The Grand Stage of All: The Olympics
Two Providence College alumni, Emily Sisson ’14 and Ben Connor ’15 competed in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Sisson, one of the most decorated Friars of all-time, competed in the women’s 10,000-meter competition while Connor competed in the men’s marathon.
A lot of hard work and preparation went into both competitors’ journeys to the Olympics. Sisson, a resident of Phoenix, AZ, was a former All-American and NCAA Champion in Friartown.
In 2015, Sisson competed at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, OR where she became an NCAA Champion in the 5000-meter race with a time of 15:34.10. She then went on to do the same thing in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, AR where she won the 5000-meter race with a time of 15:32.15.
Sisson, now 29 years old, was also part of the Friar cross country team in 2013 which won the NCAA Championship.
After graduating in 2015, Sisson’s first major appearance was at the World Championships in London, United Kingdom in 2017. There she would race in the 10,000 meter race and finish 9th with a time of 31:26.36.
In the buildup to the Olympics, Sisson was required to race in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon on June 26, 2021.
Sisson had originally entered the U.S. Olympic marathon trials and was the favorite in the event in Atlanta back in 2020. She would endthe race in heartbreak; after 22 miles she dropped out of the competition.
In a later interview, Sisson said “That really broke my heart. I went all in on that, and it really didn’t work out. I was very confused after.”
She would then race in the 10,000 meter event in Eugene, Oregon and won the race in an Olympic Trials record time of 31:03.82. After taking the lead in the fifth of 25 laps, Sisson never looked back and dominated the event in hot conditions.
Then came the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. In an interview after the race, Sisson said her goal was to finish sixth to eighth in therace which would be her Olympic track debut.
In the end, she placed 10th in the event with a final time of 31:04.46.
Sisson is still coached by Friar head coach Ray Treacy who has continued to help athletes in his time. She and coach Treacy thought the start of the race may go out a little faster than it did and Treacy told Sisson to “go with the second pack and reel people in and win the race that you’re in.”
In the end, Sisson said “It was a grind, but I’m proud of my effort. Another learning experience.”
The second Providence alumni, Ben Connor, competed in the Men’s Marathon. Connor, from Derby, England had a successful four years in Friartown.
His senior year from 2014-15 would be his most complete year. In Cross Country, Connor placed eighth at the BIG EAST Championships with a time of 23.59.9. A couple of weeks later, he finished second at the NCAA Northeast Regionals with a time of 30:29.2 and collected an All-Regional honor.
At the NCAA Cross Country Championships that same season, Connor placed 30th with a time of 30:48.6 which earned him All-American honors. He would not compete in indoor or outdoor track in his final year as he did his sophomore and junior years.
Connor’s personal best records in his Providence stint was 8:12.18 in the 3,000 meter event, 14:08.11 in the 5,000 meter event, and 29:18.62 in the 10,000 meter event.
After graduating, Connor would head back to the United Kingdom to train and compete. Just like Sisson, Connor trained with coach Ray Treacy in the United States and in Manchester, United Kingdom. However, since 2019, Connor has self- coached.
In 2017, Connor would compete in the English National Cross Country Championships where he won the event. In 2019, Connor won the British Championships Night of 10K PBs event and the Podium 5k event. In 2020, he ran a half-marathon personal best time of 1:00:55 in Antrim where he finished third but was the fourth fastest half marathon time by a Briton.
Connor’s first marathon was the 2020 London Marathon. He finished the race as the second highest finishing Briton, at 10 seconds better than the Olympic qualifying time. He would finish 15th in the event.
In the 2021 British Athletics Marathon, Connor met the qualification time and finished second at the trial event to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics.