Athlete rediscovers passion for running
It was only last year that Carter Denne tried to walk away from competitive running.
Now, the junior heads into the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship Saturday having led Gannon University’s men’s cross country program in four of the five invitationals the Knights have competed in this season.
All it took was a change in scenery and perspective.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Denne started running in the fifth grade. The North East native lettered in both soccer and cross country, but it was the latter of the two sports that he pursued in college.
“I’m just a big fan of running,” Denne said. “It’s personal time to just get away from things that are stressing you out.”
However, Denne’s first experience with college athletics ended up becoming the stressor.
Out of high school, Denne attended Purdue University, a Division I program, and the experience nearly drove him out of competition entirely. He said that while at Purdue, he was over-trained, which lead to injury and disenchantment with the sport.
“They use you at Division I,” John Carrig, coach of the cross country team, said. “They treat you like it’s a job there.”
Denne transferred to Gannon after his first year at Purdue to attend Gannon’s physical therapy program and to be closer to his family, including his girlfriend and daughter.
Upon his return home, Denne thought he left his competitive career behind him, but after meeting Carrig and other members of the cross country squad, Denne began racinga after a yearlong hiatus.
The return wasn’t without a new outlook on the sport, however.
“Before this year, I was really into competition, but this time I run more for fun,” Denne said. “It really helps me stay injury-free and enjoy running more. It’s more about giving it your all than about ‘oh, I got 50th place instead of 49th.’”
Carrig said he understands how the change in scenery helped bring Denne back to the sport.
“We’re a little more flexible here,” Carrig said. “I told him, ‘your family comes first.’”
Carrig said he works around the junior’s busy schedule and that he doesn’t worry about Denne missing any team workouts, knowing that he will make up for missed time on his own.
“You can’t treat everyone the same, but you have to treat everyone fairly,” Carrig said. “He’s a hard worker; he brings a lot of leadership to this team. Really, he’s just an all-around nice guy.”
Denne said that the rest of the team really helped bring him back to the sport, crediting the group’s helpfulness and laid-back nature as key to making his transition back to competitive running a smooth one.
While he doesn’t focus as strenuously on placement and shaving seconds off of his time as he used to, Denne does have something to prove to people.
“I’ve been a vegan for the past year,” Denne said. “There’s that stereotype that [vegans] can’t be athletes. I’m trying to remove that stigma.”
Denne gets another opportunity to make his point this Friday when the men’s and women’s cross country teams head to California (Pa.) University for the PSAC championship, an event that Denne said he looks forward to.
“I feel like the whole team is in good shape,” Denne said. “Everybody’s on the same page.”
While the end of the cross country season nears, it won’t mark the end of Denne’s story, as the junior still has two years of eligibility remaining.
Denne found a good thing at Gannon, and he ran with it.
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