Mary (Serdakowski) Boggs

I never figured I’d get injured during college. I don’t think anyone ever really thinks they’ll get injured. But I did, right at the beginning of my junior year outdoor season by tearing a foot tendon in practice. I had to sit out the entire season. It was hard to watch the meets while wearing a walking cast and yearning to be out on that track; however, the sudden availability in time it allowed me to focus on projects and classes during that spring break and semester.

During the graduate school research process, I was only looking at environmental engineering programs and had not considered running for another program. The University of Massachusetts was one of the master’s degree programs that accepted me. In April 2006, the Harvard team competed at a meet where UMass was also competing. My dad had previously suggested that I introduce myself to the women’s head coach as a possible newcomer to her team next year. I was a bit reluctant as I was still waiting to hear back from other schools. However, I made the time to introduce myself to Julie LaFreniere, the head coach for UMass, as a 100m hurdler and sprinter who had one more outdoor season left. She also got to see me run that day, but I have to admit it was a poor performance as I was overcoming a cold. Anyways, in July 2006, I emailed Julie to tell her that I was indeed coming to UMass and asked to join her team. (I still have that email…)

It was quite an adjustment to practice and compete as a graduate student. I was the only graduate student on the team, and probably the first one in a long time who had an undergraduate degree from a different school. The year I competed for the team felt like a combination of freshman and senior year, in that I was experiencing everything for both the first and last time. The coaches felt I would be a good example to the other athletes on the team and help motivate them during practices. I had to relearn quickly how to run outside in all sorts of weather and to do more with less. The hardest adjustment for me was trying to mesh in with the team. It was difficult to bond with the other girls because I lived off-campus, I was not in any of their classes, and I could not go to the indoor meets as I was only listed for the outdoor travel roster.

It wasn’t until midway through the outdoor season when things began to feel more like a team effort. I began to feel more confident with my team and take on more efforts to support the team. I picked up the 400m intermediate hurdles, an event that my previous coach Walter Johnson wished I had done at Harvard, while also doing the 100m high hurdles and 4×400 meter relay. When the outdoor conference came around, it felt natural to cheer on the other girls as they did their events. The team support was reflective. I remember their cheers as I turned for those final 100m of the 400m hurdle final my my 4×400 relay leg. In all, that outdoor season was a great way to finish my collegiate career. I originally did not expect to ever wear anything but crimson and white, however, I am proud to have worn maroon and white.

This story was written by Boggs in 2010 as part of a larger story on Wandering Ivies.


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