Nov. 15, 2012
By Paige Stenberg
DALLAS (SMU) - Four years ago, senior Cross Country runner Mary Alenbratt, came to Dallas from Bohus, Sweden. Now, she will finish up her final season on the Hilltop at the NCAA Championships on Saturday in Louisville, Ky.
"This accomplishment means so much to me," Alenbratt said. "I couldn't be happier than making it all the way to nationals during my very last cross country season."
Alenbratt's senior season has certainly been a memorable one. Alenbratt set a personal best at the Conference USA Championships in the 5K, leading to second-place finish and First Team All-Conference recognition. At regionals, Alenbratt stepped it up even further, finishing eighth in a field including some of the nation's best runners. For her performance, Alenbratt took All-Region honors and a berth in the NCAA Championships as an individual.
Alenbratt has been a key contributor throughout her career at SMU. In 2009, her freshman year, Mary was named to the NCAA South Central All Region Team and she made her first appearance in the NCAA Championships. In 2010, Alenbratt finished second in the UT Arlington Season Opener and was named Conference USA Cross Country Athlete of the Week (Sept. 14, 2010). Alenbratt's terrific junior year garnered her more accolades. She was named to the All-Region team and earned Second Team All-Conference USA honors.
"Awards are always a blessing and I appreciate them so much," Alenbratt said. "For me it is proof I have been working hard but also makes me aim to stay higher up. The awards motivate me. When looking at them and remembering the feeling of that day, it makes you want to work hard to experience the same feeling again."
As the only senior on a very young team, Alenbratt led SMU to yet another conference title (the school's fourth in five years) and praises the group of freshmen she worked with during her final year as a Mustang.
"It has been the best journey from the first day of practice this season," the senior said. "I don't think we could have asked for a better group of freshmen then what we got this year."
Coming to Dallas certainly had its challenges for Alenbratt. Traveling to a different state for college is difficult enough for many kids, but relocating to America from Sweden was a big transition for Mary.
"It was a big change," Alenbratt said. "After three years here I am used to it, but the first year was overwhelming. I always had a great team and people around me so I have never been homesick or lonely."
Understandably, one of the hardest parts about moving to a different country was the language and cultural differences. Alenbratt also describes this as the best part because she has increasingly grown as a person from her time in a different country. SMU has given her the opportunity to become a student-athlete. It is not possible to train and study simultaneously in Sweden and she is thankful for the chance and people that have helped her accomplish just that.
Her indestructible humbleness and impressive individual accomplishments have certainly helped lead the Mustangs to greatness over the past few years.
"I have been so lucky the past few years at SMU to have this group of determined, loving, and hard-working girls," the senior stated.
One of the best memories she will keep with her from SMU are the four C-USA championships. However, the most memorable part for Alenbratt about being on the team is the team itself.
"My best memory is the team spirit I have experienced," Alenbratt said. "Everything I have accomplished with my team stands way higher up than all the things I have accomplished as an individual."
Alenbratt is certainly excited about the NCAA Championships on Saturday, but is also aware that it will mark the end of her collegiate cross country career, which leaves her with mixed feelings, especially considering she'll be the only Mustang competing at the event.
"There will be so many emotions," Alenbratt said. "Right now, I don't think about it as much but when we get to Louisville I will probably realize that this is the end. I have never raced a collegiate cross country race without my team before. Luckily, a couple of my teammates are driving up to Louisville to cheer me on Saturday. I know that is going to help me so much before and during the race."