by Madison Pitsch
Emily Deschaine, formerly Sievert, is one of the most decorated runners in Concordia women’s cross country history. A three-time All-GPAC runner with three individual appearances in Nationals, Deschaine has been making everybody else look like they’re jogging. I sat down with her and asked her about her cross country and academic career.
So, how long have you been running? When did you start?
I have been running competitively since junior high. I started high school as a volleyball and soccer player, but after a few too many concussions, I switched to cross country. That was my sophomore year of high school and I haven’t stopped running since.
What has inspired you to keep running all these years? Who has been the most influential?
There has been so much that has kept me running. On a personal level, I love how running allows you to push your body to it’s absolute limits. I love the freedom of it and how strong it makes you both physically and mentally. Honestly, it’s so much more than a sport. It’s the people and the challenge and how you get to know yourself in a completely different way. I would say, other than my teammates, the most influential person for my running has been my dad. He raced in college with my mom and they both continued running almost every day. I grew up alongside them as they ran, first in a stroller, then a bike, and finally running. My dad is now in a wheelchair due to MSA (Multiple Symptoms Atrophy) and cannot walk or run. His perseverance, optimism, strength and faith so often inspires me to keep going. I run because I love it, because God gave me these abilities and passions, and because there are so many (who) want to be running but can’t.
What was it like to transition from high school running to college? Were you nervous? How did your times change during that transition period?
Of course there is the intensity difference– weightlifting, two-a-day workouts, half-marathon long runs – but also, you learn to look for progress in a different way. You are no longer the only one to really love running and have some natural ability, so it becomes about how hard you are willing to work, what sacrifices you’re willing to make, and giving yourself some grace. Also, you have been running for four plus years now and your body has plateaued a bit so you aren’t seeing as big of time drop from one race to the next. It can honestly be discouraging when you are used to the constant improvement you maybe saw in high school. Not to mention, you are generally racing way less frequently so each race counts for more.
So, there have definitely been nerves along the way, which has been one of the hardest elements of the race for me personally. My freshman and sophomore year, my nerves got so bad I wouldn’t sleep the night before a race and I would just shake the morning of. I still had nerves through my junior and senior year, but I had to learn how to take a step back and say, “Yeah, you care about this and that’s okay. But this race is only one moment in your career and only one in your life. One day doesn’t determine your value or potential.” The challenge of the sport is learning to find that joy while still being competitive.
Before college, my 5k personal best was an 18:59 and as of the end of this season, I got down to an 18:07.
What has running taught you? What is your big takeaway from your collegiate career?
It would take me a full dissertation to catalogue all that running has taught me, but if I could suggest a short form it would probably be this: Running has taught me how strong I can be and how weak, too; how to be a teammate and how incredible a team is; how to be vulnerable but also how to push beyond mental and physical barriers; how to give myself grace; and how to depend on Christ in times of victory but also the moments of desperation.
I really think there is a good reason the Bible uses so many running analogies: it takes you to some of the highest and lowest places and reminds you how God is a constant source of strength through it all.
What’s your major?
I am getting a B.S in Secondary Education with a concentration in English and an endorsement in ESL (with an LTD). I also have a music minor.
Okay, what’s your dream job?
I think I’d say my dream job is as a college literature professor who writes and performs research on the side. I would also love to do some coaching at the high school level.
We all know you’re super busy, all the time. How did you manage track, cross country, school and being involved?
It definitely takes a lot of energy and I am still not sure I have figured out the perfect recipe, but it’s all about finding balance. Even professional runners step away from the track and have other passions and interests. For me, it has been important just to stay on top of my schedule for school. I have been involved with Acapella choir and (Vocal) Jazz choir, so there were times that I had to make sacrifices on either end– either missing a meet for choir tour or being unable to sing at an event because of conference. There was one spring where I went from indoor nationals in Tennessee to the St. Louis airport where the team dropped me off and I took off for Portland, Oregon to join the choir on tour. So yes, it has been crazy busy and exhausting at times, but I can’t imagine not having each of these pieces in my life.
On top of all that, now you’re married, right? How has that changed your college experience?
I knew being married would bring some changes, including living off campus. I think the biggest change has been adjusting how and when I do my homework. It is definitely difficult to want to do homework when you are home with your husband and cat and he doesn’t have any essays or school assignments to work on. Even more so than before, I have to find my most productive times and commit to getting things done. Overall though, marriage rocks and I have loved being a wife-student-athlete.