Freshman runner Dunlap finds success at collegiate level

Freshman Maddie Dunlap runs during a cross country meet on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.

Ian Kreider

Freshman Maddie Dunlap joined the Kent State cross country team this fall after a stellar high school career. Dunlap finished her career as the 2016 Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II 1600-meter champion, and the second runner ever to receive Northeastern Buckeye Conference cross-country MVP honors over all four years of high school.

Her résumé has only grown since she joined the Flashes this fall.

Dunlap immediately made connections on the team, as juniors Sarah Pack and Emily Henry let her stay at their house during running camp before Dunlap could move into the dorms, and immediately impressed both with her attitude. 

“She caught onto the team atmosphere quickly and handled the stress of a workout extremely well,” Pack said. “She was very mature, especially for an incoming freshman, and she acted as a role model for others on the team.”

Dunlap’s running career has humble origins.

“I actually started running in seventh grade to get in shape for basketball,” she said.

That changed quickly.

Dunlap said running stuck because she enjoys the stress-relieving component and the fact that the running is both a team and individual sport.  

Dunlap had an impressive start to her high school career which saw her break the 19-minute barrier and make the Division II cross-country state meet in her freshman season. She would run at the state meet all four years in both cross-country and track. She continued to improve in the 5k and dropped her time to 18:33, which got her eighth place at the state meet her senior year.

Her first collegiate race was at the Tommy Evans Invitational in Norton, Ohio. Dunlap’s debut featured multiple weather delays, but according to Henry, that didn’t deter the team.

“The team was able to stay really positive throughout the delays and now we know how to handle that situation if it were to occur at the MAC championship meet,” Henry said.

Dunlap’s performance proved Henry’s statements to be accurate.

She ran 18:09, 24 seconds faster than her best time in high school on a day when the weather was not ideal.

The team ran their first 6k of the season last weekend at the Redhawk Rumble in Oxford, Ohio. For many on the team, it was their first 6k race ever.

Maddie Dunlap was one of them.

“I don’t have many goals for the 6k, yet Coach Ty has geared our training towards the 6k,” Dunlap said before the race. “So I know physically I am prepared, but I was just unsure of what to expect.”

Her training paid off, as she took third with a time of 22:28 (6:01 per mile).

Despite her accomplishments in high school, Dunlap says that running in college was something she didn’t think about often.

“I never really got to the point where I realized that I was good enough to be on a Division I team because I always ran Division II in high school,” Dunlap said. “There were always people who were better than me. I never really expected to get offers from Division I schools, but when I did, I realized that I may not be the best, but I can come on to a team and help out.” 

She eventually choose Kent State after receiving offers from Akron and Youngstown State.

“The team felt very welcoming,” Dunlap said.”They made me feel like I belonged here. I plan on majoring in nursing, and Kent has a great nursing program. All of those aspects together made me choose Kent.”

Dunlap and the Flashes will continue their season this Friday at the All-Ohio Championship meet in Cedarville, Ohio.

Ian Kreider is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].