posted on: Sunday December 27, 2015
by Nate Svogun ’16
One of the sports that Providence College has historically excelled in is Women’s Cross Country. While casual PC sports fans are certainly aware of our high profile Men’s Basketball Team and our recent national champion Men’s Hockey Team, some forget that the Women’s Cross Country Team (currently ranked third in the nation) won a national championship in 2013, and has been producing world-class athletes for quite some time now.
One such world-class athlete is Mary Cullen ’04. Originally from Sligo, Ireland, Cullen was competing on the international stage before she even arrived at PC. In 1999, at the age of 16, she participated in two major events organized by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF): the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships and the 3000-meter race at the World Youth Championships in Athletics.
Her performances drew the attention of PC’s renowned track coach, Ray Treacy, and soon after meeting with Treacy, Cullen committed to Providence.
In her impressive career here at PC, Cullen certainly lived up to her reputation. She received All-American selections three times—in both outdoor track and cross-country her sophomore year, and in cross-country during her junior and senior year as a Friar.
From the start, Cullen put in excellent performances, including a win in the 3000-meter race at the Penn Relays and a fifth place finish in the 5000-meter race at the Big East Championships during her freshman year.
She improved the next year, placing 28th in the nation at the NCAA National Cross Country Championship, and taking home fifth in the 5000 meter for that season’s NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship.
Before leaving PC, Cullen submitted her most remarkable season yet. She began with first-place finishes in a pair of mile runs at the Women’s Challenge Cup and the University of Rhode Island Invitational. Next, she finished second overall at the Big East Cross Country Championship. To top off her sensational career here at PC, Cullen finished fifth at the NCAA National Cross Country Championships.
But Cullen’s story doesn’t end there. At the 2007 European Indoor Championships, she finished in seventh place in the 3000-meter run, followed by a fourth-place finish at the 2008 European Cross Country Championships soon after.
A few months after her impressive fourth-place European finish, Cullen suffered a terribly timed calf injury. It robbed her of a chance to shine on the global stage at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics—just as that she was earning some of the best times of her career.
Cullen bounced back big time in 2009. She finished with a time of 8:43.74 in the 3000-meter at the Valentine Invitation Meet in Boston, an Irish national record.
Next, she captured the bronze medal in the 3000-meter at the 2009 European Athletics Indoor Championships, her most prestigious finish to date.
Cullen continues to make PC proud and prosper in the world of long-distance running to this day, but there is still clearly one finish line she desperately wants to cross. All you need to know is located on her Twitter page: “Runner…goal to make Olympics.”