By GREG LAUDANI
Senior Brianna Boden is a sparkplug for the UNH women’s cross-country team.
As she and the Wildcats gear up for their chance to win a third straight America East Championship on Saturday, Boden continues to guide her team by example with outstanding dedication to preparation and her ever-present sense of humor.
“She motivates her team with her preparation,” UNH head coach Robert Hoppler said. “Her willingness to prepare and her will to run with intensity throughout entire races has helped her develop into a truly elite runner.”
Boden, an All-Conference runner last season, has emerged into one of New Hampshire’s top performers this season, placing within the top four Wildcat finishers in each of her four meets. Her results have proven how Boden has elevated herself into UNH’s elite grouping.
“To be a successful distance program, it’s all about the work,” Hoppler said. “You have to love and enjoy running and it has to become a lifestyle. She has found that and she’s a true runner. I’m very proud of what she has accomplished here.”
Boden’s improvement is much more than last year compared to this season. The Keene, New Hampshire, native has gotten better and better throughout her entire collegiate career. Boden did not race in the conference title meet during her freshman season and placed 37th a year later in her first go-around in the event.
Last season, she jumped all the way up to 10th place at the America East Championship meet. Hoppler credits Boden’s improvement with the way she trains during the offseason and throughout the season.
“You will never be successful as a distance runner if you don’t put in the work,” Hoppler said. “The thing that has allowed her to develop is her ability to do the work and do the training at a very high level. The training has really resulted in her success.”
Boden averages 60 miles of running in recent weeks and said her success is a credit to the belief system planted in the UNH cross-country program.
“Discipline is something that has helped me grow as a runner and also being able to go outside my comfort zone has been huge for me,” she said.
In addition to her rigorous work ethic, Boden also sets an example for her teammates with her wittiness.
Boden described herself with a chuckle as “goofy” and added that she is a “pretty loud person.” The senior keeps the mood loose around the team by making light of grueling tasks such as 10-14 mile runs at practice.
“I make a joke out of everything,” she said. “I believe if you take everything too seriously it loses all the fun.”
Hoppler said Boden’s upbeat attitude provides the team consistent energy boosts throughout grueling training weeks.
“She’s a fun kid,” he said. “She is a happy person and I think she brings enjoyment to practice and I think you need someone who makes people smile like that.”
The senior nursing major is very popular among her teammates, and Boden tabbed runners on the team as her best friends. Those friends are not limited just to upperclassmen, however. Boden has a strong belief in treating all members of the team the same, no matter how much or how little running experience they have.
“We don’t look at who is a senior and who is a freshman,” she said. “Yes I’m a senior and I like to give younger runners advice,” she said. “More importantly, though, I want to be their teammate and friend.”
Boden and her teammates travel to Stony Brook University on Saturday for the highly anticipated conference title meet. It will finally be time for the main event for the Wildcats, who are on the hunt for their third consecutive America East crown under Hoppler.
Now in his 12th season at the helm, Hoppler said he is confident in where his team is heading into the weekend.
“We all trained all summer and throughout the cross country season to fine tune everything for this meet,” Boden said. “Nothing is a given and everyone has to run well on Saturday, but from our training I think we will do really well.”
The Wildcats’ senior is looking forward to stepping up to the starting line with her teammates for the final time at an America East Cross-Country Championship meet. However, Boden said that perhaps what she is most excited for is to see her coach’s reaction if New Hampshire is able to come out on top once again.
“Seeing the look on (Hoppler’s) face,” Boden said. “There is no way to describe it the first time we won America East. I want to make him proud, make our school proud and make everyone on our team proud.”
Boden bolsters ‘Cats
By GREG LAUDANI