Sophomore cross country runner Maura Henderson sits at Farrington Square on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. Henderson was part of the Lehigh record holding 4x800 meter relay team. (Cristina Fuertes/B&W Staff)

Henderson finds success after switch to cross country


Editor’s note: This article was updated to fix an editor’s error about Jill Redfern. She is the women’s lacrosse coach, not women’s soccer coach.

There are three things that set Maura Henderson apart from her teammates.

She picks one pair of socks and wears them all season. This season she chose mid-calf Batman socks.

Her coach, Debbie Utesch, playfully calls her “directionally challenged” because Henderson has been known to take wrong turns during runs. Utesch said she has had to go out in her car a few times to find her.

Henderson has her coach place a Lehigh Mountain Hawk sticker under her right eye before every race. This is what drives her to success.

Henderson, a sophomore, has established herself as a front runner during her first season with the women’s cross country team. Henderson hadn’t run cross country distances since high school, and Utesch said that was a challenge for her to get ready for this season. In high school, cross country races are 5,000 meters, and in Division 1 college racing it’s 6,000 meters.

“Her first 6Ks were just this fall, I think the Paul Short was her second 6K,” Utesch said. “So it is a brand new distance for her, and she is making a tremendous adjustment on how to run that 6,000 meter race.”

During the Paul Short Run, Henderson placed first for the women’s team, finishing with a personal best time of 22:42.6. Her finish helped Lehigh to place 20th out of 45 teams.

Henderson said she felt a little more confident during the Paul Short than she did during her first 6K. But the running wasn’t the hard part for her.

“I just remember I looked around me for the first time and there were just so many very legit runners,” Henderson said. “Very real deal, some All-Americans around me, so it was a bit intimidating, but then I just kind of let them pull me along and it got me to a good time.”

Henderson said the Paul Short is the biggest race she has ever run in. She said seeing everybody there and lined up to race was scary but also exciting and made her want to race.

Henderson was recruited to Lehigh out of high school to play lacrosse with her sister Jane. At the end of her fall season on the lacrosse team, Maura had a meeting with women’s lacrosse coach Jill Redfern where they had a conversation about her possibility of running winter track. By the end of the winter season, it was clear she wanted to stay with track.

Redfern said Henderson is still great friends with the team and they support each other all the time. Redfern said she is just happy Henderson is successful in track.

“I am just excited for (Henderson), I mean she is definitely a kid who wants to be a high performer,” Redfern said. “She really dedicates her whole life to whatever that is going to take while being a student here.”

Henderson said the women in the lacrosse team are some of her biggest supporters. She said she receives texts from members of the team at the end of her races saying how proud they are of her.

Throughout her brief running career at Lehigh, Henderson has accomplished a lot. Last season during indoor track, Henderson’s 4×800 meter relay team took third at Patriot Leagues and set a school record with a time of 8:55.29. In outdoor track, Henderson took third in the steeplechase at Patriot Leagues in her first season running that race.

Henderson said the steeplechase was her favorite moment running for Lehigh so far. She went into that race knowing she had the leg speed to win the race, despite the fact that the reigning champ was also in the race. She said her hurdling ability at the time wasn’t that great so she was relying on speed to get her through the race.

More recently, Henderson is a two-time winner of the Patriot League runner of the week. Henderson said this award just confirmed her decision to switch to track and made her more confident that she made the right decision.

The switch meant it would be the first time Henderson and her sister Jane would not be on the same team. Jane Henderson said it felt weird at first.

“I’m so used to having her at every practice and going out and shooting with her after practice,” Jane Henderson said. “Not to have that support that you had for 19 years is really weird.”

However, both sisters still support each other in their individual sports, going to each other’s meets and games. Maura Henderson said it is nice to watch her sister’s individual success without her on the team now. She said it is nice to stand on the sideline and watch her do what she does.

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