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Winham ready to resume running at Dartmouth

Veronica Winham, a two-time state cross country champion for Seabury Hall, is set to start her senior season at Dartmouth College later this month. MICHELE WINHAM photo

Veronica Winham has never forgotten where her running career began — Kaylee Volner is proof of that.

Winham won the Hawaii High School Athletic Association girls state cross country titles in 2016 and 2017 for Seabury Hall, but injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic have limited her to her freshman season and one race as a sophomore in the sport at Dartmouth College.

Now a senior, Winham is back for the Big Green’s Ivy League cross country season and is slated to run her first race in more than two years in the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown on Sept. 24 in Boston.

“Obviously a lot has changed in the year since we last talked,” Winham said via phone from New Hampshire on Saturday, after watching her younger teammates win the Maribel Sanchez Souther Invitational. “I think it’s just so exciting. Today obviously was the first race and it was nice to go out and watch all the girls perform. It was mostly the freshmen that were running, they kind of wanted to see where they were at.

“Hopefully I will be running in two weeks in Boston in a big invitational, but yes it’s so exciting. We have a very young team this year.”

A stress fracture in her shin limited her to one race in 2019 as a sophomore, and the Ivy League did not conduct sports last year due to the pandemic. Dartmouth had a season of three unofficial track meets this past winter and spring, but Winham did not run in any of them.

“My health is good, I’m ready to run,” Winham said. “I think it’s going to be a bit of a transitional cross country period because I’m looking ahead to indoor and outdoor track. I’ve been making the transition from long distance to mid distance. I’m looking at what it would look like to do really well in the 800 (meters) this year in track.

“So, more strength stuff, more speed stuff than I was doing the last two years and what I was doing in high school.”

Winham said her decision to concentrate on the 800 came after a conversation with Seabury Hall coach Bobby Grossman.

“My sophomore year I got a stress fracture and I was out of competing for a very long time, and getting back into it was a little bit difficult just in terms of getting my body back up to normal mileage, getting up to 50-, 60-mile weeks,” Winham said. “I talked to Bobby about that and he was just, like, ‘Well, maybe it’s just better to focus on the fast stuff, maybe it’s better to just focus on sprinting and lifting and putting effort into that 800.’

“So that’s what I was working for in track and we obviously didn’t have a track competition season, but that’s what I was working towards.”

Winham added, “I feel that I’ve made a lot of progress in getting that foot speed back. I think that hopefully by the time indoor (track) rolls around and definitely by the time I’m competing in outdoor track I should be able to PR in the 800, which is my personal goal. Hopefully go to some bigger invitationals and represent Dartmouth in that event.”

Winham is also looking forward to this cross country season and being a leader for the young team.

“I think that we can do really well in the Ivy League,” she said. “I think that we could do very well at regionals, too, if everyone stays healthy.”

She is very conscious of being a team leader as a senior. She pointed to her experience as a senior leader for Seabury Hall when Volner, a current senior for the Spartans, was in the eighth grade.

“I think that that leadership side is equally important to running well,” Winham said. “It was always very important to me, even when Kaylee was training with me and she was in eighth grade and I was a senior in high school. I tried to take her under my wing a bit, show her some things. Just sort of that same idea now of, like, ‘All right, maybe the Dartmouth women’s cross country team has a lot of underclassmen that are going to be some of our top performers, but every single person on the team matters.’

“And if we think about the team as one body with a lot of different extensions, all those extensions matter, and what we can teach them will be very important for them as well, helping to guide them. Running in college is difficult.”

Winham and Volner talk nearly every day and have shared their experiences in missing competitive running for more than 18 months.

“I actually talked to her the other day about where she’s looking at college and what she wants her college experience to look like,” Winham said. “So, that was a really interesting conversation. I hope I was able to give her some good advice in that regard.”

Volner, the 2019 HHSAA cross country runner-up as a sophomore, is thankful for the Seabury Hall connection.

“She was like the big runner from when I was in sixth grade, all the way up until I was a freshman,” Volner said. “So she was always a big name to me and in eighth grade I actually got to train with her quite a bit. So, I really got to know her and she helped me so much, to know what to expect when I got to high school.

“She’s been such a big role model to me and it is so cool that I still get to talk to her every day, hear about how it’s going at Dartmouth, tell her about all the things that are happening at Seabury or just the (Maui Interscholastic League) in general.”

Just being back on the running trail is huge for Winham.

“It’s been over two years,” she said. “I think I’ve kind of forgotten that sort of pre-race adrenaline and I’m so excited to feel that.”

Winham is set to finish a double major in English and government in June.

She worked three jobs over the summer — doing research with Dartmouth in the government department, working with The Maui Daily television show through Akaku, and her “main 9 to 5 job” was an internship with U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). She was able to do all three jobs from New Hampshire.

Her job plan is broadcast journalism or government work on Capitol Hill.

She has also thought of doing some graduate school work — she has two indoor track seasons, one outdoor track and one cross country seasons of eligibility left after she finishes this academic year.

“It’s something I am interested in and am going to pursue in the next couple of weeks, absolutely — I feel like I’ve missed a lot of my college experience, socially and athletically,” Winham said. “I mean, why not? That could be interesting.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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