Speedy season debut earns Padgett national recognition

| Senior Sports Editor

Caroline Yoo | Student Life
Junior runner Drew Padgett earned NCAA Division III Men’s Cross Country National Athlete of the Week honors after his record-setting performance Saturday at the Gabby Reuveni Early Bird Meet.

Padgett’s 19:10 run was the fastest in team history on the 6,000-meter course in Forest Park, and he finished 15 seconds ahead of all competitors Saturday.

Padgett was consistently a top performer for the men’s cross-country team last year, but he never crossed the finish line first for the Bears. At the national championship meet, he placed fourth on the team and 86th overall.

A doctor’s diagnosis last winter is the secret to Padgett’s breakthrough. He found out that he has celiac disease, which causes a reaction in the immune system to gluten products. Prior to the diagnosis, Padgett merely assumed that iron deficiency anemia had been leading to fatigue.

“I tried things like taking a lot of iron—a lot more than other people were taking—and my iron still wasn’t pumping up,” Padgett said. “And as a runner, that can really affect you. It affects how much oxygen you can carry to your blood.”

After the increased iron regimen failed to do the trick, Padgett’s doctor asked if anyone in his family had celiac disease, and it was revealed that his grandfather did. The explanation behind his fatigue had been uncovered.

“It was very frustrating before finding that out because I always worked pretty hard, but toward the end of the season, I’d just start to break down,” Padgett said.

Padgett started to bust out during track and field season, setting the school record in the 5k and qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. With his confidence up, Padgett eagerly returned to distance training.

“I really just worked hard in the summer and kept in mind that the team we have this year is probably one of the best teams we’ve had in school history,” he said. “It’s really our goal to win nationals, so I just tried to go out every day in the summer and do everything that I could to help hopefully make that a reality.”

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