One more run left: Walker, Norton get chance to run at MU
A couple months ago Lauren Norton and Beth Walker each thought there college running days were over.
The two had each finished successful college careers and both thought that was the end of their running days.
All of that changed when the two decided to enroll in graduate school at Mansfield University.
Both had suffered injuries during their college careers and both realized they had some eligibility left.
"I found out two or three weeks ago," Troy's Norton said. "I knew I was going to take some grad classes here and I called the admissions office and found out I was going to be full time. After that I called coach. I thought I had track eligibility and that's when we found out that I might have eligibility in all three (cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field). It ended up working out pretty good."
Norton's eligibility comes after an injury-filled career at the University of Rochester. While she had a lot of success, she was an All-American a year ago, she also struggled with injuries during five years there, allowing her the sixth year of eligibility this season.
This year was granted for Norton after she got a year back that she lost due to a concussion.
"I feel pretty healthy right now," she said knocking on wood. "I am working on injury prevention as much as I can this year. "
Walker knew she had some cross country eligibility, she is trying to get the extra eligibility in outdoor track this year, but has no eligibility left for indoor track. However, Walker never intended to run this year.
"I wasn't planning on running," she said. "I am friends with Will Mullen (a Waverly grad on the men's team). I knew I was going to go to grad school here and he told coach 'guess who is going to school here.' After that I looked into it."
Coming off a career at Division I LaSalle the big size of this year's team wasn't new for Walker and she really likes everyone on the squad.
"They were all very welcoming," she said. "It helps out to have a good coach and a big team like I am used to and everyone has been very nice."
Mansfield already had a talented squad returning, which includes All-American Jess Scordino and her twin sister Kristy.
However, Waverly coach Mike Rohl was very excited to get Norton and Walker.
"It's every coaches' dream," he said. "To get a call at the beginning of the year from two experienced runners who want to join the team and one happens to be a Division III All-American and the other was an All-Conference runner in the A-10."
The one interesting thing for Norton this year will be the opportunity to run against her younger sister Casey.
With the age difference Lauren never ran against Casey in a race in high school. However, Casey is a freshman at Shippensburg. Both Mansfield and Shippensburg are ranked among the top 12 teams in the nation this year.
"I haven't run against her in any serious race," Lauren said. "It will be interesting to go against her. When I found out I was going to run, I told her 'Casey you are going to hate me.' It should be exciting. They are the returning champions, it will be good to go against them."
Norton knows it might be hard on her parents when she runs against Casey.
"We will have to make shirts, where one half says supporter of Mansfield University and the other side says supporters of Shippensburg University," she joked.
While Norton and Walker are both experienced runners who have had plenty of success in the past, they also know that at Mansfield they are newcomers.
"I didn't want to step on anybody's toes," Walker said. "There are some great leaders on this team, but everyone has been welcoming and they have made it easy coming in."
The one thing that Norton and Walker bring to the table is different experiences that they can share with the rest of the team.
"Probably the greatest thing we can bring to the team is experience," Norton said. "She came from Division I. I came from Division III. We all bring something different and it's good for everyone."
In high school both Norton and Walker were rivals, now the two are teammates.
"We have only known each other as opponents," Walker said. "It's really exciting to be teammates now."
And the two also are teammates with Susan Learn, who was a home school graduate from Troy, and Towanda's Destiny foster.
"It's really cool to be on a team with so many people from the area," Norton said.
For both Norton and Walker it's hard to say goodbye to their friends and teammates at Rochester and LaSalle.
However, they both know that it will be fun running one more year, and getting a chance to run close to home.
"The A-10 was amazing," Walker said. "It's hard to be away from my teammates. But, it's awesome to be close to home. It will be nice to have more family actually be able to come to see my races, rather than coming when I was in Philadelphia, but not able to make it when I was in Boston."
Norton never imagined that she would finish her college career just down the road from her hometown.
"I don't think I did every imagine it," she said.
The biggest thing for both Norton and Walker is that this year is one more chance to continue running.
"Oh my goodness I almost cried when I found out," Norton said. "I thought I might be able to run cross country and when I found out I get to run all three, it's great."
The two feel like this is like getting a bonus to their college careers.
"It feels like a second chance to me," Norton said.
"It's an added bonus, it's time we didn't think we would have."
One of the things that has helped both girls is having the other one on the team.
"It's good to have another graduate student who is going through the same stuff," Beth said. "I don't know what I would do without her on the team."
Both Walker and Norton have accomplished a lot during their careers and both are happy now that they get to put one last chapter into those careers.
"We get to put an ending," Norton said. "I think we have some stuff that was unfinished and we get to finish it."