This piece was written by Matt DeLeo '20 and originally submitted for Professor John DiCarlo's ENG 363 Sports Journalism course as a feature piece on an SJU student-athlete.
Junior women’s cross country runner Emily Schaeffer remains in a positive mindset after a battle with adversity.
“My mom told me that in order to get to high school, we had to play a sport in middle school,” said Schaeffer on the reason she started to run. “She said that you can either play field hockey or you can run. Well, I had never touched a field hockey stick in my life, so I guess I was going to run. Then I started running, and I have not stopped.”
Schaeffer most recently finished third in Saint Joseph’s rotation, her highest of the season, in her first regional meet of her collegiate career - a personal record of 23:08 for 102nd overall on Nov. 9th at Penn State.
Schaeffer studies chemical biology at Saint Joseph’s University and is from Mullica Hill, N.J. She attended Clearview Regional High School in Gloucester County, where she learned a fundamental education to run.
She gave credit to her high school coaches and her parents; their styles helped to influence her to run.
“I had two high school coaches,” Schaeffer said. “One was older and traditional, and he definitely helped me, training-wise, to become a better runner. Then I had this fun, younger coach in my junior year of high school, and he helped me enjoy running, more than just train to run. My coaches have influenced me a ton, as well as my parents.”
Schaeffer identified several challenges in play during the 2017 season, between classes and her two surgeries. She had two surgeries, on her tonsils and an appendectomy, both in the summer of 2017. She also had a tough class that did not help the recovery, but Schaeffer remained positive as she battled adversity.
“If you are not positive during your race, you are going to have a really, really bad day,” Schaeffer said. “Whether you are not being positive about something that has nothing to do with running or not being positive about the actual race, you are not going to have a good day.”
Head coach Melody O’Reilly described Schaeffer’s leadership.
“She is definitely a strong personality on the team,” said O'Reilly. “We have a very large team. I do think some of the younger women on the team look to her as a leader. She is setting a great example for her teammates as a good leader who has a positive attitude. She is strong and becoming more and more confident every day. I think that when the younger athletes look to her, that is what they see, someone who is strong and confident, a good example of racing and competing at this level.”
Schaeffer likes to remain helpful. It is one of her motivating factors.
“I really like the reward that you get from it," Schaeffer said. "I love to be with my friends. It is just a good feeling, when all of your hard work pays off. Being around the team and having such a successful team also motives me. I like to be helpful as much as I can. If someone is off individually, then the team as a whole will be off."
She identified another reason for motivation is to balance her schoolwork. Schaeffer needs the sport for a few hours a day to balance out her schoolwork.
Senior cross country runner Sara Rankin described Schaeffer’s leadership and improvement.
“She is really motivating and upbeat for everyone," Rankin said. "She is a really good, all-around teammate. She is always there for everyone if you need her. She is always pumping you to run, do core, and workout. Last year, she had all of her injuries, and she was still doing really well, a top-five runner basically in every race. She is setting personal records (PRs) in every race and killing the workouts. She has progressed insanely – it is just awesome to see.’’
O’Reilly's influence has helped Schaeffer become a better runner.
“Coach Mel, she has influenced me,” said Schaeffer. “She has told me countless stories on when she ran and all the different things that were going on in her life at the same time, and it made me realize, like all of this is one big thing basically. It is not just a bunch of little things, so if one thing goes well, then everything will go well. She helps a lot with structure.”