Student-Athlete Spotlight: Wellesley Cross Country and Track's Catherine Xie '19

Catherine Xie is a a biochemistry and french major from Newton, Mass. (Frank Poulin).
Catherine Xie is a a biochemistry and french major from Newton, Mass. (Frank Poulin).

Catherine Xie, the lone senior on the Blue cross-country team and one of five seniors on the Blue track & field team, recently completed her final fall cross country season. The four-year letter winner concluded her career with a 20:59.4 personal record in the 5k at 2015 NEWMAC Championships and 24:57.4 personal record in the 6K at the 2016 Seven Sisters Championship. Following the team's third Seven Sisters Championship, Xi reflected on how much she loved her time on the cross country team and how much she is looking forward to her upcoming winter and spring track and field seasons.

Growing up in Newton, Mass, Xie knew Wellesley for its strong academics, supportive environment, long standing traditions and beautiful campus. It wasn't until she arrived on campus that Xie, a passionate high school runner, decided to run for the Blue. Since then, she has enjoyed every part of her student-athlete experience. A Biochemistry and French major, Xie aspires to pursue a career in medicine. She believes that being a member of her teams helped her to develop skills that will enable her to achieve these goals. She recently took the time to speak with about all of her Wellesley College experiences, cross country, studying abroad as well as her involvement with Girl Up and the importance of being passionate about everything she does.   

What made you decide to attend Wellesley College?

I decided to attend Wellesley because I wanted to be in an academically rigorous but supportive environment. I was drawn by the small class size, the cool traditions (like the Scream Tunnel and Hooprolling), and of course, the beautiful campus. I'm also from Newton so Wellesley is only about a twenty-minute drive from home!

Did you always know you wanted to run cross country and track in college?

Having run cross country and track all four years of high school, I knew I wanted to continue my passion for running in college... but wasn't sure if I'd be able to compete at the varsity level. I was a walk-on, and I'm so grateful that [Head Coach Phil Jennings] welcomed me to join the team because I can't imagine my college experience without cross country and track!

What drew you to major in Biochemistry and French?

I majored in biochemistry because I think it's fascinating to study biological processes at the cellular and molecular level. It's a challenging major, but I think it's especially cool to be able to apply the fundamental concepts I've learned to more complex topics such as the molecular basis of diseases. I wanted to major in French because I've always admired the beauty and precision of the French language. Additionally, I was born in Montreal, Canada, and both my dad and my sister speak French fluently, so French has always been part of my life! 

What do you like most about your majors?

The amazing professors! They're all so passionate about what they teach, and they truly care about helping their students learn the material the best they can. I also like majoring in both the sciences and the humanities because it gives me a sense of balance and challenges my mind in different ways.

Can you tell me about the study abroad program you were part of? What was your biggest takeaway from that experience?

I studied abroad during the summer after my first year in Grenoble, France through a program led by Academic Programs International (API). After a week of orientation in Paris, I stayed with a host family in Grenoble and took French language and culture courses at the CUEF (Centre universitaire d'études françaises) - Université Grenoble Alpes for the remainder of the program. During the program, I also had the chance to travel to other places in France (such as the beautiful Chamonix) and Geneva, Switzerland. Although I'd traveled extensively with my family, this was my first time traveling alone, so I learned how to become more independent in a completely new environment. It was also rewarding to gain confidence in my French skills and to be able to comfortably converse with native French speakers by the end of the the program.

You are one of the Co-Presidents of Girl Up here at Wellesley, why did you want to get involved with Girl Up?

Girl Up is a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that collaborates with other UN programs to support the education, health, and empowerment of girls in developing countries (including Guatemala, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, India, and Uganda). As the Wellesley chapter, we aim to raise awareness and funds for Girl Up by hosting fundraisers, to provide school supplies and educational programs for these girls, and events, such as lectures with professors on gender and development or movie screenings. I wanted to get involved because I've always valued my own education and strongly believe that all girls should have the right to an education.

How have you been able to balance being in-season throughout the entire academic year along with your school work and other organizations?

It's never easy to balance athletics with academics and other commitments, but being a student-athlete has helped me develop time management skills and taught me how to use my time efficiently. Knowing that I have to dedicate a lot of time to practice and competition reminds me that I need to take advantage of my free time. I've also learned to prioritize the things that I'm most passionate about and are the most important to my happiness and personal growth instead of trying to juggle more than I can handle. 

What are your plans for after graduation? How has being a member of a team at Wellesley prepared you for your future?

I plan on taking a gap year, either working in research or in public health, before attending medical school. Being a member of a team at Wellesley has helped me develop the discipline, resilience, and confidence needed to achieve both personal and team goals. Additionally, throughout my four years, and especially this year, as the only senior on cross country and in distance, I've developed the courage to lead such an inspiring team of women by organizing team bonding activities, improving communication between coaches and teammates, and supporting underclassmen through injuries and their transition to Wellesley. 

What is your favorite cross country memory?

My favorite cross country memory is the 2016 Seven Sisters Championship on our home course my sophomore year. It was a true team effort and our third consecutive win! I ran my 6K PR that race. I was the sixth runner on our team that day so I was happy to have been close to contributing to the team scoring. Seven Sisters is always one of my favorite meets because we get to celebrate women's accomplishments in athletics and chat with runners from other historically women's colleges at the banquet.

What is the best part about being a student-athlete at Wellesley?

The best part about being a student-athlete at Wellesley is sharing my passion for running and having fun with my amazing teammates and supportive coaches - thank you Phil and [Assistant Coach Joe Lauer!].