In honor of Cullinan ’08, team hosts 2nd 5K race
By Caroline Buck, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, May 21, 2010
The Dartmouth women’s rugby team will hold its second annual 5K race called “Cully’s Run” on Sunday to benefit the National Eating Disorders Association.
The run is in memory of former women’s rugby player Katie Cullinan ’08 — known to her teammates as “Cully” — who took her own life in August 2008, after battling an eating disorder. A sister at Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, the 22-year-old Cullinan had plans before her suicide to study abroad the following Fall.
Cully’s Run is organized to both remember Cully and serve to raise awareness about the prevalence and impact of eating disorders, according to Ginna Roach ’12, a member of the women’s rugby team and organizer of this year’s run.
Roach said it is important to raise awareness about eating disorders to prevent deaths like Cullinan’s from occurring.
“I think it is one of those things that goes unnoticed a lot, and how many forms that eating disorders can come in,” Roach said. “I think that Cully was frustrated with herself as well. People with eating disorders aren’t just doing it because they need control — it controls their body.”
Claudette Peck, a licensed clinical mental health counselor and licensed dietician at Dartmouth, said that eating disorders often do not exhibit stereotypical symptoms.
“There are many signs of an eating disorder, and some may go unnoticed,” Peck said. “Eating disorders don’t discriminate against race, age, gender, size or social class.”
Women’s rugby head coach Debra Archambault said Cullinan’s passing has impacted her coaching and the unity of the team.
“Knowing what an incredibly bright light she was for so many people, and not knowing the depth of her despair, cannot do anything but make a person pause for reflection and consider how to react to others in her situation,” Archambault said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth.
The women’s rugby team has raised over $5,000 from registration fees, local support and donations for the events. Last year’s race had 200 participants, but this year’s goal is to surpass 300, Roach said.
Caroline Cima ’10, who was Cullinan’s teammate and organized the race last Spring, described Cullinan as “incredibly supportive” and “uniquely hilarious.”
“There is a definite void without her, but that’s part of why this event is so important — to remember the happiness she created, and the joy she inspired in others,” Cima said.
Several of the designs advertising Cully’s Run have included some of Cullinan’s personality, featuring a puffer fish, which was a trademark of Cullinan.
“She used to write it on sticky notes for friends as a little ‘you can do it,’” Roach said.
The women rugby players also honor Cullinan by wearing pink cleats — a signature of the rugger — and presenting an award to the player who best embodies Cullinan’s presence on the team.
“She had an indomitable spirit, showed passionate support for her teammates on and off the field and possessed an irreverent humor, with impeccable timing, which she used often,” Archambault said.
Cullinan’s cleats were another mark of her vibrant, outgoing personality, according to Archambault.
“She would always wear hot pink cleats, and then go tear down the field,” Roach said. “We emulate her and our pink cleats are a symbol of that.”
Cully’s run serves as a way for her teammates and the community to commemorate Cullinan’s life while educating students about eating disorders.
“I want to end the day feeling like we have maybe shed some light on an elusive and very difficult subject,” Archambault said.
Research has concluded that people who diet frequently or who exhibit perfectionist tendencies may be more likely to develop an eating disorder, Peck added.
“Not only do eating disorders physically destroy one’s health, they also take up so much mental energy, along with destroying one’s self confidence and esteem,” Peck said.
Medical professionals, counselors and the campus nutritionist are available to discuss concerns about eating disorders with students, Pick added.
“Dartmouth offers free health service consultations through our primary care and counseling department,” she said.
Cully’s Run will be on Sunday, May 23 with walker and runner registration at 12:30 p.m.