by Andrew Call
One has to wonder—what did Wright State cross country coach Rick Williamson know about Alexandra Brown that everyone else missed?
Brown had been a good, but not exceptional, runner at Yellow Springs High School. She applied only to Wright State, knowing the possibilities of being able to run on the team there were slim. Her only other local option was Division III Wittenberg. Still, one day, Brown’s phone rang and Williamson was on the other end.
“I was so surprised, and so happy,” Brown said.
Williamson is certainly happy he made that call. Brown, now a college senior, has become Wright State’s best runner and the leader of a women’s team that will be among the favorites in this season’s Horizon League championships.
“You never know—sometimes kids surprise you,” Williamson said. “Her high school times didn’t really stand out in a (NCAA) Division I setting. But she had all the intangibles except for the fast times.”
Those intangibles, Williamson said, included a strong work ethic, solid academic performance, attention to detail, and courage.
“She’s pretty fearless,” Williamson said.
· Fearless enough to take on a biological sciences major with an eye toward medical school and, perhaps, a career in internal medicine.
· Fearless enough to bite her lip when a professor told her, “You’re not med school material,” and continue the application process.
· Fearless enough to, despite having broken 21 minutes in the 5K only once during her two varsity seasons at Yellow Springs, take on teammates and opponents who had been all-everything in high school
· Fearless enough to return this fall after a hip injury cost her nearly all of her indoor and outdoor track seasons as a junior.
· Fearless enough to volunteer to ride in the same pungent van with Wright State’s men’s team on the return trip from a meet in Wisconsin when the women’s team van proved too full.
“I try to not overthink things and keep a positive outlook,” Brown said. “That has helped me reach new levels.”
Those levels include team MVP honors and a team-best 5K time (19:14) last season, and the second-fastest 6K time in school history (21:48) at this fall’s Queen City Invitational, Wright State’s opening meet of this season. Brown finished fourth overall in the 13-team UW-Parkside Midwest Open.
Brown said the biggest factor in her competitive maturing process has been a more relaxed approach to race day.
“I used to look at a race and get so worked up and so overwhelmed that it would just kind of psych me out mentally,” Brown said. “I would just get so consumed in thinking about, ‘Wow, what pace is this? Where am I at?’ instead of just putting myself out there. That is the biggest thing I’ve changed.”
One thing Brown would like to change is her level of success at the Horizon League championships. She did not break the top 60 as a freshman, finished 15th as a sophomore, then fell to 17th as a junior. This year, she is aiming much higher.
“I think I’d like to win conference,” Brown said. “It sounds crazy to say that, because I have never even placed all-conference, but I think I can.”
The Horizon League meet will be October 29 at Kenosha, Wisconsin. Wright State’s women’s team, which returns nine of its top 11 runners from last year, will be among the favorites to compete with defending champion Oakland for the title.
Williamson declined to take credit for Brown’s collegiate success, but did his best to help explain it.
“Maybe people haven’t truly believed in her, that she could be super successful in running or her studies,” Williamson said. “I think that has driven her to prove it is more about the effort and the process than the natural gifts.
“Some girls want to take risks, but they are more apprehensive. Alex’s attitude is more like, ‘Hey, this is great.’ She is not afraid to put herself out there.”