Runner leads by example, not time

David La

At today’s Drake Dual cross country meet, Gophers junior Hayley Singer will not likely be among the competitors that make it to the finish line first.
But despite the fact she will be a follower of many of her own teammates during a race, co-captain Singer remains a team leader without peer.
“She’s not going to ever be in our top seven,” said coach Gary Wilson of Singers’ place on his team. “She’s not going to be in our top nine, she’s not going to be in our top twelve. But she gives as much to this team as anybody. She’s a very reliable and smart kid. She’s what every coach wants.”
While the walk-on from Appleton, Wis. is hailed as a coaches dream for her leadership, Singers’ reputation with the food service staff at Centennial Hall is undoubtedly less savory.
Singers’ teammates complained that the nutritional value of the food was detrimental to the diet a cross country athlete needs to adhere to. Singer attended to the matter, and succeeded, temporarily, with her suggestions for expanding the menu. When the staff began to revert back to the way things were, Singer paid them another visit.
“I said, ‘Look, this is not acceptable. Every student on this campus, whether they’re an athlete or not, deserves good food,'” Singer said. “So the food service people weren’t too happy with me. But by the end of the year they did start having healthier foods available.”
Singer’s willingness to go the extra mile for her team whenever possible is the reason she earns respect from them. Coach Wilson said he was never concerned with naming an average runner a captain.
“Usually those people are such strong individuals that there’s no problems, they just come and kids respect them,” Wilson said. “You get respect based not just on how fast you run.”
Singer also points to the importance of her role in keeping the more talented runners motivated through- out the season.
“In order to be a national (caliber) team, it takes people like me and a lot of other girls on the team who are at practice everyday pushing the people ahead of us,” Singer said.
As a team, the Gophers will spend this season trying to push, and possibly overtake, teams ahead of them. The team was ranked No. 23 in the FinishLynx/NCAA preseason-poll, the third Big Ten school behind No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 11 Michigan.
But the expectations will not divide and conquer this team, not if Singer can help it. The one time walk-on has the unusual ability to keep the fastest and slowest competitors running together in spirit, even if they’re minutes apart on race day.
“I have always tried to make sure that is the way the atmosphere stays,” Singer said. “Because a team is never successful, at least in my eyes, if there’s a group of people on the team that don’t want to associate with people that aren’t as fast as them.”

David La Vaque covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]