It was a chilly day in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as runners were getting ready to compete in the NAIA Cross Country National Championships. Roosevelt’s Gina Narcisi was one of 341 runners who were all looking to improve on their personal bests. Gina was the fourth runner in school history to qualify for the event and only the second female to do so.
For Narcisi, going to nationals for cross country wasn’t really the goal. She’d been training for a half-marathon as part of the outdoor track season and cross country season was just part of that preparation.
“Going to nationals was kind of weird,” said Narcisi. “It wasn’t really part of the plan so I was just happy to be there.”
That mindset made it easy for her to relax and enjoy the moment. She even admitted to joking around with her coaches and teammates that she’d win the race because she was so loose.
“It was really easy to walk in with zero expectations and have fun with it. I was being goofy the whole time, fist pumping every time I saw someone I knew and just being an idiot,” Narcisi said.
Once she realized she was running fast she was able to click into a second gear and finish the race in 115th place with a time of 18:51. That time was a new personal best and a new Roosevelt record.
When she ends her time at Roosevelt, she will be the best female runner the school has seen. She owns six school records combined from indoor track, outdoor track and cross country, and she has a chance to add four more records before she’s all finished. Her greatness might seem like it was always obvious, but that’s not necessarily the case.
“I was really new to running coming in. I didn’t know a lot about it but decided to run in college,” said Narcisi. “At first I was just doing it for fun, I was just running, I like running, that was my mindset.”
That mindset shifted after she broke her foot during the preseason of her fourth year of eligibility.
“I didn’t run at all for six months and that made me antsy. That time off made me realize why I love running. Once I could run again I wanted to do things right. Doing the little things and taking the extra steps became fun and easy,” said Narcisi.
Her injury might have pushed her in the right direction but she credits her success to her coach Aaron King and Athletic Trainer Kelsey Kaiser.
“She’s always had the talent to be successful, but used to get in her own way,” said King. “She’s realized that it’s more of a lifestyle and that it’s going to be more than one workout that makes her successful. That’s been the biggest growth I’ve seen in her.”
Narcisi had a major impact on her teammate’s. Teammate Brianna McCormick said, “She is a selfless individual who focuses on the betterment of the team. She’s taught me what it means to lead a team and it’s been an honor watching her break records.”
What’s next for Narcisi? She’s already earned her bachelor’s in biology and is working on her master’s in secondary education. She hopes to become a high school or middle school science teacher and contribute to the development of today’s youth. Her days as a student athlete at Roosevelt will never be forgotten as she’ll continue to use the lessons she’s learned in time management and commitment to be successful in her future career.
“She’s relentless in everything she does,” said King. “She understands that everything takes time and that the outcome isn’t based on one small event.”
Narcisi will once again be competing in nationals at the NAIA Outdoor Track National Championships in Gulf Shores, Alabama at the end of May. She’s already qualified for the marathon, but is hopeful to qualify for the 10k as well.