As an eighth grader, Grace Sullivan was a passionate club soccer player who was denied the opportunity to play for her middle school by her club soccer coach. But by the direction of her mother she found cross country, which she now competes in at the collegiate level.
“I am a firm believer in having my kids participate in after school activities,” said Annie Sullivan, Grace’s mother.
Athletics run in her family with her father Barry having played college basketball at the University of Buffalo and her younger brother Patrick playing basketball for Providence High School.
“Plus, her older brother did middle school track and enjoyed it,” said Annie. “I thought she would too.”
When Sullivan, a current sophomore East Carolina cross country runner, started her running career she wasn’t completely into running for fun. However, watching her lead the Pirates cross country team this year, one would never think she hadn’t enjoyed running.
Sullivan started to consider her options with running her sophomore year of high school, as she was motivated by her high school coach Steve Touranjoe.
“I wanted to succeed for him,” Sullivan said.
Her coach inspired her and showed her how great she could become, which was a key part of why she is the runner she is today. He also taught her an acronym “FEAR” or forget everything and run.
“If you’re not hurting, you’re not working hard enough,” Sullivan said of the motivating word.
This motto she lives by is what has helped to push her through her career as a cross country runner. Along with her personal motto, she has teammates such as sophomore Victoria Cooke motivating her.
Another influencing factor in her running career is her older brother Joe, who is a senior at Appalachian State University, where he ran cross country his freshman year.
She chose to further her career as a runner at ECU because she likes the atmosphere and attitude of the coaching staff and feels like it’s a family she is a part of. Sullivan took third place in the steeplechase at the American Athletic Conference Championship for outdoor track last year.
Sullivan finds herself to be a leader and being a captain has helped her become a vocal leader.
“This is an amazing group of ladies we have on the team,” said Sullivan. “And I can only hope that I am making some form of an impact on them.”
Outside of running for the cross country team Sullivan enjoys swimming because it is a relaxing cross training tool. It is a great workout that doesn’t create more pounding for her joints.
Along with the running possibilities she is pursuing a degree in nursing and ECU’s nursing program prestige made her decision easier.
She made up her mind on pursuing a nursing degree because of her love for taking care of children. Helping babysitting and being a mother’s helper for years, the children she helped watch made a great impact on her choosing in her pursuit of nursing.
The hardest part of being a college athlete for Sullivan is that she isn’t physically close to her family. She is emotionally close to her family, especially her mother. Her mother is one of her best friends so not being around her is hard.
However, this one runner has found her place and team she enjoys being a part of.
“I am happy to be here with them [the team],” she said.