Q&A With Crusader Of The Year Zoe Matherne
By Jackie Hart
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Holy Cross senior student-athlete Zoe Matherne was named the 2017-2018 Crusader of the Year last month. The Crusader of the Year is the most prestigious award presented to a student-athlete by the Varsity Club. It is awarded to a senior who has excelled not only in varsity athletics, but also in the classroom and community and is heavily involved in campus activities. Matherne competed in cross country and track and field all four years. She is the first female cross country and track and field athlete to receive the award since 2002.
Matherne was selected to the Academic All-Patriot League team for track and field in both the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons and has been named All-Patriot League multiple times in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. She made history in 2017 by becoming only the third Holy Cross student-athlete to take part in the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championship, competing in the 800-meter race in Lexington, Ky. This year, she will become the first Crusader to compete in the NCAA Championship more than once, when she runs in the 800-meters in Tampa, Fla. Matherne holds school records in the outdoor 400-meter run (57.22), the indoor 800-meter run (2:08.07), the outdoor 800-meter run (2:06.91), the indoor 1,000-meter run (2:45.95), the outdoor 1,500-meter run (4:25:78) and the indoor one-mile run (4:47.18).
A history major, hailing from Camp Hill, Pa., Matherne is the vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). She has succeeded in athletics despite suffering from lymphangioma in her feet, a condition in which lymph nodes cannot drain properly causing painful masses in the affected areas. In January of 2017, she suffered a serious setback after a major flare and doctors thought her running career could be over. Yet she persevered and finished her Holy Cross athletic career in style.
Recently, Matherne talked to GoHolyCross.com's Jackie Hart about her four years at Holy Cross, which earned her Crusader of the Year.
What does winning the Crusader of the Year mean to you? What was your reaction when you were picked?
Winning Crusader of the Year is a culmination of the many years of hard work, sacrifice and dedication that it took to attain the many results I was fortunate enough to have achieved while at Holy Cross, and even in my high school career that led to my recruitment process. While accolades say a lot about my time at Holy Cross as a student-athlete, what goes unsaid and unmentioned are the setbacks and the hard parts: bad races, runs where your legs just do not want to move, injuries, late nights in the library and early morning practices. Being the Crusader of the Year is as much a testament to all the great things I have done on the track, on the cross country course and in the classroom, as it is to persevering through the not-so-glamorous parts of being a Division I student-athlete – but I would not trade my experience for anyone else’s.
What will you miss most about Holy Cross?
Kimball Dining Hall. In all seriousness, I love the ambiance and food options of Kimball, but most of all I loved seeing my teammates. Those meals we shared together are among my best memories at Holy Cross. We endured hard workouts together and could then go laugh it off with Kimball’s famous fresh-carved chicken and a to-die-for salad bar. Not only that, but as a senior in Kimball, I was fortunate enough that Paula knew me by name! It is a truly special place that will always have a warm spot in my heart, and I will always believe that Kimball coffee is seriously underrated.
What was the most memorable meet you had as a Holy Cross athlete?
This is a seriously tough question for me. Because I competed in three sports for four seasons, there are many meets to choose from: ones where the team did well or perhaps one where as an individual I did well. Among my favorite meets would be the Patriot League Cross Country Championship in the fall of 2017. As an 800-meter runner, the long distance of cross country was extremely challenging for me. Although I was never the best person on the team, being able to help the team with a 12th place finish (coupled with Hannah Jeter coming in fifth and Jenna Gasparrini placing 14th) was by far one of the most gratifying and grueling races of my life. While I love the speediness and excitement of fast track races, I will always love the grittiness of cross country races. It is just you and the trails and you have to find it within yourself to run your best race.
Is there any advice you would like to leave to your teammates and other Holy Cross student-athletes?
Stay true to who you are and what motivates you. There will be times when it would be easy to give up, but those are the times when you need to strengthen your convictions and your love for the sport.
What skills or habits have you acquired through track that will help you in the future?
Time management. I am fortunate to have never pulled an all-nighter and to have never stayed up past midnight at Holy Cross doing homework; I have always prioritized eight hours of sleep per night and have managed my work to make certain that happens. When I know that my sleep is on the line, I can buckle down and get to work – it has been a great motivator for me in the library over the past four years.
Track has forced me to examine all of my life choices – eating, sleeping, working – and making sure that I am always taking care of myself in order to maximize performance. By taking care of myself as an athlete, I also took care of myself as a student. Sleeping well and eating well helped me on the track but also in the classroom!
Your team had another successful season during your senior year. What do you think contributed to that success?
Many things! First, the Patriot League improved substantially every year since I have been here and we have risen to match that level of competition. I hope that everyone in the program continues to dream bigger things – like school records, regional berths and Patriot League titles – for themselves and the team going forward. I would be remiss if I did not mention the new Indoor Practice Facility at the Luth Athletic Complex that allowed us to update our workouts and prevent injuries! Many records will continue to be shattered as we reap the benefits of that new training surface.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I am attending law school in the fall at Dickinson College of Law in my home state of Pennsylvania.
What other activities, outside of athletics, are important to you?
Aside from the “normal” college activities, I have been very lucky to geek out in some very fun opportunities within the Holy Cross history department: I was able to pursue independent research in gender and women’s sport history, which allowed me to research the roots of women’s involvement in sports which certainly enhanced my experience as an athlete. Additionally, I wrote my senior history thesis on Boston school desegregation – I was very passionate about both of these topics, which made the meticulous research and long-writing process totally worthwhile and fulfilling. These types of research projects and working closely with professors are what makes the academic side of Holy Cross so special. As grateful as I am to the department of athletics, I am equally as grateful to my professors – particularly within the history and education departments – for honing and refining my scholarly side.
What do you think is the best and most important part of SAAC?
I am so lucky to have been in SAAC during a period of rapid transformation and growth, which is really just a microcosm for all of Holy Cross Athletics. When I arrived in the fall of 2014, SAAC was not seriously organized and certainly not a major force on campus. Because of the leadership of Armani Rice, as well as many ambitious and confident student-athletes, it is now an effective governing body for the student-athletes on campus – and I know the group will continue to prosper and develop over the years. Like SAAC, Holy Cross Athletics endured major transformations throughout my four years, with the leadership of Nathan Pine and the new facilities at the Luth Athletic Complex.