Track Star Budd Overcomes Tragedy
April 3, 2006
Elisabeth Budd is used to hurdles. She jumps them all the time. She's a sprinter and hurdler for the Massachusetts women's track and field team. In the last 16 months, however, she has had to clear some different kinds of hurdles - ones that life has thrown in her path.
"My last four years at this school have been incredibly hard," Budd said. "A lot has happened to change who I am. I feel like I've been through a lot."
What Budd is referring to here are two life-altering changes, the first of which came in September 2004, when Budd tragically lost her mother, Jeannie Butler-Budd, to a brain aneurism.
Budd's mom was a respected member of the Springfield school system and the two were very close. With little time to recover from such a devastating loss, her 18-year-old brother Alain passed away suddenly on Jan. 29, 2006. Alain was a senior co-captain of the boys swimming team at Central High School in Springfield. However, Elisabeth still viewed him as her baby brother.
Such catastrophes have taken their toll on the 21-year-old senior. But UMass coach Julie LaFreniere commends the endurance and strength of heart that has enabled Budd to forge on.
"She always persevered. I don't even know if she missed any school," LaFreniere said. "She's a very strong individual."
Whatever pain Budd might be feeling on the inside has not prevented her from leading by example on the track team.
Budd is a two-time Atlantic 10 All-Conference performer. On March 4, 2004, in the first indoor track season since her mom's passing, Budd was named to the A-10 All-Conference and the Academic All-Conference teams for her time of 1:16.12 in the 500-meter dash. As for the most recent last indoor season, the one tainted by the death of brother Alain, her performances have continued to be stellar.
She produced two wins in the 500-meter event, as well as a season-best time of 1:16.61, which placed her sixth at the Boston University Women's Valentine Invitational. She also finished 3rd and 5th during the season, with times of 1:17.03 and 1:18.23, respectively.
Both LaFreniere and Budd's other coach Antoinette Otrando are excited about seeing what kind of terrific things Budd will do in her future, but are not excited about seeing her leave UMass at the end of the year.
"I am not looking forward to graduation at all," LaFreniere said. "I really admire Budd and I hate to see her go. I wish we had another year with her. Especially with all that has happened to her, I wouldn't mind having another year of her just being with our track family. I look at her as a big part of our track family.
"It's always tough to lose the strong leaders, the seniors that have given so much to the program," she added. "It's always hard to see them graduate and go. But, obviously, we want them to graduate."
Equally as extraordinary as her gritty performances and leadership skills, is her ability to stay one step ahead of her schoolwork.
Budd's excellence with academics has always impressed LaFreniere.
"I think she personifies the term 'student-athlete.' She's a very good athlete, she works very hard," LaFreniere said. "She's an outstanding student."
Budd is double-majoring in history and psychology.
"I just love history. I've always loved history. I think it's very fascinating," Budd said. "When I came [to college] though, I was a pysch major. I think psychology's incredibly interesting, because it's such a new field.
"But I realized that there was something that was missing," she continued. "And I couldn't figure out what it was until my second semester and I was like, 'I really miss history.' So I just decided to take it up as a second major."
When it comes time to put these hard-earned degrees to use, Budd isn't the least bit uncertain about how she plans to do that.
"I want to eventually become a school system consultant, to come into underperforming schools and help them to be more effective with their students," she said. "I'd like to help their teachers to be more effective, help the students to be better learners. How can we make curriculum more interesting? [Answering that question is] what I hope to do. I want to get my Master's [degree] in Educational Psychology."
This would come as no surprise to LaFreniere, who commented on Budd's fantastic desire to give back.
She specifically mentioned a community service event that the track team put together in February, after the A-10 Championships. The girls held the event for children ages 5-12, and Budd, like always, led the way.
"She related so well with [the kids]," LaFreniere said. "I can see that she is just a natural, as was, I think, her mom. You could just see that."
But that's not all LaFreniere sees. She also sees great things in Budd's future.
"I see nothing but success. She can do whatever she sets her mind to do. There is not doubt in my mind," LaFreniere said. "She's very intelligent, and she's a very determined young lady."
It is this evident determination that makes LaFreniere so confident that Budd will continue to leap any hurdles that life might throw in her way.