Home is a multifaceted concept in the sporting world. Baseball and softball have home plate. Sports in general have the notion of home-field advantage. But for freshman Brooke Rauber of the NC State cross country team, home is truly where the proverbial heart is.
Hailing from Homer, New York, a small town roughly 30 minutes south of the campus of Syracuse University, Rauber traveled a long way to Raleigh to join the nation’s top-ranked women’s cross country program. But for her, the journey south was both a personal blessing and a logical step to take her running to the collegiate level.
“I met [women’s head coach Laurie Henes], [men’s head coach Rollie Geiger], and I just thought they were amazing people,” Rauber said. “I knew that they would be able to make me the best runner that I could be. I just love the team so much. It was just such a family environment. Everyone is so loving of each other and supportive. I just wouldn't want to be anywhere else.”
For a Wolfpack squad that is in the running for a national championship, the pressure to put up quality outing after quality outing is enormous. That’s where Rauber’s off-track attitude really shines, helping her teammates stay positive and motivated for the task at hand. According to Henes, Rauber’s high-energy personality really rubs off on those around her.
“She is super high-energy and I think our underclassmen and upperclassmen are really, really feeding off of that,” Henes said. “She's great to have around. Sometimes we have to calm her down on race-day, hard-workout stuff, but I think she's so excited about training and racing at this level.”
In addition to her gung-ho attitude, Rauber is also renowned for her sportsmanship. As a three-time New York Sportsmanship Award winner, she is practically guaranteed to respect her fellow runners and take wins and losses equally in stride.
“Of course, when we line up to race, everyone’s goal is to win and do their very best,” Rauber said. “But at the end of the day, we're all athletes. We're all competing against the clock, we're all experiencing the same things. So it's good to be supportive of each other and acknowledge what other people are doing.”
In addition to helping boost morale for the team, Rauber is also preparing for her first competition season. Although she may not be ready for collegiate competition in her first year, Henes believes that Rauber has enormous potential in the long run.
“She did not do longer tempos or special type of work that we do here, like really longer ones in high school, and she's handled that really well,” Henes said. “So that's always a really, really good sign for development. Her leg speed is good. It'll be interesting to figure out what event she's best in on the track but I think her ceiling is extremely high.”
Given the fact that she is still a freshman, Rauber has plenty of time to hone her craft and earn some silverware. But regardless of whether she and the Pack take home a national title this year, Rauber can take solace in the fact that she has a home away from home, a place where she can live and thrive as a student, athlete and as a person.