As Emily Bryson ’19 ran past the finish line in the final event for Brandeis at the 2018 NCAA Division III Indoor Championships on Saturday, March 10, tears began streaming down her face. Finishing first in her 3,000-meter event, Bryson claimed her second All-America honor of the meet after her first in the distance medley relay. “Yeah, I was crying,” Bryson laughed, “It’s just when I was a freshman in college, that was my goal. I wanted to be a NCAA champion and I wrote it down in my journal as something I always wanted to do. I trained up to this moment for that moment and I put a lot of work in. I just feel like as an athlete you sacrifice so much for these moments, and then to kind of watch it all unfold right before you is surreal. It was watching a lot of hard work pay off and watching a moment I had dreamed of for a really long time. It was a lot of emotions.”

Running 50 to 60 miles a week, Bryson spends most days at Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, training with her teammates. During the peak of her training, Bryson did workouts two times a week specifically to improve her speed or endurance, which would include running repeat intervals or going on long runs between 10 to 12 miles. Then she spent the rest of the week training by going on one or two runs a day. However, her training had not initially been for the 3,000-meter event.

“I’ve been racing the mile all season mostly and before the DMR [distance medley relay] which was the night before, I’d only done two 3Ks. It was kind of weird doing an event for my third time that season in the NCAAs,” said Bryson, “but I was ranked second in the mile and I wanted to go into the DMR fresh … I would’ve had to do prelims for the mile, the DMR three hours later, and then the finals so I decided to forfeit the mile and focus on the DMR because I wanted to see my other teammates do really well, and I knew we had a chance at being All-Americans … I was the last [individual runner] at the 3K and it was last event of the entire meet. I thought I might as well do an individual event while I’m there. It’s so weird, I went into the race like yeah maybe if I get top eight this will be great, but I wasn’t expecting this at all.”

Bryson, however, was not the only one crying at the finish line, as she described this race as unique from previous ones because of the extra support she had — not only the support from professors and Brandeis Athletics throughout the season, but the presence of people at the race who all knew how much she had dreamed of this moment.

“Last year I was there alone with my coach and for this one I had my sister there because she was there for the DMR, a bunch of other teammates, bunch of coaches and my parents flew out to see me, so it was really special to have that like moment where I realized that all my hard work had paid off but everyone was there to share it with me,” said Bryson. She claimed the best thing about running and being an athlete at Brandeis was the team environment. She described the unique bond of training together and competing together even in 20 degree weather. Having been an athlete since her first year at Brandeis, Bryson expressed her gratitude for the teammates she could relate to, the coaches who had confidence in her all season and the accommodating professors who reached out. But as a Biology and Health: Science, Society and Policy major, she also discussed the hardships of balancing her training and studies.

“It’s difficult for any major to be an athlete and to balance the tough rigors of being a Brandeis student. It’s definitely manageable, but there are days where I think this would be so much easier if I didn’t have practice for three hours,” Bryson shared. “But I’ve been running my whole life and it has actually helped me do the balance better. I do other things like volunteer work but running is my main focus, so knowing every day that I have to go running has helped me know I have to get my work done. Like this past week I wasn’t running because I had a couple days off after the season and I was procrastinating on my work so hard because I knew I had the extra time and I was like, oh my gosh, I need to get back to running.”     Bryson started running at the age of 5 with her dad and twin sister, eventually joining her town’s youth track club where she met the coach who would eventually guide her through middle and high school track as well. She credited her dad with helping start her running career although eventually Bryson and her sister would surpass him in speed. And when she’s not spending all her time at Gosman, Bryson can be found volunteering with the Waltham Group or reading and watching movies like “Up”, as she expressed her love for Disney movies.

Bryson would like to once again qualify for the NCAA, and perhaps winning another national title in the next year and a half at Brandeis. But Bryson shared that she’s taking each season at a time and not getting too ahead of herself. While discussing how she balances her Biology major with continuous training and plans for a Biology path after Brandeis, she gave future Brandeis athletes some advice. “My advice would be setting goals and, if you put the work in and the dedication in and you really want it, you can go out there and accomplish the things you set yourself up to. It’s important not to underestimate working hard,” said Bryson.