Athlete of the Week: Emma Novak ’21

Emma Novak ’21 is a junior and multi-season athlete on the cross country and track and field teams from Clinton High School in New York. Novak has been the top runner from Swarthmore’s women’s cross country team in all three of the meets the team has competed in this season including a top 25 finish at the Oct. 19th Rowan Border Battle. Novak competes next on Nov. 2nd at the Centennial Conference Championship in Gettysburg Pennsylvania.

Neel Gupta: What is your major, and your interests outside of running?

Emma Novak: I am a History major and a Music minor through the Honors Program and I also study Psychology. Outside of running, I love to sing, and I am really excited to be involved in this year’s college opera, Cassandra.  I also enjoy outdoor activities such as running, hiking, or camping, especially in the fall. 

NG: How did you choose Swarthmore, and what was your recruitment process like?

EN: While initially looking at schools, I was considering music conservatory for voice, but ultimately, I knew that liberal arts would enable me to incorporate all the things I am passionate about into my college experience. Swarthmore has the balance I was hoping for in terms of academics, the music program, and of course, athletics. I got to know the coach (Peter Carroll) during senior year of high school and I really liked his approach towards training. I felt that Swat would be a great place to push myself in running while also being able to prioritize my classes. I visited as a spec when I was still deciding between schools and the team dynamic was fantastic; I knew this was where I wanted to be.

NG: You’ve been Swarthmore’s fastest runner over the last couple of meets. How does it feel to have your work pay off and to be competing at such a high level?

EN: I spent freshman year severely injured and sophomore year recovering from an injury, making this my first full cross country season at Swat. I feel so lucky just to be running, and this has motivated me both throughout the summer and into this season to push myself as hard as I can in practice. Seeing the work pay off has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Over the course of the season, there is always the anxiety of knowing that each day of running will be different, and that not every meet or workout can be perfect. However, at the same time, having consistency in training and knowing that the team is always in it together has helped me recognize that I am ready for the races ahead. 

NG: How has the cross country team done this year, and how optimistic are you for the future of the program?

EN: The way we have all improved as a team throughout the season is amazing. Within my workout group – the same people I usually race near in meets- we have supported and encouraged each other through academic pressure, Swat Plague, and all the highs and lows of the season. The same is true across the entire team, and this is the strongest both the women’s and men’s sides have been in a long time. This year we are ranked for Regionals and possibly Nationals depending on how the next few meets play out! We are lucky to have a really great coach, and, while I do my fair share of complaining during the hard workouts, I know that they will pay off and our team will be at our strongest going into championships. We have runners from all class years racing really well, which also means the program will continue to be strong into the future! 

NG: What does the team, and you have to do to improve to finish off the season?

Conferences are coming up this weekend, and Regionals two weeks later. At this point in the season, our coach always says “the hay is in the barn,” meaning that we have worked to build a strong foundation of training, and now, we can rely on that fitness and focus on speed for championships. I know we are all anticipating these next few races with some nerves but a lot of excitement. I think for me it’s about staying focused and consistent and trusting in the work done all season to carry through when it counts the most.

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