When Soliana Goldrich was a sophomore running for her high school cross country team, her goal was to not finish last in every race.
Now, as she prepares to graduate from Goucher College with a degree in psychology after two seasons as cross country captain and emerging as the team's top runner, her coach isn't quite sure how he will replace her.
"It will be a tough void to fill," said John Caslin, Goucher's head coach of cross country and track and field, "but she led by example, and I think her teammates are ready to try and see if they can fill her shoes. Soliana has been a reminder of what four years of college can help a student-athlete become."
At Goucher, Goldrich has progressed from being a runner who was sidelined by anemia as a freshman to becoming a team leader and the Gophers' top finisher at the Landmark Conference Championships. She will graduate a semester early, magna cum laude with honors and better than a 3.7 GPA.
Her cross country and track and field commitments, which include daily practices, weight-room workouts several times a week, team meetings and meets, would be enough to wear out any college student. Yet she finds time to do more and still excel academically.
Goldrich has been a campus resident assistant, a member of two national honor societies, a dean's list student since fall 2015, a participant in psychology research groups that meet weekly, a presenter of research findings at conferences in Boston and Vancouver, a volunteer for various causes and a leader in starting a campus interfaith club.
"It's a lot of time management," said Goldrich, an Austin, Texas, native. "Honestly, I think competing in a sport has pushed me to manage my time better, because when you have your specific class times and your specific practice times and your time to lift, making sure that you have time for all of that really forces you to learn how to fit things in."
Goldrich's ability to juggle so many commitments and activities while excelling athletically and academically earned her recognition as the 2017 Landmark Conference Women's Cross Country Scholar-Athlete, presented to one women's cross country competitor who maintains at least a 3.2 GPA.
"It's not something I expected," she said. "The person who won last year was our conference champion, so I always associated it with being a stellar athlete and stellar in academics. I do decently well in academics, so that component doesn't necessarily surprise me, but being recognized for my athletics and academics is something I never saw myself doing. It's not like I'm a naturally talented runner. I've put in a lot of work over the years to improve, just like I've worked hard to improve my academics. So seeing all that hard work pay off and being recognized for that is really exciting."
Goldrich was the fourth Goucher women's cross country runner to receive the honor.
"Soliana's academic record was the main reason she was selected," Caslin said. "But her improvement as a runner also stands out. She has made remarkable improvement over her four years, improving by over seven minutes for 6,000 meters, winning the Goucher Cross Country Classic and just missing making all-conference by finishing 16th [at the conference championship]."
As a freshman, Goldrich's anemia left her "tired from climbing a flight of steps," but it also pushed her to learn more about what foods would help maintain her energy and research the optimal diet for distance runners.
She came back stronger as a sophomore, and then something clicked athletically. Goldrich became one of the top three runners on the team, and Caslin challenged them to finish in the top 10 at their home meet. She had not previously performed at that level, but that day Goldrich pushed herself like never before, and all three runners achieved Caslin's goal.
"Not being able to run my freshman year really helped me develop a hunger," Goldrich said. "I would watch people while they were doing the workouts. Sometimes it gets hard while you are running, so I think realizing that I really missed it and it was something I wanted to do even though it was hard, was really important for me."
Since then, Goldrich has not stopped improving. She competed in the first indoor track meet of the season Dec. 1 at Susquehanna University and turned in her best career performance. Goldrich improved her mile time by 10 seconds, recording the seventh-best mark in school history (5 minutes, 39 seconds), and also turned in Goucher's fourth-best 3,000-meter time (11:22.67).
While Goldrich thinks she could break a few school records if she had another month to compete, that was her final meet as a collegiate athlete. In a few weeks she will graduate and wait to see where she is accepted for graduate school.
"Nothing like going out on top," Caslin said. "It has been an honor and a privilege to coach her."
Issue 240: December 2017