A look into Grace Furlong’s time as a Keene State athlete
Grace Furlong is a long distance runner for the Keene State College cross country team. She however, did not start her college career as an Owl. Furlong started out as a Hawk at the University of Hartford. Compared to Keene State, a Division III school, the University of Hartford is a Division I school. Furlong ran for the University of Hartford cross country team for two years before joining the Keene State team. In that time, she ran in ten meets and placed 54th in the 2019 America East Championships.
Furlong explained that running cross country at a collegiate level has greatly added to her college experience. She is excited to be with such a great team and feels that they have a connection that you cannot make elsewhere. She believes that spending as much time with each other as they do, allows everyone to be close.
“The team has created a really good environment, honestly, it’s like a family. I feel like you don’t get friends like that. I mean you can make friends in classes but I feel like they’re not as strong of a bond. Like you have to see them every single day and have to really like a lot of time with each other,” Furlong said.
When it comes to teammates, senior captain Hannah Jones had nothing but positive things to say about the senior distance runner.
“She is honestly one of the best teammates ‘cause she pushes you and she’s so humble, like she’s a team player 100%,” Jones said.
Furlong explains that Paige Mills, her cross country coach, is a role model and someone she looks up to. She believes that a key to her success is trusting her coach in the process.
“She knows what she’s doing and I really appreciate her. She’s definitely one of the better coaches I’ve had throughout my experience of cross country and track,” Furlong said.
Paige Mills is a 2012 graduate from Keene State. During her athletic and academic career, she was a three-time All-American. After serving as the assistant coach for cross country/ track and field at Soka University of American in Aliso Viejo, California, Mills came back to coach at Keene State. She started as the men’s and women’s cross country coach in January 2020.
Mills also seems to trust Furlong when it comes to being a leader and running for her team. Mills explained that’s the reason why Furlong was voted to be a captain this season. Mills also explained that Furlong is an amazing and valued member of the team for the women’s side.
“I know I speak for the team when I say that we all just look up to her and just really respect her as our team leader on the women’s side,” Mills said. When it comes to goals for herself, Furlong would like to prevent injuries this season.
When it comes to team goals, she would like her team to progress and do well this season. She believes that there are really strong connections and that the team is working together.
“We have very key components like everyone’s a vital source for us, and feel like we’re pretty strong, together with connections and feel like we’ll do pretty good this season,” said Furlong.
Furlong’s teammate and her coach used words like ‘tough’ and ‘resilient’ to describe Furlong. Jones explained that she used the word ‘tough’ to describe her because Furlong is one of the toughest people she has ever met.
“Tough. She is a tough cookie like she is one of the toughest people. Everything in her life has just made her exactly who she is,” Furlong said.
Mills explained that she chose the word resilient because there is not much that can stop the senior captain from completing her goals and following her dreams.
“Resilient. Grace is one of the most resilient athletes I’ve ever worked with. There’s really not much that’s going to bring her down, or stop her from continuing to put her best foot forward and keep her head held high. She truly has just so much grit and for that reason, yeah, resilient would be the best word,” Mills said.
Furlong is a business management major and although she would love to continue running in the future, she has had her fair share of injuries. Furlong described an experience where for almost a year, she wasn’t able to run. She knows that injuries are something that every athlete has to experience, but not being able to do something she truly loves and looks forward to takes a toll on her personally. Furlong believes that she will just go where life takes her when it comes to a future career upon graduation in May.