GREENSBORO -- Kristin Rush feels like herself again. The same self that takes second place at the MEAC Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships as a freshman in 2009. Two years of shin splints prevents her from improving upon her freshman outing by claiming the individual MEAC title.
But on Thursday afternoon at North Carolina A&T's Irwin Belk Track, she looks like a woman who is calm, confident and ready to reclaim her position at the top of the MEAC results sheet. As beads of sweat roll off her face, the A&T senior runner stretches every muscle to prepare for the MEAC Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships in Princess Anne, Md., Saturday, October 27.
After a 15th place and 23rd place finish as a sophomore and junior, Rush is completely healthy as she prepares to exceed her own personal best of 18:34 in her final cross country meet.
"I don't have any worries, I feel no pressure, I'm just ready to go out and perform how I've been practicing. My personal goal is to place in the top three", Rush said.
Rush is coming off a record-breaking performance at the Christopher Newport Invitational. She ran the 6k event in a school record time 23:54.70 to finish 11th. Her Christopher Newport performance is indicative of how well her senior season has progressed.
"I feel pretty good about it," said Rush, who has a 3.2 grade point average and plans to attend graduate school after graduation. "I think competition had a lot to do with it. The MEAC did get a lot stronger in distance and middle distance. But health did play a role. This year I'm completely healthy. Nothing is wrong, so I'm ready to go."
Rush said having cross country coach Joel Pearson on staff should also play a role this weekend. Pearson has extensive experience as a distance coach and therefore he takes the runners through the proper techniques to prepare for races. Those techniques helped Rush finish fourth at the 5k Great American Cross Country Festival (HBCU Division) in 19:23. A week later she ran the 5k Hagan Stone Invitational in 20:50.
"Confidence can make or break you," said Duane Ross, A&T's director of track and field programs. "Kristin is running with all the confidence in the world right now. She is coming off of breaking that record, so you can see it how she conducts herself - she's confident. She's ready to compete."
Rush's Great American Cross Country time is the sixth best in the conference this season. Freshman and teammate Janay Ferrell has the 15th best time in the conference, 19:47.40 at the Great American Cross Country Festival. The goal for the A&T women is to finish fourth or better, which will be one of their best finishes in school history.
The men are led by sophomores Saeed Jones and Christian Harrison. Jones has the 15th best time in the conference. He ran a 26:36.85 at Hagan Stone Invitational.
"We need to go and compete," said Ross. "We know Norfolk State and Hampton are the top competition on both sides. We are not quite where they are as a program because we're just getting started. But we need to make sure no one else gets ahead of us to push us back even further."