Athlete of the Week: Mary Bender

by Kymee Noll – Horizon Sports Editor

As an athlete one has to have commitment, passion, and courage, among many qualities.  According to cross country coach Gerry Sieber, Mary Bender (Harrisonburg, Va.) has anything an athlete might need, including the guts to run.

“This fall, Mary Bender chose to dare greatly, making the choice to run for the Hesston College women’s cross country team,” said Sieber.

IMG_6302This was a huge decision for Bender.  For one, she had not participated in organized sports since running cross country her freshman year of high school.  Along with her lack of experience, she does not possess the typical body of a cross country runner because of her height.  Did I mention Bender is a member of the Bel Canto?  Bender might not be the ideal cross country runner, but she had an edge on everyone else: dedication.

“It was not about winning or losing…It was (for Mary) about being vulnerable,” commented Sieber in an email interview.  “Mary trained diligently throughout the summer.  This fall she embraced her vulnerability with a good dose of positive mental attitude and continued with the rigors of training; long runs, hard intervals, lots of miles.”

Even though this was all somewhat new to her, Bender graciously assumed the role of team captain.  And this pushed her to continue getting better.

“The dramatic improvement in her 5k times (3.1 miles) was a reflection of her commitment, discipline, and open mind and big heart,” said Sieber.

Bender improved her 5k time by eight minutes, finishing her final race as a Lark in 25 minutes, “a very credible time,” according to Sieber.

But that’s not all.

“Mary not only found performance, health and fitness, but had a meaningful human experience, and found joy, faith, love and spirituality, not to mention a boyfriend!”

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