To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Erin Magill’s unsurprising rise

“But it just hit me all the sudden in that moment. Wow, I suddenly got good at cross country,” said senior Erin Magill ’22. 


Magill spent three years at Brandeis working to become the best, and finally in her senior year she got the opportunity to show it at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championship. She had traveled to Nationals in her freshman and senior year for cross country, but this was very different. This time she was going by herself. The year was full of ups and downs, but Magill was ready to go. This is how Magill quickly became one of the best long-distance runners in all of Division III sports. 


Before Magill was running in the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships, she was running in the Girls on the Run competition. This was in fact the first running competition Magill ran, and it dates all the way back to elementary school. Magill began running when she was in elementary school and even though the Girls on the Run competition was not competitive, she definitely took it seriously. 


“I remember in fourth grade, I pretty much tied for first in that race with one other girl. And I remember that just made me want to win next year… I took this very seriously. Much more than the most of the elementary schoolers in the race,” said Magill.  


Her passion toward running and competing continued throughout high school before she went to Brandeis. At Brandeis, Magill runs year-round, through the cross country, indoor track and outdoor track seasons. 


Magill remembers her first experience running at Brandeis with a very good cross-country team. Even though the team was already very strong, she worked hard to become the eighth runner on the team. Therefore, when the team went to Nationals, she was able to go as an alternate. 


The experience was eye opening as it was something you couldn’t get anywhere else. She described how great it was to run and learn with great runners early on in her collegiate career. Even though she got to go to Nationals, Magill believed that just going wasn’t enough. She wanted to be on varsity next year and run at Nationals. 


A few months later, Magill ran in indoor track for the first time. The season was unlike what she had done before, as she had to make adjustments to the new training style. This led Magill to hit times that were a little lower than she would have liked. 


“I wish I could tell myself as a freshman to be patient with it. That it’s pretty common to not have an especially exciting season as a freshman because you’re building toward running better as a junior and senior,” said Magill. 


Magill proceeded to watch Emily Bryson ’19 compete and win multiple competitions at Nationals that year. Watching her teammate compete she described it as, “One of my favorite memories of my time at Brandeis”. All this continued to make her want more, but as she later realized, it was a process, and that Nationals was the ultimate goal that she was going to have to continue to work hard for. 


In her sophomore year, Magill made a big jump throughout the year. She moved to be the third runner for the cross-country team as she demonstrated her consistent improvement. Moving to the third spot was significant, because it meant that she was scoring points for the school. The year overall though was a little slow for the Judges, as they did not qualify for Nationals. 


“I went under 19 minutes in the 5k for the first time in cross country of sophomore year…I had been trying to break 19 minutes for like the past four years in high school and freshman year. So to finally run a few seconds faster than that felt like a really big deal,” said Magill. 


At this race at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Magill continued to make strides of improvement. When she finally hit this new benchmark, she was ecstatic. Although Brandeis finished 13th in that competition, Magill continued to show off her competitiveness as she finished 13th overall in the race with her personal record. 


“I decided to start running it because we didn’t have any 5k runners on the team. And it’s also just not a very popular distance because a lot of people think running 25 laps around the indoor track does not sound like fun. So as the one person who thinks that does sound like fun, it seemed clear to me that that’s the event I should be focusing on,” said Magill. 


So, after just one year of indoor track, Magill set to make a transition. However, she was totally ready for it. What made this so easy? Magill just loves to run. 

“People say you must work so hard to do all this running and also be a student. But I don’t really consider running to be work. Running is just fun for me. It’s the best part of my day when I go to practice, go for a run with my friends. I couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Magill. 


The big takeaway that she had from her second year of indoor track was that she enjoyed running the indoor 5k. When you run indoor track, there’s twice as much cheering in the crowd and the energy is much more distinct. Also, you get to watch all your teammates run which adds even more to the overall experience. When compared to cross country and outdoor track, the feeling is just different as everything feels less pronounced outside. 


Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. This caused her sophomore year outdoor track season to be canceled, as well as most competitions in her junior year. Although the teams would meet to practice and do time trials, there were only a few competitions throughout the season. Magill only got to compete in one track competition throughout the year. The loss of a season only motivated Magill more. 

“I was so excited to start racing again because I had been training all throughout that year and a half when we didn’t have any races. And I knew when we got sent home in March of 2020, that we had no idea when the next season would be. But I just had it in my head that it could be I was training for cross country in 2021,” said Magill. She described how she trained a lot during the summer before her senior year and that it felt like she was running really well. 


“I was consistently surprised by how fast I was going for my runs and how strong I felt while doing it. I was super excited to see what I could do at that point.”, said Magill. 


It turns out that she was right and as she was a lot better. Magill recalled her race at Umass Dartmouth where she ran under 18 minutes for the 5k. 


“I came around the corner and saw the clock said 17 minutes and 30 seconds and was just blown away. What just happened? I am about to break 18 minutes. My coach was not surprised at all,” said Magill. 


The cross-country team as a whole showed inconsistencies throughout the year but they knew that the Regional Championships was going to be the make-or-break race for them to make Nationals. Magill described how she was nervous for the race knowing that they needed to have a good race as a team to make it to Nationals. In the race where senior teammate Niamh Kenney ’22 and Magill placed eighth and ninth in the race, the Judges finished fourth overall and got a chance to compete in Nationals. Kenney and Magill were the only two runners on the current team that had ever gone to Nationals for cross country and Kenney was the only one that competed. This was important because running at Nationals was completely different. Most people ran in a large pack because no one was slow. Kenney finished in 32nd and Magill finished in 36th. 


“I actually didn’t know that top 40 runners were All-American… I didn’t think it was a possible goal for me. So I was not nervous at all going into that race… My only goal was to run a final cross-country race to be proud of. And then I came in 36th. Somebody said, you came in 36th, that’s All-American. And I was like: IT IS?” said Magill. 


Both Magill and Kenney ended up earning All-American honors and it was the first time since 2002 that Brandeis had two All-Americans in the same season. The Judges placed 20th overall, but definitely got a good laugh out of Magill not knowing she just barely earned All-American honors. 


Magill’s final cross-country season ended on a high, but it quickly turned south. A foot injury at the end of cross country led Magill to miss the first month of indoor cross country. 


“That was rough because I really like running so not running is a big bummer, especially coming off the high of making All-American in cross country,” said Magill. 


She was forced to not run and instead spend time on the stationary bike. Even though she went a month of not running, Magill was very surprised to see that she didn’t really lose anything. She seemed to be just as strong as before. Magill in her first race back won the unseeded 5k race just a month after a foot injury. One of her most memorable races though was in the University Athletic Association (UAA) Indoor Track and Field Championships. 


“I was seeded first in that race by a little bit, which made me really nervous because I was like: I have to win,” said Magill. 


In her freshman year, Magill finished with a time of 19:16 and finished third from last, in her sophomore year she finished in 10th with a time of 18:34, and in her last year she finished in first with a time of 17:09. The improvement since her freshman year was on another level.


Magill found the race overall as fun. Since she is the only 5k runner, she remembered seeing the whole team watching and cheering her on. Magill’s coach told her to run to win the race, so she ran in second place until the last 400 meters. Then she sprinted and blew by the person first. This strategy ended up working extremely well considering Magill finished 13 seconds ahead of second place. 


Then came the big one. After the distance medley group from Brandeis barely missed out on making it to Nationals, it left Magill as the only indoor track runner from Brandeis to go. The event took place in Winston Salem, NC and Magill arrived before her race to complete various pre-meet tasks. 


“Super cool. I was excited when I walked into the building and saw all of the NCAA Division III National Championship signs lining the track,” said Magill. 


All the excitement built up to one of the biggest moments of her career. Then, all of a sudden, the race started, and everyone was running a lot faster than she expected. 


“I was a little bit alarmed because you definitely don’t want to go out too fast in a 5k because if you get tired in the middle of the race, you have a lot of race left to go… I was a bit nervous when I saw we were going out considerably faster than my best time. But I reminded myself that I thought I could go faster at UAA,” said Magill. 


She knew that most of the runners hadn’t run at this pace before, so they were likely going to fall off at some point. Eventually this became true as she started passing runners who were beginning to have slow laps. Magill caught two people who were drifting off the lead pack and entered sixth place. With 1200 meters remaining, Magill ran hard to try to catch the person in fifth place, but she ultimately missed fifth place by 0.3 seconds. Her final time was 16:54.62 and was the first time that she broke the 17-minute mark. The great finish was enough for her to earn another All-American honor. 


When looking back on her career, she admits that her career took an interesting turn. 


“To be there, in the race as a senior, I never even had that as a goal. Because I wouldn’t have imagined that I could get that much better at running. In a way it’s strange because, I didn’t have a junior year season, I skipped over the part where I thought I might be able to qualify for Nationals. And I skipped the part where I qualify for Nationals and think it would be cool to be All-American, but I am not quite there. But went straight from sophomore year, not even having Nationals as a goal, to senior year coming in sixth,” said Magill. 


It may seem like Magill just got good out of nowhere, but in reality, she just consistently made improvements each year. The year off of competitions made it seem like she had this drastic improvement, but she described how even in her junior year she felt like she was getting better. Her running career is not over yet as the outdoor track season is just beginning; however, she has most certainly made her mark on Brandeis athletics with her competitiveness and determination to always get better regardless of the situation. Magill’s teammates had a lot to say about her impact on the team. 


“Erin is very speedy but perhaps an even cooler fact about her is that she has a frog bucket hat,” said junior Victoria Morrongiello ’23. 


In all seriousness, Magill demonstrated incredible improvement throughout her career. This led her to win multiple accolades and become one of the top long-distance runners in Division III. 


“If somebody had told me, freshman year, as I was coming in third to last in that race, that I was going to win it as a senior, I wouldn’t have believed them. I would have thought they were crazy,” said Magill. 


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