Kerry Arouca Peaking For Strong Finish
By John Connolly, Boston Herald sportswriter
Kerry Arouca is one fast Owl. The Westfield State senior from Hanson has been dominant against league foes this fall and continued her strong season by capturing the top prize in Saturday’s MASCAC cross country meet on her home course.
“It’s been awesome. I’m just trying to make the best out of my senior year,” Arouca, who turned 22 on Monday, Oct. 19 said. “I’m definitely more into it. Back in high school I just ran for fun. But I wanted to do a sport in college and be part of a team. So when I started getting better I fell more in love with the sport. I trained harder.”
Arouca’s breakthrough has come about due to a change in her training regimen that involves higher mileage (50 miles per week) and an introduction to weight training. A strong family support system that includes younger sister Katelyn, a sophomore on the Bryant cross country team, has helped, too.
“Last year, coach (Bill) Devine got me into core training and weight training and it’s helped me so much,” Arouca said. “Honestly, I never could have pictured to be where I am. Coach told me the nationals (NCAAs) could be in the picture for me. At first, I didn’t believe him. Now, I’m having a blast.”
Arouca is coming off a victory in the recent James Early Invitational, which Westfield State also hosted. She covered the 5K distance in a time of 18:57.9, easily outrunning 266 competitors.
“I actually got food poisoning the night before,” Arouca said. “My coach told me that sometimes when your system gets messed up you do better because you’re more relaxed.”
Devine is thrilled with Arouca’s development. Last fall she placed seventh in the New England Division III regionals to qualify for the NCAA national championships.
“She’s really improved from last year,” Devine said. “I remember last spring when she was doing the steeplechase (third in the NCAAs in 10:31), I asked her mother what she did in high school and she told me she was about the fifth (best) runner on her team. Now, she’s an All-American. She’s done very well. When I took over the team two years ago, she was happy just to be among the top seven runners.
“But, she worked hard in the summer for cross country. As I always tell the kids, ‘autumn holds no secret as to how summer was spent.’ ”
Following Saturday’s conference showdown, Arouca will begin gearing up for the New England Alliance meet (Oct. 31) at Keene State. The NCAA Division 3 regional meet follows on Nov. 14 at Southern Maine. If Arouca places high enough in the regional, she will qualify for the Div. 3 nationals on Nov. 21 at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.
The way Arouca has been racing and winning this season, her best work is yet to come.
“She’ll make the NCAAs unless there’s an injury or someone trips her in the race,” Devine said.