For sophomore Maria Eastman, running cross country has been a journey filled with hard work and high hopes.
After improving in each state race out of high school, she found herself on Iowa's cross country team. Since then, she has transferred to Minnesota and looks to make the travel squad by the end of the season.
“I missed my family. We’re really close,” Eastman said. “I missed the city, and not having that city life got a little boring. It was a tough decision though.”
She started her career off in Victoria, Minnesota at Holy Family Catholic High School, proving from an early age what hard work meant.
Eastman had been competing in cross country since she was an eighth grader, finishing 95th in the four kilometer state race that year. Besides qualifying a total of five times for state in cross country, she always improved.
Never once was she satisfied with her times because she knew she could do better. The four time all-conference select didn’t just stop with cross country, though; she found her footing on the track as well, with an 11th place finish in the 3200 meter state championships.
And even though one of her coaches, Kyle Economy, didn’t arrive until her junior year, he says it was easy to tell from the start that she had more to offer.
“What I saw was a lot of eagerness for her to grow,” Economy said. “She was one of those people that was very willing to work and do whatever it would take to work.”
Whether that was running extra miles in practice or running extra intervals in the summer, Economy made it clear what made Eastman good — her work ethic. After her senior year, Eastman chose to move across the border and begin her collegiate career at the University of Iowa.
At Iowa, Eastman ran in five races during the 2016-2017 cross country season. She met new faces, made new connections and had new experiences, but she wanted to be home. So, for the 2017 season, she made her way to the Gophers' women's cross country team.
With that in mind, Eastman has set her sights on improving, a tradition she’s pretty familiar with at this point. Eastman knows it’s going to be a process that takes time, a process that won’t come easy and won’t happen overnight.
“[During her sister Molly Eastman's] first couple of years, she was just on the team,” said head coach Sarah Hopkins. “She was a good high school athlete, nothing really over the top. But last year, you could tell she came in a different athlete... Maybe nothing outstanding, but seeing [her sister’s] trajectory gives her hope, and it also shows us that genetically she’s got some ability to keep getting better.”
The cross country team typically splits up their racers, with the fastest runners competing on the travel team, also called the Big Ten team. Eastman, being the person she is, wants a part of it.
“Hopefully next year I can be on the travel team,” Eastman said. “I want to keep moving up and competing with my teammates to be on the Big Ten team.”