Veronica Bujdos has a chance to be the first Gannon University cross country runner to make it to nationals, but she didn’t get there on her own.
Bujdos, a sophomore from Indiana, Pa., said that running for her started as – and continues to be – a family affair. Both of her parents are runners, her older sister runs collegiately for Seton Hill University and her two younger siblings also partake.
Bujdos said that running has helped her develop many meaningful relationships in life and has helped her family grow close. Many of these relationships have transpired on Gannon’s men’s and women’s cross country teams, but another important bond formed in her high school days.
Bujdos spoke highly of Lisa Kinter, her junior high school cross country coach, indoor track coach during the winter and physical education teacher.
“She was my coach for basically nine months out of the year,” Bujdos said.
Bujdos said Kinter was a large part of her life during high school, and she emphasized the importance of the impact that Kinter made upon her.
“She was like my second mom – she helped build the connection between staying positive and running, which really helped me,” Bujdos said.
In high school, Bujdos was a member of the honors program while receiving high grades each semester. She eventually graduated from Indiana Area High School as the valedictorian.
Bujdos said she knew she wanted to continue running in college, and began to meet several college coaches. Bujdos said John Carrig, the Gannon men’s and women’s cross country coach, was different from others that she had spoken with.
“Carrig seemed like the most relaxed out of all the coaches I met with, and he seemed like the most caring about the girls on the team,” Bujdos said.
Bujdos said that Carrig acts like an extra father to the members of the team and truly cares about the well-being of all the athletes he coaches.
Being the valedictorian of her class, Bujdos takes school seriously and chose to come to Gannon for academic reasons along with running. Bujdos said she learned that members of the Gannon cross country teams took their schoolwork seriously and that played a role in her decision to come to Gannon.
“The men’s and the women’s teams collectively had the highest GPA among Division II athletes, which I thought was very interesting with many science majors,” she said.
Bujdos is a biology major and member of the 4+4 LECOM program. Bujdos credits running with preparing her for everything that college and life have to throw at her.
“Running has made me a more determined person and I’m better at staying organized, staying on top of classes and cross country responsibilities,” she said.
Bujdos’ success in the classroom could only be rivaled by her dominance at races this season. Bujdos captured three individual titles this season: the Davis and Elkins Invitational Sept. 7, the Penn State Behrend Invitational Sept. 14 and the Gannon/Mercyhurst Invitational Oct. 12.
In the three events that Bujdos did not win, she placed second, seventh and 15th.
Jennifer Hu, Bujdos’ friend and roommate, said Bujdos is the most modest girl she has ever met, which is not common among top-tier athletes.
“Bujdos is so humble, if we don’t bring up the results she won’t tell us what place she comes in,” Hu said.
Hu said that Bujdos would never talk about her individual accolades, and that she would rather talk about the women’s cross country team as a whole and its accomplishments.
Carrig said that all the members of the women’s cross country team work hard each and every practice, but he mentioned that there was something special about Bujdos.
“She’s a very hard worker, probably the hardest we’ve had,” Carrig said.
Bujdos’ said that her ideal run takes place outside in the morning on a warm Erie day.
Bujdos will need to close her eyes and imagine the refreshing breeze coming off the bay while the sun nestles into position, if she wants to be the first Gannon runner to qualify for nationals.
The hard work that Bujdos put in the offseason will come to fruition when the women’s cross country team travels to Lock Haven, Pa., to compete in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Carrig said that the top four teams will be chosen from the regional event to move on to nationals along with three individual runners who are not a part of the top teams.
“I would say that she has a 50-50 chance of getting in the top three,” Carrig said.
Carrig said that at this point of the season, the team is tapering, which allows its members to run their best races for conferences and regionals.
Carrig said he believes that Bujdos could make school history because she is a smart determined runner with a good head on her shoulders.
Bujdos said in her second year of running collegiately that things have been easier because she knows what to expect, and believes she understands what it takes to qualify for nationals.
“I know how to pace myself,” Bujdos said. “Pacing is the key.”
Carrig said Bujdos has been such a great runner because she has completely dedicated herself to the offseason workouts. Carrig noted that runners’ real progress is directly related to how hard they push themselves in the summer and winter.