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Emily Bryson wins national title

By Shea Decker-Jacoby

Section: Sports

March 23, 2018

After Emily Bryson ’19 won the National Championship in the 3000-meter, her first thought was “Oh my gosh did I actually just do that? Did I actually just win!” Bryson reflected on her All-American winning season in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot.

“The moment was incredibly surreal, and I was just so shocked that I had actually won,” Bryson said of the moment she ran across the finish line at the NCAA National Championship on March 10 in Birmingham, AL.

At the age of five, Bryson started to run, but did not know she would enjoy running long distance competitively until middle school when she started to run cross country and track. Bryson’s twin sister Julia is also a member of the Brandeis Cross Country and Track and Field team. The sisters and their father all started running long distance at the same time. Her father introduced the twin girls to running at the Quincy Track Club, a youth club in their hometown. Having watched her older sister of four years run at the same club, Bryson said she “was really excited to eventually have my chance to do the same.”

Bryson realized she was good at running when she was in the fifth grade. She started doing well in local road races and beat runners who were years older than her. Bryson said she was drawn to running because “I thought it looked fun and thought that I could have some success as a runner. I always remember loving to run around with friends, and that being able to run really fast sounded pretty fun to me.”

A heavily recruited athlete at the Division III level, Bryson was drawn to the Brandeis program when she first met the coaches and her future teammates. Of head coach Sinead Evans, Bryson said “I really liked her coaching philosophy and felt as though she would be the perfect coach for me in order to become the best runner that I could be.” While looking at colleges, Bryson found herself more attracted to smaller programs. At her recruiting visit, Bryson,“felt as though all of the girls on the team were really close with one another and super welcoming of me.”

At the start of the indoor track and field season, Bryson doubted her chances of winning the national title, thinking she might not be able to accomplish the feat until her senior year. But the chance of winning the title became more of a reality when she ran a mile in 4:46 at Boston University.

“I knew I was in really good shape and had a chance at winning a title,” Bryson said of the race. Arriving in Birmingham, AL at the National Championship, Bryson still did not think she could end up on the top of the podium. “I didn’t think I had a chance at winning, being that I had the slowest seed time in the field, but going into four laps to go, a lot of people had dropped off, but I was still with the leaders and felt so good.”

For Bryson, the icing on the cake was having her twin sister Julia there with her at the competition. Julia had never been to an NCAA championship before, “so having her there was incredible.” They competed in one race, the distance medley relay, together, and Julia got see her sister achieve one of her twin’s life goals; becoming an All-American runner.

“Standing together on the podium and watching her accomplish something she has always wanted to [was] incredibly inspiring and gave me so much confidence heading into the 3k the following day.” The entire Bryson family was at the event to support their two Judges running in two events. But for Emily Bryson, having her sister there was especially meaningful. “Having someone there who has always been one of my biggest supporters, who shares my same love of running and knows how important moments like that are made the moment of winning a national title that much more rewarding. It was so special to be able to cross that finish line first and know that she was there to share the moment with me.”

Going into the championship race, Bryson felt nervous, but knew her abilities as a runner and tried to not overthink the race. For Bryson, not getting “caught up in how you think the race will play out or how competitive you think you will be against another runner.” She went into the race confident and relaxed, with “the mindset that I’m going to give the race everything I have regardless of what happens and that it’s all just for fun.” Bryson, looking back on the race, said “By the time we had one lap to go I knew it was my race to win since I was feeling so good and ready to kick hard.” Even now, she said, it is surreal to think that she accomplished a goal that she has been working toward for years.

“Winning a national title has been a dream of mine since I decided that I was going to go to Brandeis … I remember going to my first track indoor nationals my freshman year and watching in the stands, after I hadn’t qualified for the finals in the mile, as a national champ was being crowned every 15 [minutes] and thinking how bad I wanted that moment.” Bryson remains humble despite her victories and defines her success by the improvements she has made as an athlete. She strives to improve on “my times and fitness that help me get closer to accomplishing my goals.”

After coming down for the podium and returning to Waltham, Bryson looks to the outdoor track season. Her goals coming into this new season is “to set personal bests in the 1500 and 5k, and hopefully qualify for nationals in both.” Unsure about the event she will focus on, she hopes to put herself in the position to be competitive and win. Bryson has a long way to go before she turns in her running jersey as a Judge, but she is already reflecting on the time she has spent with the team. Having been a part of the Cross Country and Track and Field teams for the past three years, she said, “has given me an incredible group of friends [all] of whom are incredibly supportive, and experiences that have made me a much more confident and driven person.” Bryson cannot imagine her college experience without being a member of this team.

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