Mooney’s ca­reer off and run­ning

Fresh­man al­ready holds two Coast Guard records

The Day - - SPORTS - By GAVIN KEEFE Day Sports Writer

New Lon­don — Like your typ­i­cal Coast Guard Academy fresh­man, Kait­lyn Mooney has a ton on her mind.

Ad­just­ing to the whole mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence can be over­whelm­ing at times for any new­comer.

Then there's the de­mand­ing aca­demic work­load.

So think­ing about cross coun­try — out­side of her reg­u­lar work­outs and week­end races — isn't high on her list of pri­or­i­ties.

"Here, it's just hard," Mooney said. "Some­times you have to for­get about cross coun­try and re­mem­ber all your other obli­ga­tions, mil­i­tary and aca­demic." ... It's hard to fo­cus on one thing."

Mooney is giv­ing op­pos­ing Di­vi­sion III teams some­thing to think about.

She's al­ready set two pro­gram records, earned New Eng­land Women's and Men's Ath­letic Con­fer­ence runner of the week hon­ors three times and been named a United States Track & Field and Cross Coun­try Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion Di­vi­sion III na­tional runner of the week.

In her very first col­le­giate race, the Trin­ity In­vi­ta­tional at Wick­ham Park in Manch­ester on Sept. 9, Mooney fin­ished with a win­ning time of 19 min­utes, 1.5 sec­onds, and beat the run­nerup by al­most 46 sec­onds while help­ing the Bears take sec­ond place over­all.

All she did in CGA's next two meets was break the pro­gram record for six-kilo­me­ters and five-kilo­me­ters, post­ing times of 22:02 and 17:07.5, re­spec­tively. The pre­vi­ous 5K record dated back to 1995 when All-Amer­i­can Tammy Wil­cox ran a 17:48.

The only runner to beat Mooney in the 6K race at the Wil­liams Col­lege Pur­ple Val­ley Classic in Wil­liamstown, Mass., on Sept 23, was Ithaca Col­lege's Taryn Cor­dani, a two-time All-Amer­i­can.

Mooney, one of New Jer­sey's top 3,200-me­ter run­ners while at South­ern Re­gional High School in Mana­hawkin, says at­tend­ing Marion Mil­i­tary In­sti­tute in Alabama helped ease her tran­si­tion to Coast Guard Academy life.

"She's def­i­nitely ex­ceeded some ex­pec­ta­tions on her abil­ity to adapt to the pro­gram," coach Ethan Brown said. "That's one of our main goals with all the fresh­men. We love to see PRs and love to see great per­for­mances, but we want them to come into the pro­gram and not ad­just to only the run­ning and the train­ing, but ad­just to the life­style here. That's a big thing."

Her record-set­ting ac­com­plish­ments have caught her by sur­prise.

Mooney fig­ured she was at a dis­ad­van­tage en­ter­ing her first sea­son be­cause her sum­mer train­ing was lim­ited due to par­tic­i­pat­ing in eight weeks of Swab Sum­mer on cam­pus.

Mean­while, her fu­ture com­peti­tors were busy pil­ing up the train­ing miles.

"Be­cause we had Swab Sum­mer and I didn't have good base train­ing, I had no ex­pec­ta­tions," Mooney said. "Be­fore the sea­son, I was talk­ing to my par­ents and said I don't want to race cross coun­try be­cause I didn't think I'd do well with­out base train­ing. "But it's been pretty good so far." Mooney takes her stand­out per­for­mances in stride. She lets her­self en­joy her re­sults only for a short time. There's al­ways room for im­prove­ment, she says.

"She's so non­cha­lant," Brown said. "She gets along so well with the team be­cause she's so hum­ble. They re­ally are feed­ing off of her as well and the team feeds off of each other. It's kind of cool to see that. "It's still new to her." Brown is still learn­ing about Mooney's strengths and weak­nesses. He is hav­ing Mooney train with some mem­bers of the men's cross coun­try team to push her pace.

It didn't take long for Brown to find out that Mooney is a fierce com­peti­tor, a trait that was de­vel­oped in part from grow­ing up with three broth­ers.

Her pref­er­ence on race day is to start fast and stay in con­tact with lead run­ners.

"Her high school coach de­scribed her as a war­rior," Brown said. "I feel like she's a com­pet­i­tive per­son. When it gets down to the wire, she's go­ing to fight for it."

While it's still early in Mooney's CGA run­ning ca­reer, it's hard not to think about her po­ten­tial.

The big­gest meets of the sea­son are still ahead. Af­ter com­pet­ing in the Con­necti­cut Col­lege In­vi­ta­tional on Satur­day in Hark­ness State Park in Water­ford, Coast Guard has a twoweek break be­fore the NEWMAC Cham­pi­onships in Bos­ton, Mass.

Then there's the NCAA Di­vi­sion III New Eng­land Cham­pi­onships on Nov. 11.

"Based on the times she's run, she can go pretty far in the sea­son," Brown said. "The thing we're try­ing to em­pha­sis is the ex­pe­ri­ence fac­tor at the col­lege level. With only hav­ing three races and the fourth this week­end be­fore we re­ally get to the big­ger level, that's what we're try­ing to fo­cus on . ... It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how she'll re­spond when she is sideby-side with peo­ple and not nec­es­sar­ily lead­ing the race." That's for Brown to think about. Mooney will re­main fo­cused on the daily chal­lenges at Coast Guard. Dream­ing about qual­i­fy­ing for the NCAA Cham­pi­onships some­day can wait.

"That would be cool; I'd like that," Mooney said. "I'm sure if I was at a nor­mal col­lege, yeah, I'd be talk­ing about that. But, here, you just don't have time. You go to prac­tice, you do what you do and you leave and you go eat and you do your home­work." g.keefe@the­day.com

PHOTO COURTESY OF CGA ATH­LET­ICS

Coast Guard Academy fresh­man Kait­lyn Mooney (49), whose col­lege ca­reer is off to a record-break­ing start, com­petes in the Wil­liams Col­lege Pur­ple Val­ley Classic on Sept. 23 in Wil­liamstown, Mass.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CGA ATH­LET­ICS

Coast Guard fresh­man Kait­lyn Mooney pushes her­self on the hills dur­ing the Wil­liams Col­lege Pur­ple Val­ley Classic on Sept. 23 in Wil­liamstown, Mass. Mooney’s ca­reer is off to a record-break­ing start, de­spite the rig­ors of settling into the Academy’s de­mand­ing sched­ule.

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