Off to a Running Start

Unrecruited afterthought Grayce Selig '11 develops into one of the nation's best in just two years.

Grayce Selig ’11
Mike Lovett
Grayce Selig ’11
Every fall, Brandeis track and cross-country coach John Evans’ inbox fills with email requests from would-be runners.

“Hi Coach. I’m Jane Doe. I ran for my high school team. My personal best in the mile is 5:48. I’d like to run for Brandeis. When do we start?”

Usually, Evans resists responding to the friendly entreaty immediately. He wants to see whether the athlete is committed enough to the grueling sport of distance running to follow up first.

Fortunately, for all involved, Grayce Selig ’11 
persisted. In a career launched by just such a simple email, Selig has gone from unrecruited afterthought to one of the nation’s top runners. As a junior, she qualified for the NCAA Division 3 
Championships in cross-country, indoor and outdoor track, and was the first Brandeis athlete since Mariko Tansey Holbrook ’03 in 2002–03 to make nationals in all three seasons. Selig narrowly missed qualifying for the cross-country championships as a senior in fall 2010, but has earned a return trip to the indoor track nationals in mid-March. She hopes to qualify for outdoor nationals in May.

“She’s very dedicated, works really hard and obviously has a lot of talent,” Evans says. “She has all of the tools to be one of the best runners in the country.”

Selig earned All-America recognition in both indoor and outdoor track last year for leading Brandeis’ distance medley team to a third-place finish at the NCAA indoor meet in March at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and then finishing fourth in the 1,500 meters two months later at the outdoor championships at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.

“I never imagined I would achieve what I have,” Selig says. “My goal is always the same — just beat the time I ran in the previous race. I like doing things that I didn’t think I could ever do.”

What makes Selig’s achievements particularly striking is that in high school she ran outdoor track only to stay in shape for her first athletic love — soccer. She was so indifferent about distance running at the Springside School in suburban Philadelphia that she celebrated when she thought her running career was over.

“The last meet of our outdoor track season was rained out and the coach asked us if we wanted to reschedule it,” Selig remembers. “No one wanted to. We were so happy that we would never have to run again.”

After arriving at Brandeis, Selig started running on her own and made a discovery: The longer the distance she ran, the more she enjoyed it.

“My high school friends can’t believe I’m still running, but I really like it now,” Selig says. “I remember calling my dad one day when I ran seven miles at Brandeis and I told him, ‘I know what they mean by that runner’s high.’ It felt so good. When you run a shorter distance, it’s just not the same.”

The same single-minded determination that Selig assigns to her studies — she’s majoring in biology and neuroscience and plans to attend medical school — also applies to her running.

“I don’t have the time to do a ton of things, but the things that I do I want to do well,” she explains. “Running has grown into a passion for me — it wasn’t always there.

“I think the success I’ve had builds on itself and makes me want to be more successful. It feels good to be doing that well and you just keep it up and keep doing it.”

She has shaved a minute off her pre-Brandeis time in the mile and owns the school record in the 1,500 meters (4 minutes, 28 seconds).

Selig is so dedicated to the sport now that she runs up to 80 miles a week as part of her training regimen. During the height of the cross-country season, her day includes a five-mile run before her 9 a.m. class and a run of another seven or eight miles at afternoon practice.

“She’s so new to the sport that she’s still learning how to train properly and race with some of the best people in the country,” Evans says. “She’s improving so much that she’s only now getting the feel of becoming the runner she can be.”