Women's Cross Country

Cuisle Kierans Is Running Ahead Of The Pack

Cuisle Kierans

Cuisle Kierans

Oct. 30, 2005

Ask University of Massachusetts women's cross country coach Julie LaFreniere about junior Cuisle Kierans (Newbury), and she will mention a number of things.

Kierans, whose Gaelic first name is pronounced "Kush-wa," Lafreniere said, is reserved, tends to listen more than she talks. She works hard, does whatever is asked and does it well. She pushes her teammates.

And then Lafreniere will gush about how special Kierans is.

Kierans, you see, is a biology/pre-med major who has balanced the demands of arguably the most grueling course of study while competing well in an intercollegiate sport.

But what few people outside of the UMass athletic department realize is that she is also a member of the indoor and outdoor track and field teams, which is the equivalent to competing in three sports.

Virtually the entire school year, Kierans competes in meets every weekend while training every day. And she somehow maintains a 3.0 grade point average in the classroom.

"Cuisle is very good at time management," Lafreniere noted. "It's hard to be a student-athlete in college. She tries to schedule her classes around practice times. People who are able to accelerate with that type of combination of difficult classes and hard training are very special people."

"I mean, it is from September to May," Lafreniere added. "It takes a very mature individual. I always tell my athletes that they are not regular students. They are an elite group."

Asked when she has any type of social life and Kierans laughs. "Only on Saturdays,"she said.

"I've gotten better at (time management), but my freshman year was really hard."

Classes and training varies from day-to-day, but Kierans said she spends nearly 20 hours a week in classes. Lafreniere has the Minutewomen running at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and in the late afternoon Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They cover at least eight miles a day.

After practice, there's dinner to eat, and the rest of her night is devoted to studying.

"I usually get to sleep around 1 a.m., and I get about six hours of sleep a night," Kierans said.

On the cross country path, Kierans has been a regular among UMass' top five runners since her freshman year. With Saturday's Atlantic-10 Conference Championships approaching, she is currently enjoying her best season.

Among her highlights this season is a 14th-place finish among 88 runners in 11:28 (3,200 meters) at the Central Connecticut State Mini Meet last Saturday, in which the Minutewomen placed third behind regional powers Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Kierans also took 89th (in a field of 301 runners) at the New England Championship, running the 5K course in 19:32 while leading UMass to 17th among 44 teams. She also placed 11th (among 34 runners) at the Maine/Vermont Invitational in 20:11.

When asked about her potential, Kierans automatically counters by speaking in terms of her team, which Lafreniere calls a "nice tight group." Cross country is, after all, a team sport.

"We can be really good," Kierans exclaimed. "A year from now, we can definitely be in the top five (in the Atlantic-10). We are all very young. We are mostly sophomores. No one on the team has more than two years of collegiate running," she said.

During the indoor track and field season, which opens Dec. 3, Kierans specializes in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters, and often competes in the mile, "to get in a speed workout," she notes. During the outdoor season, slated to open Mar. 18, she runs the 5,000 and plans to compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

During her days at Triton, Kierans was four-year member of the track and field team and ran cross country for two years. She achieved school records in the 800 meters, mile and two miles and was named the outstanding female athlete of the Class of 2003.

Upon graduation, Kierans said she is leaning toward dentistry school more than medical school. She has an older sister, Sinbhan (pronounced "Shiv-on"), who is in her first year at New York Medical College.

"She tells me how hard it is. Sometimes it scares me," Kierans said with a grin.

For now, Kierans likes UMass' chances of a top tier finish at the Atlantic-10 Championship. "We did really well last week (at Central Connecticut)," she noted. "Our 2-4 runners were really close. If we run as a pack we'll do really well."




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