Hi! My name is Rachael Jones ’20, and I’m a senior business intelligence and data analytics major at Clarkson University. I am a captain of the women’s NCAA Division III cross-country team. I ran all through high school and was really excited to continue racing in college, but I was also a little worried about how I would balance cross-country with my coursework. Looking back at the past four years at Clarkson, the cross-country team has been a huge part of my life on campus, and being on the team has actually helped my grades.
For starters, my coaches and teammates emphasized the fact that we were students first. They have always been really flexible and helpful when it comes to balancing school and cross-country. I was lucky and able to coordinate my schedule so that I never had classes scheduled during practice, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays, morning practices were held for students that had to miss the 4 p.m. practices. Whenever I had evening exams, I would email Coach and tell him I wouldn’t be able to make it to practice. I would run earlier in the day so that I’d have time to prepare for my exam.
Coming in my first year, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my new team and my college courses. I got to campus about a week before classes started for cross-country pre-season. This gave me a chance to meet the team and explore campus before it was busy with the rest of the student body. Knowing the people on the team and having a set practice schedule made transitioning to college seem way less overwhelming. It gave me a chance to get used to everything without just being thrown in all at once.
One of the nice things about being on the team is that it gives you a great chance to get to know people in all the different grades and majors, instead of just the fellow first-year students in your classes or living on your floor. The people that had already been at school a few semesters helped me study for classes they had taken and pick out which electives I should take. My team is like my family on campus!
When it came to actually fitting everything in between classes, homework and practice, things went a lot more smoothly than I expected. I have practice every afternoon around 4 p.m. Having that set schedule helps me to make sure I get as much work done before practice as possible. After practice, most of the team goes to RoBro (Ross-Brooks dining hall) for dinner together, and that gives me a chance to catch up and also coordinate studying and homework sessions with people who are taking the same courses as me.
Although I quickly learned that some courses were going to require a lot more time outside of class than others, I’ve always had time to get everything done. On top of cross-country, people still fit in tons of other fun activities on and off campus, like carving pumpkins, hiking and even participating in the annual family weekend dance competition, which the cross-country teams enter every year!
Most weekends, our team travels for races and is gone almost all day on Saturdays. This takes a lot of time away from homework, but it works well for me. It not only gives me a chance to get off campus and take a break from school, but it also helps me to be more focused on Sunday to make sure I get everything done for the next week of classes. Some people do homework on the bus rides, but I’m not good at focusing on the bus. I prefer to just set aside Sunday as a homework day. Sometimes during busier weeks, or when midterms and finals are coming up, we set up times or reserve rooms for study sessions so that we can help each other prepare for exams.
Overall, being on the cross-country team has given me more structure to my everyday life at school. It has allowed me to meet some of my best friends and stay competitive and active in college — and never at the expense of my grades or sleep. I get to bed by 10 p.m. most nights during the season. My GPA tends to be higher during cross-country season, as I am more disciplined and have better time management. I love my team, and if you’re coming to Clarkson and aren’t sure if you want to play a sport in college, I highly recommend you give it a try!