Sports

Athlete Profile: Cross country senior, Hugh Geller

Christine Cherry
Sports Editor

Hugh Geller is a legacy. Perhaps not in the universe, but definitely at Goucher – he’s a fourth generation Goucher student and a senior captain on the cross country team. But despite his legacy, Goucher wasn’t his first choice, and he certainly wasn’t coming here to run.

Geller ‘14 poses after practice in the Varsity Room. (Photo: Christopher Riley)

Geller ‘14 poses after practice in the Varsity Room. (Photo: Christopher Riley)

“I ended up being recruited for track because Goucher needed high jumpers, so I did an overnight with the team and fell in love with the school,” he recalled. Geller no longer high jumps, but rather runs long distance races. He began his cross country career senior year of high school after quitting soccer. “I quickly built up to the long runs which meant I was surrounded by people who loved running,” Geller commented. But the intensity at Goucher is far different from high school.
“Compared to now, my high school training seemed to be a bit of a free-for-all; we were just told to work hard, but didn’t necessarily know what that looked like or meant. College has taught me how to run a smart race and how to manage pain and fear,” he said.
Last year, Geller spent his time abroad at the University of Oxford. Going abroad has always worried athletes, as Geller noted, “I was extremely nervous about studying abroad, especially in terms of running; I had seen other runners go abroad only to return out of shape and struggling.” Determined to not let that happen to him, Geller contacted Oxford’s club cross country team, headed entirely by students with no coach. Although he had been running competitively for quite some time, his experience running across the pond gave him new insights on the sport. “For me, it was really hammered home that being a part of a running community is great and necessary, but to be successful you need to maintain a sense of individualism especially in terms of what ‘drives’ you,” he said. Geller’s determination brought him back to Goucher not struggling, but performing better than before – he finished 23rd in the conference this year, compared to 72nd during his sophomore year.
So what has the team been like for Geller this year? “What I had initially perceived as huge lack of immaturity has turned out to be excited energy just waiting to be molded. Our underclassmen have the potential and passion to develop into great runners and leaders,” he said.
The conference race, where the Gophers placed sixth out of seven teams, was a disappointment. But Geller noted that “it’s important for everyone to remember that our freshmen are still transitioning from the high school 5k (roughly 3.125 miles) to the collegiate 8k (roughly 5 miles). The transition is a lot tougher than it sounds; it can take a full season before a runner feels mentally adjusted.” Geller, along with fellow captain Zach Byrum ‘15, continues to give support to the freshmen to help them with this transition.
Based on his incredibly successful cross country season, Geller’s track season will certainly be one to remember. But Geller has a different idea in store for track: “I’ll be doing the 5k and 10k. I’m hoping to use the indoor and outdoor seasons to start training for marathons. I’ll probably do marathons for a couple years after graduation, but my long term goal is to build up to ultramarathons.” Geller’s running career after Goucher is still up for grabs, but will probably never end. “If I end up working on my doctorate in math at Oxford, then I’ll run for both their XC team and their marathon team. If I end up pursuing math at a U.S. institution then I won’t be eligible to run on their team, so I’ll have to train on my own. There is also a remote possibility that I’ll return here to pursue a master’s degree in education, in which case I have a year of eligibility that can only be used here. “ No matter what, Geller’s future in the sport looks bright.

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