“Take it in stride, focus on the process, stay positive and give it your all” - By Autumn Albrecht
Imagine you are 8-years-old. You are about to begin 3rd grade at a new school where you do not know anyone. You spent your summer going to the high school track with your dad, chasing him around in circles and desperately trying to beat him. A fire burns deep within you; a desire to compete, and to be honest, win. This was the summer that would fuel 15 years of competition affiliated with and without school. It was the summer that introduced you to a sport that very few truly love. It was the summer that defined me and continues to inspire me each day I step out the door to run.
My name is Autumn Albrecht and I grew up in a small town outside of Rochester, New York called Brockport. The predominant sports in our town were soccer and football making cross country and track the fall back sport for those who did not make a team. Yes, I did spend my summers running in circles with my dad. I can still remember the day I completed a whole mile and how astonished he was that I was able to do it without stopping. I grew up playing soccer and doing dance. I loved them but did both because all my friends did. As I got older, I realized that my true passion was running cross country and track. I quit school soccer and dance soon after that.
In 8th grade, I was asked to move up to varsity. I was nervous because I was so young but determined to prove myself. Throughout high school my perseverance and hard work began to pay off. I was winning races, and not just by a little bit. My times proved my abilities and I was named a standout in just 9th grade. Each year of high school came with more success. Consistent appearances at state and national meets made it so that I went from an unknown 8th grader, to a well-known high school athlete. Beginning my junior year, I began to receive emails, letters, and phone calls from college coaches. This was an incredibly stressful experience for me, however, with the support of many others I made a decision to attend the University of Vermont as a student athlete.
Running in college was a whirlwind of experiences; both positive and negative. I battled many injuries making it difficult to have any sort of consistent training. Injuries ranging from stress fractures to labrum tears requiring surgery left me frequently in the training room and off the course or track. There were a few glimmers of success scattered throughout my career. My sophomore year I was the top finisher for UVM at our conference meet in cross country earning all-conference honors. Later that year I set personal records in the mile, 3k, 5k, and 10k placing me on all of the leader boards at UVM. I concluded that year as the cross-country MVP. Due to the frequency of my injuries, I accumulated multiple red-shirt seasons. At the conclusion of my senior year, I chose to remain at UVM for graduate school to finish out my eligibility. This was another tough year of injuries, but a decision I would never change. I was honored to be named captain of my cross-country team multiple years as well as captain of the track and field team my 5th year. My time at UVM was not as expected, however, that is how life works. Through all of the tough times came relationships and lessons that will last a lifetime.
Now, just shy of a year later, I have had a lot of time to think about running as I redefine it for myself. I have realized that much of my love and dedication for this sport has come not just from everything I have experienced, but also from the coaches that have helped me along the way. Coaching the WHOLE athlete is something that I have experienced at such a young age making my relationship with this sport incredibly healthy. In high school, I remember my coaches putting great emphasis on self-care and academic work. They understood that there was so much more to us than just running. In college, my coach always emphasized the importance of academics and self-care, but most importantly he consistently addressed the mental side of running. As a young athlete, you do not realize how much of running is mental. Without his guidance, I would not have been able to remain motivated while battling multiple injuries.
Acknowledging my life outside of running and my mental well-being helped me to find my identity as a person. For so long, running and I were the same thing. While at college, that changed as I was encouraged to seek out other opportunities to find activities I enjoy or to meet new people. I joined the pottery coop. I met new people, and I found an art that I love. For the first time in a long time, I realized that there was more to me than running. The support I received for this was phenomenal. Both Brianna Welch (our assistant coach at the time) and our Head Coach, truly saw me beyond just my running abilities and set me up for success in life.
The realization that I came to in college, with the help of my coaches, has continued to help me now as I redefine myself as a runner. I now have a new appreciation for the sport while recognizing that it does not define me. What defines me? The list is endless. I am a runner, but I am also a teacher, a fiancé, a hedgehog and dog owner, a daughter, a sister, a hiker, a lover of fall, and so much more.
The greatest reward that I could ever ask for has been to apply all I have learned from my coaches over the years to my own coaching experiences. For the past few summers I have had the opportunity to coach the youth Burlington Parks and Recreation Track Team. Additionally, I am wrapping up my first season of middle school cross country as head coach of the team that is affiliated with my school. These experiences have provided me with the chance to implement the same practices my coaches once did with me. Showing each athlete that there is so much more to them beyond their athletic abilities has created authentic, trusting relationships. I encourage my athletes to explore interests beyond their sports. I find myself frequently checking in on their mental well-being. Athletes respond incredibly well to this and their time spent at practice is much more meaningful. They are excited to share who they are and what they love to do! My goal is for each athlete to feel full and appreciated for who they are when they step off the track, field, or course.
“Take it in stride, focus on the process, stay positive and give it your all” is a moto I created while running, but has now been applied to so many aspects of my life. I had never realized how much I referred to that moto until Brianna mentioned it during her time coaching me. I think that it matches the purpose of this post quite well. Thinking about your WHOLE self, not just yourself as an athlete, will come with many bumps in the road. Taking it in stride while focusing on goals and the process will increase motivation. Staying positive and addressing your mental well-being sets you up for giving it your all. Following this moto has helped me address all aspects of my life including relationships, my education, and much more. That is what coaching the WHOLE athlete should do for you. Thank you to all of my coaches who provided me with the foundation to live my life according to this moto and for recognizing me as much
more than just a runner.
Autumn Albrecht is a former collegiate athlete living in Burlington, Vermont. She lives with her fiancé, Nick, and is a teacher in St. Albans, Vermont. Additionally, she coaches the school’s cross-country team. Although she is no longer competing at the collegiate level, Autumn continues to train and has big goals for the marathon. She enjoys baking, cooking, hiking, and spending time outside. She is finishing up her masters at the University of Vermont in curriculum and instruction with a focus on literacy.
While in high school, Autumn broke 14 school records including relays. She became the first athlete to receive 14 varsity letters. During her time at the University of Vermont, Autumn studied elementary education with a minor in special education. She competed in varsity cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field for 5 years. During that time, she set personal records in the 1500 (4:39), 1 mile (5:06), 3k (9:58), 5k (17:01), and 10k (35:28). These times placed her on the top-10 lists for UVM in the 3k, 5k, and 10k. She finished with all-conference honors in cross country, indoor, and outdoor track (2017) as well as all-ECAC honors (2017). Autumn was named captain of the UVM cross country team twice (2018 & 2019) as well as captain of the track and field teams (2019 – 2020). At the 2018 UVM Rally Awards, Autumn was honored by being named the cross-country MVP of the year. Concluding her final year at UVM, Autumn received the Russell O. Sunderland Memorial Trophy honoring an athlete who has persevered through extreme circumstances and contributed to their athletic team.