The Wolfpacker

Sept.-Oct. 2022

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 35 of 51

36 ■ THE WOLFPACKER Chmiel was the sixth-place overall finisher at nationals last year, leading the Wolfpack to its first NCAA title just three weeks after pacing the team to an ACC championship with a first-place individual finish in the conference meet. Now she's back to help the Wolfpack defend those crowns. The senior from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., sees challenges ahead, with two of the team's top five finishers at nationals having moved on. And yet, there's something about the camaraderie of a team that makes chal- lenges more enticing. In a multifaceted sport like collegiate running — in which the cross country season gives way to the more individualized pursuits of the indoor and outdoor track seasons — it's easy to get swept up in the collective ef- forts to achieve a higher goal. "Cross country is just different be- cause of the team aspect," Chmiel said. "It makes it more fun, and I think more meaningful. We start working really hard over the summer, and we work together. "Working together — there's just something special about it. It just makes it more meaningful that you did it with your teammates. When you cross the line, you're looking for them, and cel- ebrating together is better than anything you can do on your own." That's exactly the kind of culture that coach Laurie Henes has worked to cre- ate within the Wolfpack cross country team. Henes said that while she'll miss last year's graduated seniors, a group that includes 2020 ACC cross coun- try champion Dominique Clairmonte, her ultimate goal has been to create an atmosphere in which the team culture lives on, even amid the comings and go- ings that are an inevitable part of college sports. "Hopefully we've got it to where, when we bring new people in, they'll see what we're looking for and what it means to be part of this program, and it will just carry over," Henes said. Chmiel came to NC State in 2019 to be part of that culture after winning three state titles in New York and posting four top-five finishes at the Nike Cross Na- tionals. She had taken official visits to Stanford and Iowa State, but everything clicked when she made her recruit- ing trip to Raleigh. She was impressed with the academic support system, the coaching staff and the chemistry within the cross country program. "They're always at the national cham- pionships in cross country, and the team is important at NC State," she said. "At other schools, it seems like it's more of an individual sport." Chmiel shined in her debut season, placing 22nd at the NCAA meet in 2019, the best finish by a Wolfpack freshman since 2010 and the top finish by any freshman nationally that year. She was ninth when the next NCAA Champion- ship meet was held in March 2021, lead- ing up to her sixth-place showing the following November. She's also excelled during the indoor and outdoor track seasons, winning first-team All-America honors in the BY MATT HERB he instant she crossed the finish line at the NCAA Championships last November, Kelsey Chmiel turned around and looked for her NC State cross country teammates. She didn't have long to wait. Chmiel had covered the 6-kilometer course in Tallahassee, Fla., in 19 minutes, 34.6 seconds. Over the next 18.3 seconds, four of her teammates crossed the finish line, too. That's when the celebration began. "We didn't even look at the score," Chmiel recalled. "We knew that we had won it." T The Road Less Traveled Kelsey Chmiel And Her Teammates Are Trying To Defend Their Cross Country National Title, A Feat That Hasn't Been Done In 11 Years " The goal is to go for the title again, but we're going to need to work really hard and work together. It's going to be a long road to the title. " Chmiel

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