Nerud looks to carry record summer into college career
Brianna Nerud almost had a different fate. As the race for selection slimmed to Syracuse and Duke, Nerud almost selected the Blue Devils.
During her senior year at North Shore High School (N.Y.), Nerud, the 2012 top cross country recruit, visited Georgetown, Providence, Duke and Syracuse.
“We really thought she was going to Duke,” Deborah Nerud, Nerud’s mother, said. “She had her foot in the door there.”
But in December 2011, Nerud committed to Syracuse to give the Orange a runner with a decorated high school career. Last summer, Nerud broke the American juniors record in the 3000-meter steeplechase at the IAAF World Junior Championships. After showing steady improvement throughout high school, the freshman is on her way to becoming a top runner for Syracuse.
When Nerud started competing in cross country in seventh grade, she was not positive she even wanted to pursue cross country in high school. At that time, Nerud’s heart was set on the musical arts.
She took voice lessons in the eighth grade and performed in winter musicals.
“In the winter, she didn’t run; she would do musicals,” Deborah said. “Her big dream was to be on Broadway.”
But that dream was short-lived when she decided to give cross country one more try. Nerud practiced with the team the summer before her freshman year at North Shore, finding another passion to pursue.
“I realized that I loved to run and loved the aspect of competing and the team concept,” Nerud said.
Nerud credits her high school coach, Neal Levy, for her commitment to running, saying he pushed her to excel each year.
“Brianna improved every single season of every single year of her high school career, which is very rare,” Levy said.
Nerud almost suffered a setback in the 10th grade when her family found out she was iron deficient.
“We didn’t realize she was doing so much mileage and she wasn’t eating enough red meat,” Deborah said.
Her family resolved the deficiency quickly so she could continue to compete.
In her last year of high school, Nerud received numerous national honors as she shattered records nationally and locally.
At the IAAF World Juniors Championship in Barcelona, Spain, Nerud finished the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 10:00.72, passing Providence runner Shelby Greany’s record of 10:00.88 for the American Junior under-20 set in 2010.
While not many people expected Nerud to break out like she did at the end of the season, Levy saw it coming.
“Brianna’s best races are ones where she builds confidence in herself, where it wasn’t so much about winning or a time, but trying to reach her potential in whatever she does,” Levy said.
Now, Nerud is looking to achieve her potential at SU.
As she prepared for her first meet, the athletic department and Nerud’s mother had her iron levels tested again. They found her levels were high, meaning she could continue to compete.
It allowed Nerud to run her first college race for the Orange on Sept. 21, at the Toledo Inter-Regional Bubble Buster. Nerud was one of four true freshmen to run.
Nerud was the first freshman to finish, placing 19th overall in the 4K with a time of 13:43.1. She said her first race went well because she stuck with the plan formed with SU head coach Chris Fox.
Nerud ran a harder, faster race in the second half. Teaming up with sophomore Jessie Petersen, the pair went in the middle of the pack and worked together to move ahead of the other runners.
Nerud said following the plan helped keep her poised to finish strong.
“I felt like I ran a hard and smart race,” Nerud said. “I just hope next time I can help my team have less points.”
Her SU career is only starting, but her record-breaking performances in high school garnered Nerud national attention.
As soon as the Syracuse cross-country staff could, they started reaching out to her, said John Oliver, SU’s cross country director of operations.
“She’s always been a top-level athlete in high school, so we had her on our radar,” Oliver said. “At the start of her senior year we started getting in touch with her, talking to her coach and getting to know her family.”
Nerud said she liked what the Syracuse coaches had to say, eventually swaying her decision from Duke to SU.
“I loved the coaches and I thought they would really help me keep improving to a higher level,” Nerud said.
Contact Melissa: firstname.lastname@example.org
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