With a multitude of records to her name, fifth-year senior Becky Wade has already cemented herself as one of the greatest distance runners in Rice history. But in her five years at Rice, Wade had yet to qualify for the NCAA Indoor National meet to this point, despite making the trip for the NCAA Outdoor National meet two times and the NCAA Cross Country meet once.
But after a solid year competing in the 5,000-meter run, including a personal best time of 16:03 at the Notre Dame Last Chance Meet on March 2, Wade was up for the challenge along with 15 other runners from across the country. Before her star showing at the Notre Dame Last Chance Meet, Wade was on the cusp of qualifying for the national meet but still needed another effort to ensure her spot among the top 16. Head Coach Jim Bevan knew exactly what it would take to book her trip to nationals.
"I told her it would probably take a 16:03 to win it, and she ran a 16:03," a smiling Bevan said. "Although she didn't win it, her main focus was getting that time and not as much on the individual title."
But despite her trip to Nampa, Idaho, a mere 22 miles from Boise, to act as an ambassador for the Rice track brand, Wade came up short of her first-ever individual national championship, finishing 13th.
"Becky ran better than she was seeded, coming in seeded 15th," Bevan said. "She really wasn't 'on' tonight, but gave a great effort, going out in 5:05 for the mile, the fastest she's gone out all year. I'm proud of her just getting here and running with the best in the nation."
Wade's third-place performance at Notre Dame University was certainly inspiring and gave her hope that despite her low seeding relative to the other competitors, she would be able to place inside the top 10 and be named First Team All-America.
Wade was not given much credence going into the meet, although that is no slight for anyone who has earned a spot among the top runners in the nation. With Wade usually running at or near the front of every race this season, the national meet field was way out of her element, with the competitors leaving their original bunched formation in favor of a more strung-out race just 1,500 meters into the race. With the race halfway over, Wade was near the 10th-place spot but ultimately faded somewhat to finish in 13th. An additional element that made it tougher for Wade was the fact that she had not raced against any of the other runners before, not having run against Sara Sutherland of The University of Texas or Natosha Rogers of Texas A&M University at the Texas A&M Invitational. This meant she was not able to anticipate the individual styles of the other runners, like some of the runners from the Big 12 Conference would have been able to.
"Ultimately, it was great to represent to Rice at nationals, but I should have done a lot better," Wade said. "I was pretty far back from my personal best, and I didn't want to end my indoor career that way. I think I pushed myself hard, but there's a bit of a switch in mentality when you aren't in contention for first place. Your drive is not as tangible when the stakes aren't quite as high."
Still, Wade was able to look back on a season in which she placed either first or second in every single mile or 3,000-meter run that she competed in this year, a remarkable feat considering that she was running in nationally renowned events such as the Texas A&M Invitational and the Meyo Invitational. Wade was quick to give the credit to the help of her coach.
"I haven't had great starts to any of my seasons this year so far, but Jim's pulled me around when I needed to be pulled around," Wade said. "I think there's a lot to be said for his training and the way that he believes in me even when I'm not performing great."
The race has not ended for Wade yet, with another opportunity to add to her national meet total during the outdoor season that begins today with the Texas Southern University Relays and continues with the 30th Victor Lopez Classic hosted by Rice next weekend.