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The Carletonian

Kaegi Reflects on a Triumphant Cross Country Season

<ry is an update to a Nov. 11, 2017 profile.


Emily Kaegi ’18 from Williamstown, MA is a senior Math/Stats major and the captain for both the Carleton Women’s Cross Country team and the Carleton Women’s Track and Field team. Kaegi has excelled in both cross country and track, picking up numerous MIAC athlete of the week awards. She is a three time MIAC All-Conference runner, a two-time Central All-Region runner, a four-time national qualifier with her team in cross country, as well as a two-time All-MIAC Honorable Mention in track and field.

This season, the team has already accomplished Kaegi’s three goals in cross country: win conference, place top three individually, and win regionals. “For track, I want to stay healthy and to go under 18 minutes in the 5k,” Kaegi stated. “As for non-performance goals, one big goal I had for the team was to acclimate a large group of freshmen into our team culture. I want to leave the team a better place than I found it and help build team leaders for the coming years, which is hard when it was already great coming in.”

“There are so many moments that stand out to me throughout these years, and most of them are small unplanned great moments you have with teammates,” Kaegi recounted. “The most vivid one right now is obviously winning the MIAC. I had no clue how the team was doing during the race, so as soon as I crossed the finish line, I turned around to cheer for everyone else coming in. I was so pumped to see Amanda Mosborg (’21) right there and then just watch all our top seven come in before most teams first runners came in. I just started screaming ‘YES YES YES’ as they came across the line. A couple of minutes later, [our coach] Donna final found us. I was waiting to see what she’d say and she just opened her mouth and screamed for joy. That was an amazing moment. Not only to win conference again, but to have the lowest score in history and sweep both the men’s and women’s teams is something I’ll remember forever.”

The best part of running on the Cross Country and Track teams are the people on the team. “You bring together a collection of incredibly strong, caring, driven women and spending time together is empowering and fun,” explained Kaegi. “I’ve met people I probably [wouldn’t] have met without the team and learned a lot about myself and others. Everyone is out there for each other. There’s no way any of us could be as motivated to wake up at six AM every fall morning if we didn’t have 30 of our best friends waiting to run with us.”

Last year, after the graduation of Ruth Steinke ’16, Kaegi lead the team each race at the head of the pack for Carleton. This year, she was joined by Meg Mathison ’20, competing in her first cross country season. “Having Meg to train with this season has been incredible,” proclaimed Kaegi. “We push each other during practice and meets, and I think it’s made us both a lot faster. My finish has gotten way faster, and I think I’ve pushed myself harder in workouts and races because I have someone to go with. We joke that we share the mental energy in races because we rely on each other to set the pace and push. We have each other to check in with. I think it’s also pretty intimidating to other teams when they see us running so strong together. Meg and I are also scarily similar when it comes to personality traits. That probably contributes to us being so compatible as training partners.”

For Kaegi, this is her ninth year of competing in Cross Country and track, as she started In 7th grade on her high school team. Running has been a large part in Kaegi’s life for the past 9 years. “It’s given me a family of teammates that spans so many years. It’s given me mentors and coaches that I still keep in touch with and am thankful for every day for helping me to be a better person,” Kaegi reflected. “Running isn’t just about how well you perform during your two hour practice or your race. It’s about how you hold yourself all day and how you can keep your mind strong, so the people that have helped me be a better runner are the people that have helped me be a better person.”

“It’s taught me how to be more in touch with my body and take care of it,” continued Kaegi. “It’s allowed me to really get to know myself when I’m out in the middle of a 10 mile run alone with no one to talk to or convince myself to do that last hill repeat even though my legs are burning. It’s allowed me to see how far I can push myself. It’s taught me to set goals and work to achieve them. It’s taught me about the strength in friendships. It’s taught me how important a team is. The women I’ve run with over the last 9 years have been my closest friends and they mean so much to me that I can’t begin to describe it. The teams really have been families to me.”

During Kaegi’s last season, Carleton will be hosting not only the Regional Cross Country Meet, but also the MIAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships. When asked about hosting these two events, Kaegi replied, “I love our home course for XC, and I think it’s one of the best courses that we run on all season. Everyone at Carleton that helps run the meet and maintain the course puts in a tremendous amount of time and it really shows. I’m very thankful that I get to run my second to last cross country race at home.”

This year, the Carleton Women’s Cross Country team has been ranked consistently in the top ten in the nation. When asked about how this feels and if this puts more pressure on the team to perform, Kaegi replied, “I am amazed but not surprised every day that we are ranked top ten in the nation. The amount of talent but mostly the amount of hard work that the women put in every day is why I’m not surprised. The team is extremely dedicated this year, and I’m glad that coaches around the country can see that. I haven’t really felt that added pressure. Every race we go out there and do our thing and as long as we are putting out our best effort, than that’s all we can ask for. With that mindset, we’ve been able to accomplish incredible feats this season. That’s how I want it to continue to be. We are prepared, we know how to race, and all we have to do is let our training take hold and engage in the races.”

The women’s cross country team captured the Central Region title this year with a dominating performance, scoring 48 points, including a 1-2 finish by Mathison and Kaegi, placed all scoring runners in the top 19, had six All-Region runners (Top 35) and earned an automatic bid to nationals. Ranked ninth in the nation prior to nationals, the team placed fifth, the highest program finish in history.

“I believed the team was capable of finishing in the top seven, but couldn’t really know for certain since we hadn’t raced any of the other teams around us,” said Kaegi. “Rankings for the most part don’t mean anything if there hasn’t been head to head competition in the past. I think many schools, especially those on the east coast, believed our ranking was inflated and vocalized that to many of the Central Region’s coaches. Before the race, every MIAC coach came up to our team and told us to ‘show them how good you are,’ and this was super motivating because as a team we wanted to show that we weren’t performing well because of a weak region, but because we actually are a top-caliber team.”

“When Laura told us we finished 5th, I was elated,” exclaimed Kaegi. “I’m still so shocked because it’s crazy to think that our team is the fifth fastest in the country compared to all the Division III schools. Fifth!!! It made it even more special to beat teams like Williams who had won the National Championship a couple years ago along with a handful of other teams that had been runner-up or placed in the top three in the past. What we accomplished is still shocking. Also, the fact that the guys finished tenth when ranked far below that and spent most of the season unranked was a huge boost going into the race. The guys really set us up well the entire postseason by running phenomenally right before us so their results was one of the last things we talked about before the gun went off.”

Each season, more memories are created, but some moments are more special than others. But to Kaegi, each year and the trip to nationals is special and memorable in their own way. “I think this year we had the best mindset going into nationals. We were ready to compete and not just enjoying the fact that we had made it to Nationals,” explained Kaegi. “The weather was what you could describe as horrible. We went off the start with a 40 mph headwind (I’m not exaggerating) and it rained/sleeted the entire race. Despite the conditions we knew we were ready and everyone had their game face on. We joked it was to our advantage having run in below freezing temperatures in the previous races. And of course, training in Minnesota makes us hardy. We got off the line really fast and had an amazing position for the first 100m which just added to feeling powerful. That group of women are so special to me for not being afraid of the competition and really putting everything they had out there. Nationals is an insane race. There’s no way to describe what it’s like to be racing against over 200 women who are within three minutes of your finishing time. There are moments where five women are finishing in the same second. The race is disorienting, the crowd roars, but has incredible energy that make it special. The fact that only two members of the seven person racing squad had ever competed at Nationals before (the rest of them in their first postseason year of collegiate XC) made it even more impressive that they kept calm and competitive the entire race.”

Kaegi is also excited about the future of Carleton Women’s XC. “I am so excited to see what the team can do next year with only losing me from the top eight. We have a young team, and having Marietta Geist (’20) return as well as new recruits and other people moving up will hopefully improve the team. Who knows, they might even bring home a trophy next year!”

After college, Kaegi will be working as an analyst/data scientist for a company owned by the Kraft family, who own the New England Patriots. “They recently created this company called Kraft Analytics Group focused on sports business analytics. They started by building a data management tech platform for the Patriots and Revolution, and now are working with other sports teams in the NBA and NHL too,” explained Kaegi. “I had an internship there this summer where I was applying almost everything I’ve learned in statistics at Carleton, and enjoyed finally applying what I learned in the classroom to the real world. They offered me a job once I graduate, so I’m excited to go and work for them next year. The work I’ll be doing focuses on the business side of sports and how applying predictive analytics can help drive business decisions.”

Although Cross Country Season is over, you can still catch Kaegi racing on the track at Carleton. Be sure to go cheer her and the team on at their home meets this term and spring term!

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