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Sophomore year, Zoë Matherne broke her first Holy Cross track and field record, the outdoor 1500m, passing Jackie McNiff, ‘83, in the record books.
“Ever since then I’ve been thirsty for more,” Matherne said.
Since that first record sophomore year, Matherne, a senior on the track and field and cross country teams, has gone on to break several more records, and currently holds five individual school records: outdoor 1500m, indoor and outdoor 800m, indoor 1000m, and the indoor mile, and was part of the record-holding indoor 4x800m relay team as well. With that kind of resume, it’s no surprise that Matherne is the Holy Cross Varsity Club’s 2017-18 Crusader of the Year
In addition to her cadre of records, Matherne has been all-Patriot League in track all four years at Holy Cross and All-Patriot League in cross country once. She’s been all-ECAC in track and cross country and all-New England in track as well. In 2017 alone, Matherne qualified for the NCAA finals in the outdoor 800m, won the New England Indoor Championship in the 1,000-meter run and Patriot League Outdoor Championship in the 800-meter run. Few athletes on Mount St. James are as decorated as Matherne is.
Distance running is a unique college sport in the NCAA in that there’s year-round competition. Between cross country, the indoor track and field season, and outdoor track and field season, Matherne and her teammates have only two weeks off over the course of the school year.
“We literally get two weeks off a year, and they’re not really off. I pretty much work out almost every day of the year with a few days off sporadically,” Matherne said. “It really demands that you love the sport because you wouldn’t be competitive for eight months out of the year and you wouldn’t work out almost every single day if you didn’t really love the sport.”
Matherne also credits her teammates for helping inspire her day in and day out.
“They’re like my second family,” Matherne said. “It helps to have so many inspiring teammates show up to practice everyday. It makes going to practice more of a delight and less like a chore.”
Her teammates are aware of the work Matherne puts in each and every day.
“I can’t think of anyone else more deserving of that award,” said senior sprinter Stefanie McArdle. “She’s probably the most hardworking and dedicated person that I know and really puts her entire heart and soul into the sport and the results have definitely paid off.”
Impressively, Matherne has also maintained a strong record of academic excellence and volunteer work, while also serving as the vice president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. She has a 3.60 gpa as a history major and volunteers at Abby’s House while tutoring at Community Based Learning at Worcester Public Schools. Matherne says that for her athletics and academics have a symbiotic relationship, making her a better athlete and student.
“I think if you do it right, school and athletics feed off each other. Being a better athlete has made me a better student.” Matherne said. “I can approach my schoolwork with a new energy after a long day of practice. You exhaust your mind and then you go exhaust your body, then you go exhaust your mind again.”
Matherne used a Women and Gender Studies in Sports class she took junior year as an example.
“I could approach that type of history and learn how women actually got to do sports with a different lens than what just a historian would. By virtue of being an athlete that made my work in that field so much richer and stronger,” Matherne said. “It’s the same thing with being an athlete and knowing how far women have come in sports. It has made me a better runner to know that women 50 years ago didn’t get to run the 800, the 1500, the marathon. Knowing that it makes me approach the sport with a different energy than I would if I didn’t know anything about the history.”
As the holder of five school records, Matherne looks at them as a way of setting a benchmark for those who come after her. She wants to be an inspiration to those trying to break her records, even if they don’t meet her and know who they are, just as those whose records she broke—such as McNiff—were to her. Her favorite Holy Cross track memory comes from freshman year at the Patriot League championship. On a 4×800 relay team with Caroline Carley ‘16, a two time Patriot League champion in the 1000, Cassie Gildea ‘16, who was a Patriot League champion in the 800 and Abby Mitchell ‘15, who was the Holy Cross school record holder in the steeplechase. Mitchell didn’t know she was running the race until the day of the meet, but ran a personal record as the lead leg of the relay, and the team held the lead for the rest of the race, coming in first with a time of 8.52.33.
Matherne said. “We ran away with the Patriot League title from everyone else, and just to have so many talented women on one team, to be a freshman and have them support me and believe in me, was incredible.”
After college, Matherne will go to Dickinson Law School in Pennsylvania, and hopes to continue running competitively if her schedule permits, citing runners such as Sarah Sellers, the Arizona nurse who finished second in this year’s Boston Marathon as inspirations.
“I’d like to stay competitive, and I’ll just have to see how feasible it is with my schedule,” Matherne said. “I’m inspired constantly by women and men in the track and field world who just have these crazy schedules.”
First though, Matherne still has a few more meets as a Crusader, and therefore, more records to break.
“I’m not done yet, hopefully I’ll get a few more records,” she said.
photo by Haley Leishman