Junior cross country and track runner Gabrielle Boucher never planned on being a Nebraska runner. She’s faced injuries, burnout and hard decisions to get to where she is now.
Boucher ran throughout high school but decided not to continue running competitively in college.
“I think I was just a little bit burnt out,” she said.
However, when Boucher arrived at college, she began to realize she missed running and being a part of a team atmosphere.
Both senior runner Judi Jones and head cross country coach David Harris were two important people who encouraged Boucher to join the team. Jones was teammates with Boucher in high school and nudged Boucher to join the team once she arrived at Nebraska.
Harris had recruited Boucher in high school so he was familiar with who she was. Despite being a non-athlete, Boucher ate at the training table and ran into Harris there. Striking up conversation, he asked how she was and she explained that she was still running.
Harris reiterated that she should come talk to him if she ever changed her mind about running. At the end of Boucher’s freshman year, she realized she missed the sport too much and decided to join the team.
“I listened and saw she was serious about making a commitment,” Harris said.
Boucher said her parents helped with this decision as well. They never made her feel like she had to make a certain choice and made her feel as if they’d support her no matter what.
“They’re not ever pressuring me to do anything that I don’t want to do,” Boucher said.
The NCAA counted Boucher’s freshman year as a redshirt year since she wasn’t a part of the team. She began training before her sophomore year of college, or her freshman cross country season. Throughout that season, she struggled with an injury and was only able to run the last two meets of the season.
Looking at times from Boucher’s first year running at Nebraska compared to this season is incredible. Her best time for a 5K race from last season was 20:00.8. This season, it’s already dropped to 18:32.1. Although the injury played a role in that, it’s still commendable how much her times have dropped.
“The first year was really a transition. Like any newcomer on the team, she got beat. The whole idea I kept expressing was get PRs, get a little better,” Harris said.
Boucher currently sits at the fourth runner on the team, meaning she’s regularly scoring points for the Huskers. Boucher credits her good summer of training and the long-term training to much of this improvement.
“Last year, my body was just getting used to the amount of mileage and time that we were running so I think this year I’m more used to it and it’s actually benefiting me more,” Boucher said. “It just feels good to be able to actually contribute to the team. I love the girls on our team so much and I want to help them be the best they can be.”
When asked what her favorite part about running on the team is, Boucher jokingly said, “Oh what, how I feel when I’m dead? No, it’s probably the relationships that I get to form. I just don’t think there’s anything like talking with someone on a long run.”
Boucher’s belief is that going through tough things together forms deeper friendships.
Harris describes Boucher with three complimentary traits: “Tremendously hard worker, great teammate and she gets the most out of her talent.”
Boucher said that “doing the little things” has ended up being a big factor in staying healthy. One of her goals this season is to keep improving her times to run at the Big Ten Championships. Avoiding injury will be key in accomplishing this.
Harris stressed that Boucher is still developing. Since she’s already made big leaps this season, he’s excited to see how far she can go.