One ferocious runner
Morristown’s Heather Waterman finds success in track, cross country at Franklin College
By Jeff Brown, Shelbyville News Sports editor
Heather Waterman knew enrolling at Franklin College would put her on the right track to attend veterinary school. The fact that she could keep running competitively was a bonus.
Paul Sargent, the cross country and track and field coach at Franklin College, believed Waterman had a bright future running in circles.
She proved that notion to be true in late April when she won three events at the 2009 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Track and Field Championships at Rose-Hulman, where she was named the conference’s Track Athlete of the Year.
That success carried over to the fall where Waterman has proven she can handle the outdoor conditions of cross country just as well.
Waterman, now a junior, won the HCAC Women’s Cross Country Championship on Oct. 31 at Heritage Park in Cincinnati. She covered the six-kilometer course in 23 minutes, 29 seconds — a career best and the second best 6K time ever for a Franklin College female cross country athlete.
Waterman and her Franklin College teammates travel to Terre Haute today for the NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional held at the Lavern Gibson Course. The top five teams and the top seven individuals not associated with the those qualifying teams advance to the Division III Cross Country Championship on Nov. 21 at Highland Hills Golf Course in Cleveland, Ohio.
“She’s got a great shot to get to nationals,” Sargent said. “But you don’t get out with your ‘B’ race.”
Waterman is not putting any added pressure on herself.
“I’m trying to go with no expectations,” she said. “It’s a great field of girls. I know I have to have an awesome time. But if I show up and do what I’ve done all season, I have a chance.”
Waterman’s high school cross country career was less than stellar thanks to a broken foot during her junior season and the dominance of Triton Central’s Jessica Polston.
Waterman, who never had much of a team to push her at the prep level, finished second to Polston at the Shelby County Meet in 2005, even with a broken foot that sidelined her for the rest of the season. That would be her best finish at the county meet.
Waterman never finished better than sixth at the Mid-Hoosier Conference Meet in her career and 10th at the sectional. She ran in regional races in 2004 (43rd overall) and 2006 (44th).
“I recruited her not with the idea that she was especially talented in cross country, but in track she had talent,” Sargent said. “Just the consistency of running more than anything else has made her so successful. She didn’t have the numbers at Morristown. She couldn’t string together a lot of consecutive running. Now three years later she has had very little time down.”
Waterman finds the distance running a relief from a hectic academic schedule.
“Running is my release,” said Waterman, who is taking 19 credit hours this semester. “I’m always busy, busy, busy. Running is my opportunity to get away from everything.”
The HCAC has honored Waterman five times this season with its Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week Award.
In last year’s conference track and field meet, Waterman took first place in the 800-, 1,500- and 5,000-meter races.
“I came here a distance runner,” she said, “I like the mile and the 800. But I’ve slowly transformed myself into a (longer) distance runner.”
Waterman continues to climb Frankin College’s cross country record books in both the 5K and 6K. She holds the third best 5K (18:38) in program history and the second best 6K (23:29).
Waterman is majoring in biology and chemistry with an almost perfect grade point average, according to Franklin College’s athletic department. She will be applying to veterinary school in the near future.
But all that gets put on hold today while Waterman attempts to qualify for the Division III national championships.
“That would be amazing,” she said. “To run at that level would be incredible.”