by Alan Hieber
The journey for Wright State cross country runner Hailey Brumfield has been defined by relentless passion for individual and team success with each step taken and drop of sweat.
The WSU sophomore attended and ran cross country for Tippecanoe High School. She visited several colleges before choosing Wright State for the strong bond of her future teammates and the coaching of Rick Williamson.
Brumfield quickly became a pulse of the Raiders during her freshman campaign by consistently being a top two runner for WSU, including a 9th place overall finish at the Horizon League championship meet.
This season has been a mirror image for Brumfield in terms of her position on the team, but at an even faster pace that includes a 6K personal best of 22:18.3.
The brightest moment for Brumfield probably came when she was runner-up in a field of 366 at the Jenna Strong Fall Classic in Wilmington two weeks ago with a personal best time of 17:53 in the 5K. This also cements her name in the Raider record books as the second fastest time run for WSU at the distance.
After starting cross country in eighth grade and having her career in high school derailed for two seasons by stress fracture injuries, Brumfield is still relatively new to the sport.
“It’s a lot different. I’m still trying to process the whole thing, especially after the Jenna Strong meet,” Brumfield said. “Going into it I wanted to be in the top group, but I didn’t know exactly what I could do.”
Following her breakout race at Wilmington, Brumfield was awarded Horizon League Runner of the Week.
“I didn’t even know until my coach (Williamson) texted me about it,” Brumfield said. “It’s really humbling to see everything pay off. I’m happy that I got it and that my teammates are also doing well.”
In addition to Brumfield’s efforts, the Raider women were victorious as a team at the Jenna Strong race. She says this result has boosted the overall confidence of her team going into this Saturday’s Horizon League meet.
“Everyone now realizes how good our team is and how much we’ve improved,” Brumfield. “I think that is getting them excited for the conference meet rather than being timid and scared going up against all of the Horizon League teams.”
Brumfield has proven her perseverance to push herself to faster times on the cross country terrain. This is what stands out in Williamson’s mind.
“She (Brumfield) just has a dogged determination to see how good she can be,” Williamson said. “My job is to simply hold her back.”
Williamson’s patience as a coach has spurred on her development as a collegiate runner, according to Brumfield.
“He (Williamson) knows when to push you and when to back off. I think that is really important, especially in distance running,” Brumfield said. “In your first few years it is a transition. You’re running longer and the workouts are harder.”
Brumfield’s joy and passion for her sport carries over to her compassion toward her teammates and fellow competitors that Williamson says is unlike anything he has seen from one of his runners. This is demonstrated by her selfless desire to see her team succeed and a positive attitude that Brumfield’s teammate Alex Brown has taken notice of from training with her.
What happened after the 3200m race at a district track meet during Brumfield’s senior season in high school might be the best example of her selflessness.
“After she won the 3200 meters, she (Brumfield) took water to each of her competitors after each of them crossed the line,” Williamson said. “It was a terrific show of kindness and respect.”
Off the course, Brumfield studies sports science and has made an impact with Athletes in Action (AIA), which is an organization that promotes faith through sports. She is part of the student-athlete leadership team that organizes AIA functions such as bible studies and mission trips.
“I started being involved with Athletes In Action last year and loved it from the start,” Brumfield said. “Our motto is God, life and sport. I go by that with running.”
Brumfield has taken six mission trips during her time with AIA, which has included building a porch and working with Boys and Girls Clubs. She hopes to take her first mission trip outside the U.S. this summer in Puerto Rico.
“The Puerto Rico mission trip is learning how to share your testimony with other people,” Brumfield said. “I think it will be a new experience, but I’m really excited about it.”
Moving forward Brumfield envisions herself qualifying for the NCAA championship meet and maybe bringing some of her teammates along with her.
With the great heights Brumfield has already reached, there are plenty of possibilities as she takes each graceful step.
“I just know that she (Brumfield) will continue to race aggressively and push her limits,” Williamson said. “There's no telling what she may accomplish.”