Taking a Chance

Maddie Hulcy

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

I didn’t always plan to make it this far.

I was a walk-on and never highly recruited — I just made a last-minute choice to try out running at the collegiate level.

However, I quickly found a community, purpose, and sense of belonging among my fellow Mustangs.

The feeling of having no expectations has driven me to get to where I am today — a senior cross-country runner at SMU and a leader of this incredible group of women.

Started from the bottom

After swimming since childhood, I decided to try something new in high school.

I began running as part of a no-cut cross-country team.

It was a fun extracurricular activity with no real goals or direction, really.

But before my first season ever, my coach suddenly quit, and we had a new person in charge of the program.

Funnily enough, the same thing happened to me at SMU!

As soon as I walked on, the coaching staff changed.

My high school program went from a kind of laid-back style to having tough practices and big dreams of state championships.

The program grew and got better year after year.

And by my senior year, we did it.

We won State!

The satisfaction of achieving that goal gave me indescribable joy.

When you’re so far away from accomplishing a goal, it’s an unreal feeling when you actually do accomplish it.

I was proud of what we had done and was ready for more.

Walking on

I had already committed to SMU because of its academics, where I pursued a degree in computer science.

So, after some pondering, I decided I should contact the cross country coach and see if they had a spot for me.

I was offered the chance to walk on.

That first year was a little rough.

As mentioned, there was another coaching change right at the beginning of my journey, and our team was so small we didn’t even have enough women to compete.

We had to recruit a track runner so we could field our team at the conference.

Similar to my high school days, it was grit and grind time.

Just keep pushing to improve.

Oddly enough, by my sophomore year, I was already considered one of the team’s veterans, and we were well on our way to leave our mark in the sport.

We began working towards competing for conference titles and qualifying for nationals — again, something that just felt so out of reach when I initially walked on.

When you’re so far away from accomplishing a goal, it’s an unreal feeling when you actually do accomplish it.

Work is the reward

What I love about being part of this team and being at SMU, in general, is the bond we have.

Getting up and running 12 miles at 6:30 in the morning isn’t supposed to be fun, but with a group of women like this, you look forward to it.

It needs to be that way.

We have to work so hard together to build this program and not only bring out the best in ourselves but bring out the best in each other.

Lucky for me, I have these teammates that will go that extra mile, no pun intended.

My time at SMU is close to being done.

Now, I’m a senior and can feel that clock ticking away.

SMU has given me everything I could have wanted.

I’ve gotten a great education, have a job lined up after graduation, and I’m running alongside girls I’d do everything for.

I hope I’ve given it as much as it’s given me.

But my career isn’t over yet.

We have big goals this year.

Some might be skeptical, but that’s okay.

A win is so much sweeter when you’ve struggled for it.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.