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Focus on Chris Perry and Anna Gatker
One came from the rugged coastline of Falmouth, Maine while the other traveled down from the mountains of Lake Placid, New York.

Now senior Chris Perry and junior Anna Gatker are the top cross country runners at Babson College. They have set the standard of excellence for a program that continues to build. When northrunning took the time to ask them about the school and cross country, I found out that they have a lot in common. In fact, probably even more than they know.

For Perry and Gatker it all started with academics. Considering the reputation of the school and the strict admission standards, it isn’t a shock that they are both dedicated students who were looking for a demanding academic institution.

northrunning : What brought you to Babson?

Perry : I came to Babson because of its outstanding academic reputation. If you want to focus your studies on business there really is no better place, academically speaking. This is a great school if you’re looking for a challenging curriculum. Also, because I felt I really bonded with the team on my recruiting visit to Babson.

Gatker : I chose Babson because I was interested in learning about international business, I was fond of living near Boston and a friend who was already enrolled told me it was a challenging school. I like challenges. I also liked that Babson is not a large school and that it’s located in Wellesley (a suburb) that resembles my hometown of Lake Placid in many ways. I thought that would make it easier to adapt to the college atmosphere if I moved to a place that was similar in size and environment to Lake Placid, but that also had the perks of being near a large city with so many social and job opportunities.

northrunning : What were the highlights of your high school athletic career?

Gatker : I ran track my freshman-sophomore years and was 2nd in Divisionals for track when I was a sophomore. When I qualified to go to States it was a great achievement for me. I also played soccer, tennis and volleyball. I was captain of the girls’ volleyball teams all four years of school.

Perry : I was All-Conference in XC, indoor and outdoor track (ran the mile, 2 mile and 800). I was also All-State in cross country and outdoor track.

Their athletic successes didn’t stop after high school. First year Head Coach Matthew Taylor was quick to point out their contributions to the team.

“Chris has been the first runner for Babson in 16 consecutive meets”, noted Taylor. “He is only the fifth Babson runner to earn All-Conference honors two years in a row”

He continued, “Anna, in only her second season of cross country, has shown tremendous improvement (20:00 in ‘02 to 19:17 in ’03). She has run the fastest time in Babson history and was only two places away from earning All-Conference honors.”

After hearing coach Taylor speak glowingly of their successes, I wondered how they felt about their own performances.
northrunning to Gatker : You had a huge pr this year. How did you feel when you ran the 19:17? Did it feel different than other races?

Gatker : My best time was 20:00 before I ran at NEWMACS so when I found out that I ran 19:17 I could not believe it until I saw it on paper. I tried my best in that race and I felt good during it. Running in the NEWMACS felt a little different than running in previous races, mostly because it was a league meet and I was entirely excited and devoted to doing my best.

northrunning to Perry : What has been your favorite athletic moment at Babson?

Perry : My favorite moment was when our team finished 3rd at the NEWMAC meet (our conference race) last year, at Wellesley College. It was awesome because we had been ranked sixth in our conference all season and we had an awesome race with a lot of support from Babson because the race was so close to school.

northrunning to Perry : What do you consider your best race this season?

Perry : I don’t feel like I had many good races this season: however I think my best one was at NEWMACs. I made All-Conference and ran my fastest time, especially given the grueling conditions and the course was very difficult.

Their contributions to the team go even deeper than performance. Assistant Coach Emily Taylor was quick to note their leadership role.
“It’s not easy adjusting to a new coaching style with only three weeks before the first meet – but all of the captains (Chris, Matt Rowell, Anna, and Lydia Halloran) really stepped up to the challenge. They set the tone for the rest of the squad by putting their faith in the new young coaching staff” Estey went even further in adding, “Their example was critical to the success of the team. We were lucky to come in with Chris and Anna as out top male and female runners because they both have a solid work effort, but they are also willing to listen to new ideas. No matter what curve balls we thre them this season (new stretching routines, new pre-meet rules, etc.) they both not only accepted the changes, but also made sure the rest of the team followed suit.”
And Coach Matt Taylor recognizes other key attributes as well.

The Babson team is a pretty humorous group. We have a lot of fun hanging around together before and after practice, and Chris is one of those kids who can make the whole group laugh. Plus, he's not afraid to laugh at himself, like when he fell, twice, at the New England Championships or when his teammates get on his case about his flexibility. He's a serious competitor and comes to each practice with intense focus and

determination, but that doesn't stop him from cracking jokes or making sarcastic comments that lighten the mood and make tough workouts more enjoyable (at least for the coaches!).

Apparently the changes were well received.
northrunning to Gatker : How come you’re running so strongly this year? Are you doing anything different in training?

Gatker : As you know, we have an unbelievably great coaching staff this year. Although this is their first year coaching the Babson cross country team, they have been doing an incredible job at adapting the team to their ways of coaching, to ensure both individual as well as team success. It was mainly due to their great support and advice that I’ve been improving throughout this season. As a result of their coaching, our team as a whole has become much “tighter” as a group, and this led to more dedication and enthusiasm from everyone for the sport. It was important for me to know that each person was doing their best in practices and in meets, because it made me run faster in order not to let my teammates down. Aside from coaching, the training program was different this year compared with the past. We ran seven days a week, which means getting up on Saturday and Sunday mornings. This schedule provided more mileage than in the past and brought the team even closer together.”

Babson doesn’t have indoor track as a varsity sport. Although the teams will continue to find opportunities to train together and run in invitational meets, a lot will depend on individuals to stay motivated.

northrunning : How do you plan on staying in shape over the winter?

Perry : I plan on taking a couple of weeks off and then starting to train with low mileage and weight training until Christmas. Then I’ll enter some indoor meets after the break to get ready for the outdoor season.

Gatker : I plan on running and skiing at home during the winter. Although we don’t have an indoor track in my town or nearby towns, we have an indoor skating rink with a track around it. That’s where I usually practice. If there are opportunities for me to run in an indoor track meet in Montreal, Albany, or Burlington, I will surely take it.

northrunning : What are your goals for outdoor track?

Gatker : I plan to run the 1500 and 5000 in the spring. I might also run the 10K , but I haven’t decided to do that yet. My PR’s are around 5:27 for the 1500 and 19:45 for the 5000.

Perry : I want to win the 10K in our conference and place in the top 5 of the 5000. I’d like to make nationals in either the 5K or 10K.

So what do the coaches think about the potential of their athletes.
Assistant coach Taylor responds, “As far as their individual abilities – they are both great runners and competitors - but I know for a fact that they have untapped potential and they are both going to continue improving.” Head Coach Taylor added, “ Anna works as hard as anyone. She takes the time to do the little things that have helped her to improve (i.e., strength work and flexibility). We’re looking for continued improvement throughout the track season.” And of Perry he was succinct in his evaluation. “Chris is one of the most disciplined runners I’ve ever coached. I look for him to run some impressive times this spring.”
Although there are a lot of issues on the plate for both runners between now and next Fall, I couldn’t resist asking.
northrunning to Gatker: What are your cross country goals for next season?

Gatker : My goals are to keep improving both physically and mentally in the sport, to be able to motivate my teammates to run their best, and to PR again myself.

The prospects for which Coach Taylor is quite clear. “She will have a stellar senior season next fall.”
northrunning to Perry : What are your plans after graduation.

Perry : TRY TO FIND A JOB . . . hopefully in the Boston area. I’m a finance and marketing major.

northrunning to Perry : What part will running play in your life after college?

Perry : I think I might join GBTC or BAA or some other running club in the area. I already have some friends that have graduated and started running for these clubs. Running is my way of letting off stress and it has become a very important part of my lifestyle.

So, what does head coach Taylor think of the prospect of cross country without Chris Perry.
“We will definitely miss his leadership and dedication next season, as well as his humor.