On Saturday morning, graduate Grace Molloy will take to the course at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Charlottesville, Virginia. But before Molloy was ever running cross country in the U.S., she was competing internationally in the obscure sport of Orienteering in Europe.
Scotland, a mere 3,497 miles from East Lansing, is home to the Michigan State star. She was a member of the soccer, track and field, and orienteering clubs at the University of Oxford during her undergraduate program, where she studied physics.
Molloy graduated from Oxford in 2022 and wanted to come to the United States to experience the collegiate athlete training and racing scene. She chose MSU because of its strong track record in women’s distance running and the connection she fostered with the coaching staff.
She knew she’d be on a quality team to train and race with if she came here. She was right, as the MSU women’s cross-country team has won back-to-back Big Ten titles. Molloy finished 14th in the 2023 race and was honored as Second-Team All-Big Ten.
“She’s been just a seamless fit since day one,” MSU Director of Cross Country & Track and Field Lisa Breznau said. “It’s like she’s been here all along. She really fits in with our group and mentality. I don’t think we would’ve won the big ten title that we won last year or had the success that we had without Grace being a part of our team.”
Molloy got on the MSU roster by pitching herself as a three-sport athlete and student to Breznau. After many phone calls and video chats, they began the recruitment process in the winter of 2021, she was committed by spring 2022 and began running with the Spartans that fall.
“I looked her up, too,” Breznau said. “This individual is doing what looks like to me, you know, intense mountain racing. So, after the first time we talked, I got to know her better… Every time we talked, I learned something new, and it just added to her resumé.”
Breznau sees how orienteering brings a special aspect to Molloy’s performance on the track and field team. The more resistance, like hills or mud in a long-distance course, is where Molloy thrives.
Molloy is now a finance graduate student, not knowing exactly her plans after she graduates, except that she will continue running one way or another.
Orienteering, an outdoor recreational…