After injury-plagued start, D’Agostino ’14 excels for Big Green
By Casey Dennis
Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2011
In her short time at the College, long distance runner Abbey D’Agostino ’14 has set multiple Dartmouth and Ivy League records, and last year became the first female Big Green track and field athlete since 2002 to be named a First Team All-American. In addition to her standout performances, D’Agostino’s toughness and resiliency help set her apart as a crucial member of Dartmouth’s team.
After missing the cross country season due to injury, D’Agostino became the third best five-kilometer runner in the nation during her freshman season, running a 15:40.69 at the 2011 NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, in June. Her run shattered the previous League record set by Yale University runner Kate O’Neill, who ran a 15:51.30 and later went on to race in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
D’Agostino also won the five-kilometer race at the Outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in the spring, and was part of the distance medley relay team that set a school record at the Penn Relays with a time of 11:16.02.
This fall, D’Agostino has carried last year’s success into her first cross country season for the Big Green. In September, D’Agostino won the Dartmouth Cross Country Invitational, a 2.9-mile run that she ran in 16:50. D’Agostino also finished second in the six-kilometer race at the Oct. 16 NCAA Pre-Meet in Terre Haute, Ind., with a time of 20:23.
“She has always been a great runner,” said team member Lizzie Short ’12, who raced against D’Agostino in high school. “It’s very inspirational. She’s such a hard worker and really deserves all of the success she has had.”
Co-captain Alexi Pappas ’12 said she finds D’Agostino’s calmness and control at races remarkable.
“When I’m not running, it’s really fun to watch her,” Pappas said. “I can count on her being tougher than her opponents. When I am in a race with her, I know she will not give up or make any excuses.”
Head coach Mark Coogan — a marathon runner in the 1996 Summer Olympics — said D’Agostino possesses all the traits that coaches want in an athlete.
“She’s such a talented runner,” he said. “She is extremely mentally tough and really cares about the team. She works so hard for us.”
Although both her parents were marathon runners, D’Agostino did not start running competitively until her freshman year of high school. D’Agostino, who is from Topsfield, Mass., was unable to perform for much of her junior and senior years in high school due to health issues.
“College was a big transition from high school,” D’Agostino said. “My experience running here would not be the same if I had not overcome those difficulties in high school.”
Last fall, D’Agostino rolled her ankle in an early-season training session. She then suffered a high ankle sprain on the same ankle while warming up at the Paul Short Invitational in early October, causing her to miss the season.
Despite the injury, D’Agostino trained hard in the winter in preparation for the spring track season.
“I was really motivated to finally contribute on a college team,” she said. “I was surrounded by a coach and teammates who encouraged me and I became more comfortable and determined to compete.”
Running between 60 and 70 miles each week, D’Agostino has an impressive workout regime.
“She is very consistent, hardworking and dedicated,” Coogan said. “She eats well and really takes care of her body. It could be pouring rain or two feet of snow on the ground, but Abbey will still be out there running.”
D’Agostino, who hopes to major in psychology with a possible minor in Spanish, said she works hard to balance her academics with running.
“I make sure to take manageable classes of personal interest in order to prevent myself from being stressed,” she said. “I would not want academic stress to lead to athletic stress. Academics is obviously the number one most important thing for me. I am always studying. I have to make sure that I keep both in perspective.”
Short said D’Agostino knows how to push appropriately without over-exerting.
“Last spring she never got psyched, even as a freshman, when facing big competition,” Short said.
Pappas added that D’Agostino’s ability to motivate herself is a key attribute to her success.
“In a race, at some point it is going to hurt for everyone, and it becomes a matter of who can deal with that pain the best,” Pappas said. “In her mind, Abbey knows she can do it and knows how tough she is. Abbey has mastered the ability to be prepared and focused.”
D’Agostino said Coogan’s experience as a coach and marathon runner has positively influenced her own abilities.
“He has really made me comfortable racing at a high caliber,” she said. “He explained to me the barrier between doing well and doing exceptional. His advice has helped me train well and not become intimidated by high levels of competitions. At a race, the most important thing for me is to trust my training.”
D’Agostino’s teammates heralded her as an outstanding teammate, with co-captain Arianna Vailas ’14 calling her “an incredible role model and an inspiration to all of us.” Short added that D’Agostino is “one of the nicest people I know.”
“She has a phenomenal attitude and always has a smile on her face,” Short said.
Beside the cross country team, D’Agostino is involved in the Dartmouth Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Big Green Readers, a service group that connects student-athletes with elementary school children.
The cross country team next competes at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship in Princeton, N.J., on Saturday. D’Agostino said she is excited for the pivotal race.
“This is our biggest team competition so far and we have been training months for this,” she said. “We must do the little things right this week — getting sleep, eating healthy and staying mentally focused in order to prepare and do well Saturday.”