Record book rewritten by women’s track

Records, they say, are made to be broken.

For University of San Diego senior running stars Sarah Kapple and Andrea Hughes, this holds true with every lap around the track.

Both are coming off two straight weekends of performances the Torero track team had never seen before.

Two weekends ago at the Bryan Clay Invite in Los Angeles, Kapple set a school mark in her first career attempt at the 3K steeplechase with a time of 10:51.82, while Hughes topped a record in the 5K that had stood for more than three years with a 16:52.77 mark.

This past Saturday, the two were at it again at the Triton Invite at nearby University of California, San Diego with Kapple breaking a record in the 800m (2:13.71) and Hughes topping another school record in the 3K (9:54.97).

The performances had track coach Will Guarino raving about the girls’ talent.

“Andrea ran an excellent race,” Guarino said. “Her two-mile split of 10:49 and her ability to attack the various segments of the race were wonderful to see.”

Senior Sarah Kapple crashes through a water barrier during the steeplechase. Photo courtesy of USD XC & Track/Twitter

The coach had similar praise for Kapple, noting that her eye-opening premiere in the steeplechase was no more than a couple of seconds off the pace of the debut time of current American record holder Emma Coburn.

The event, which consists of 28 barriers and seven water hazards, first caught Kapple’s attention because of the unique challenges it provided.

“I’ve known since high school that I wanted to try the steeple, because it honestly just looked like a lot of fun having the hurdles and water jumps in the race,” Kapple said. “I played soccer all throughout high school, so I was hoping that I still had some coordination left over from that.”

As proud of the girls as Guarino was, however, the feeling was no match for the pride the girls held for themselves as they crossed the finish line.

“The best thing a runner can do to compete to the best of their ability is to be both optimistic and incredibly stubborn,” Hughes said. “Our coach creates such a relentlessly positive atmosphere around our team. He’s set goals for me that I doubted I could manage, but his confidence gave me confidence of my own in return, which is just what I needed to attain whatever goals we set.”

Kapple agrees that the feeling in the moments after a record-breaking run is hard to match.

“Usually, it’s along the lines of ‘Wow, that was really hard’ and ‘Wow, I can’t believe I just did that,’” Kapple said. “Pretty soon I start thinking about the celebratory ice cream sundae I’m going to have later, too.”

For the women, the records also serve as the culmination of years of hard work and miles of long, exhaustive endurance training.

Think fitting in a little cardio at the gym is a challenge? Try what these female phenomenons do on a weekly basis.

“The first time we did 5K repeats, I thought I would never get through it,” Hughes said. “Now, it’s just another workout we wake up and do. And with the help of my team, I get through it, and then I can go brag to my friends about running fifteen miles that day.”

Her star teammate echoed similar sentiments.

“This is going to sound strange, but I’ve almost gotten used to being in pain from running,” Kapple said. “It’s like I’m comfortable with being uncomfortable. When the pain does hit, I always pray and remind myself that, even when my body fails, I know that God will take over. All you need is a little faith.”

The years of early morning miles and carefully-crafted schedules, regimented to balance school and sports, seem to have paid off in long-lasting memories on and off the track for both seniors.

“I know that the thing I’m going to miss the most about being a Torero is my team,” Kapple said. “We go through so much together in training, so to race with each other and share in each other’s running accomplishments is so special. I feel lucky to be able to run with such an amazing group of women, and they push me so much to be a better person and athlete.”

With two races to go, the dynamic duo has its sights set on finishing their respective college careers strong.

“I’d love to qualify for NCAA West regionals in the steeplechase,” Kapple said. “It’d be a dream come true to make it to that meet.”

Hughes said that she agreed with that sentiment.

Andrea Hughes celebrates with other Torero runners after a record-breaking run in the 5k by posing in a throne. Photo courtesy of USD Toreros

“Two races left means two more chances to top my times,” Hughes said. “I’m not done yet.”

That mutual ambition extends to their lives after college as well, as Kapple has signed on with Northrop Grumman as a Systems Engineer. Hughes plans to pursue her master’s and a dream job in education.

First, though, a couple more long-distance laps around the track await. For Hughes and Kapple, the sky is the limit as the two look to close out their careers on a high note.

Look for both of these record setting Toreros to leave their marks on more pages of the USD record book.

Written by Noah Hilton, Asst. Sports Editor