Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Alexandra Purdue-Smithe prevails against all odds

To say that Alexandra Purdue-Smithe has had some obstacles in the way of her success as a distance runner for the Massachusetts women’s cross-country team would be an understatement.  Despite this, she has emerged as one of the Minutewomen’s strongest runners this year.

Courtesy of Thom Kendall

A graduate of Sharon High School, Purdue-Smithe played lacrosse while running track and cross-country on the side, but she was not recruited to play on the collegiate level.

After entering the University of Massachusetts in 2011, she took it upon herself to try to get back into running shape and started training on her own. After impressive finishes in various marathons, and with the help of her former high school coach, she contacted Minutewomen cross-country coach Julie LaFreniere to find out how she could get on the team.

She competed against 34 other women to try out for the 20 available spots on the team. And after spending the whole summer training, Purdue-Smithe earned a spot and walked on as a redshirt freshman.

Her involvement on the team was short-lived though, as she came down with a severe case of Achilles tendonitis near the end of the year, promptly ending her season.

“It’s definitely hard when you get injured. You feel like you’re so far from where you need to be,” Purdue-Smithe said. “It’s like you’re in a dark hole.”

Due to her injury, she couldn’t perform during the indoor portion of the season. Lacking the same amount of practice time and workouts as her fellow runners, Purdue-Smithe was fighting an uphill battle to get back into shape for the outdoor running season come the subsequent fall.

After missing the first few meets during her sophomore year, Purdue-Smithe had returned and was looking to make up for lost time.  This comeback attempt proved to be even briefer, as her injury returned two days before the National Collegiate Athletic Association regionals, prematurely ending her season for the second-straight year.

Purdue-Smithe continued to nurse her injury while training with the team in hopes of returning for the fall 2013 season.

“She’s the type of person who puts her nose to the grindstone and keeps on going,” LaFreniere said of Purdue-Smithe’s persistency.

The decision to keep training has paid off so far. She’s been one of the team’s best runners and most consistent finishers with a top-four team finish in every meet yet this year.

“Consistency contributes to confidence,” Purdue-Smithe said. “So the more consistent I am, the more confident I am.”

Even with her success so far this year, Purdue-Smithe still has other goals in mind.

“I’d hope I can make it through healthy,” she said. “I hope I can be a good role model for training in a healthy way and in a smart way.”

It’s been a long road to get to where she’s at now, but her coach is itching with the anticipation of what Purdue-Smithe can do this year.

“I believe her best races are coming up,” LaFreniere said. “Most people can run four years of high school and still not accomplish what Alex is doing. It’s payoff time and her training is working for her now.”

The future is bright as long as her health cooperates. She said she has learned a lot from her experience and hopes her story can inspire others to work just as hard.

“I don’t even know where I would be if I stopped running,” she said. “It definitely shows that hard work pays off.”

Frank Corona can be reached at [email protected].


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