Player profile: Emma Kate Callahan

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Photo by Helen Maier

For senior classics and human sciences double major Emma Kate Callahan, running competitively has provided lessons in persistence and self-care.

Callahan started running cross country her freshman year in high school at St. Teresa’s Academy located in Kansas City, Mo. and has continued running competitively with the UD women’s cross country team since her freshman year. Callahan also ran with the women’s track and field team in the spring of 2018.

Even while competitions typically focus more on individual records in cross country, Callahan loves the team structure. 

“I can run by myself but it’s hard to push myself when I’m running alone, but when I’m with my teammates it’s easier to go a little bit quicker and enjoy the run,” said Callahan. 

Running has also allowed Callahan to realize her bodily limits and abilities. During a morning run with the cross country team during her freshman year, Callahan experienced “a sharp pain in [her] hip.”

Following the advice given from former cross country Head coach Matt Barber, Callahan allowed herself to rest and recover from her hip injury. After a brief respite from the cross country season and a couple of sessions with the chiropractor, Callahan was ready to run again.

As a sophomore, Callahan discovered she had Achilles tendinitis, a condition common among competitive runners which is caused by the overuse and tightening of the muscles from the calf to the Achilles heel.

“I’ve discovered how my body works,” Callahan said in reference to her injuries. Her awareness of her condition made Callahan invest in appropriate running shoes and engage in necessary breaks and exercises which prevent her ankles from suffering serious injury.

Over the summer, Callahan received the news of the NCAA Division III’s decision to cancel the 2020 Fall Championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last cross country competition which Callahan participated in was the USCAA National Championship (6K) on Nov. 8, 2019. Callahan was able to place 12th, competing against runners from 20 different cross-country programs, according to the USCAA Fall Championships website.

However, Callahan continues to practice with the women’s cross country team this semester, although the only team-based competition is scheduled for February 2021.

The smaller cross country team, in which Callahan is the sole senior female runner, meets five times a week to run in the mornings. They also do workouts in pairs so they can still train together.

During this fall season of practices, Callahan is taking what she called a “nice break” from the toil of the travel and participation in the races.

Callahan has been named National All-Academic Team the past two years in recognition of the balancing of her studies and athletic drive. The break, however, means she can refrain from the stress of doing homework on buses.

One benefit Callahan sees of being a student-athlete is improved mental health as she runs.

“It’s a really good time to allow my mind to clear itself,” said Callahan. 

Besides the benefits of the exercise, Callahan appreciates the support her coaches have provided. Barber even drove her to physical therapy sessions following her freshman year hip injury. Callahan remembers Barber’s generosity and the devotion he demonstrated through the faith podcasts they would listen to during the rides.

Head Coach Nick Schneigert also impresses Callahan with his family-oriented attitude. 

“[Coach Schneigert makes known] how important his wife and family are to him,” Callahan reports, acknowledging the difficulty of balancing his commitment to the athletes under his instruction and his life with his family.

As the only female senior on the team, Callahan wants to make the most out of her last year. 

“[I want to] enjoy this last season of cross country with teammates.”

Callahan strives to share the encouragement she received from upperclassmen on the team when she was a freshman with her younger teammates now. 

Beyond the sport, Callahan views cross-country as a place to build relationships with runners, checking up on each other and cheering each other on during workouts.

Although this fall semester is without competition, Callahan keeps a good attitude about the season. 

“It’s important to enjoy being able to practice and work out with one another still,” Callahan said, “to focus on that and be thankful for that.” 

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