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Historic XC season for Dacey

by | Dec 12, 2023 | Featured: Sports, Sports

Cat Dacey

Hopkinton’s Cat Dacey had a record-setting junior season for the cross country team at Union College. PHOTO/JASON PLANTE/UNION COLLEGE ATHLETICS

Cat Dacey was decades away from being born the last time a Union College athlete competed at the NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championship in 1981. The Hopkinton native not only ended that drought, but she became the first female runner in school history to qualify for the championship meet as an individual.

“It was a crazy experience,” Dacey said. “There were so many spectators there. I think that’s the biggest meet that I have ever been to; it was very different from any of the other meets I had run this season.”

Dacey placed in the top 100 in a field of nearly 300 runners. She started right in the middle of the massive single pack that lined up across a field.

“At first, I was just a little overwhelmed by the whole thing,” Dacey said. “I went there expecting to be doing something crazy, and 92nd was a crazy number to me. I had been coming in the top 10 in races all season.

“But looking back on it, it was awesome, and that was right where I should have been,” she added. It wasn’t my best day, but I am proud of it, and I am just excited that I had the opportunity to go.”

While the Union team did not qualify for the championship event, Dacey earned her place in the field after a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships.

Dacey had been working on dropping her times and building her confidence throughout her junior season. During the first meet of the year, she raced out to a lead but said she “panicked” and felt like she had gone out too hard. She fell out of first.

“The rest of the season, my coaches worked with me and told me that the front is exactly where I should be,” Dacey said. “They knew I was fast enough to be up there with those girls.”

Dacey won a meet at Trinity when she again raced out to a lead and stayed there.

“That really built my confidence,” she said. “The entire season I was going out faster than I normally would have been comfortable with, but it really worked out well all season.”

Dacey placed in the top 10 in six of her seven meets this year. She posted the top four 6K times and five of the top six times in program history, and her time of 21 minutes, 34.8 seconds at the Mideast Regional is a Union record.

Dacey started out as a sprinter during her time at Hopkinton and was more focused on lacrosse. Her indoor track coach, Jean Cann, pressed her to try longer distances.

“She pushed me to get better,” Dacey said. “And my love for the sport has only grown since then.”

Dacey said she hopes to be back at nationals again next year and hopes to have her teammates there with her. Her ultimate goal is to finish in the top 40 at the national meet, which would earn her a spot as an All-American. Unlike this fall, Dacey will enter next season with high expectations and brimming with confidence.

“I didn’t think it was a possibility to go to nationals,” she said. “But it was exciting to go and compete against the best girls in the U.S.”

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