
"When you're out there everybody pushes everybody else. We push each other. There are some workouts there are no way in hell I would have gotten through alone," Swartz says.
Frank Haggerty '68, who coaches both the track and cross country teams, says he thinks Swartz's team members made "a very good choice" by selecting her as captain.
Captains are usually selected on the basis of athletic performance, but because of her injuries, Swartz hadn't run consistently well at Harvard.
"I think Karin was pleasantly surprised to discover her teammates didn't adhere to this policy," Haggerty says. "She underestimated her own chances."