Welcome to the first edition of our Stowe Running Camp Spotlight Series! We will use this feature to highlight the accomplishments of current and former Stowe Running campers, counselors, and alumni.
Today’s featured athlete is Lily Robinson. Lily is a member of the cross country and track team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This previous indoor season she was a member of the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team after running a time of 17:32 in the 5k and placing 6th at the A10 League Meet. During the cross country season at UMass, Lily was a consistent presence in the Minutewomen’s top 7. In addition to her running prowess, Lily pens a column for UMass’ student newspaper, The Daily Collegian, which you can read here. She attended Stowe Running Camp for three summers and is well known for loving long runs, being in touch with nature, and her artistic creativity (the posters she made for the Stowe games are legendary).
We sat down with her to discuss her journey as a runner. The interview was conducted by Camp Director Fran Cusick, who coached Lily in high school.
Picture: Lily competing at the 2017 Eastern Massachusetts Division 3 Championship Meet….it was one of the coldest cross country meets in recent history.
Name: Lily Robinson
Hometown: Tewksbury, Massachusetts
High School: “Homeschooled” but competed for Tewksbury HS
College: Umass Amherst
Age/Grade: 19/Academic Senior
5k (track): 17:32.01
Picture: Lily with teammate Sarah Conant at her first collegiate cross country race at Franklin Park in Boston.
Stowe Running Camp Questions
How Many Years Have You Attended Stowe Running Camp?
I have gone for three years.
How did you hear about Stowe Running Camp?
Camp director Fran Cusick was my high school coach.
Favorite Memories from Stowe
I have a lot of good tempo runs at Stowe on the Quiet Path…I remember one year I had a great tempo run with Mckenzie Clark and Jackie Wells and I was really proud of myself for keeping up with them. It’s hard for me to pinpoint one specific memory.
Picture: Lily with teammates/friends at Stowe Running Camp 2017.
Running in General
How did you get started in running?
I feel like there are so many different answers to this…when I was a really little kid we used to have these Tuesday night community track meets in Tewksbury. I was wildly competitive. They gave out ribbons, I’m pretty sure all the way up to 6th place. I used to do every event there.
This was when I was little, so my memories may not be entirely accurate. It seemed like the entire town would come out to these track meets. At the end of the night they would run the mile and everyone would be exhausted from doing all the different running and field events. So there would only be a couple people in it. And I have this memory of always beating the high schoolers, even though I’m pretty sure they just jogged it. But they’d always make a big show of pretending that we were really good and had been able to beat them for real, and at age 5 I didn’t question it. Funny side note, I dreaded turning 7 because I liked to run in the lane that corresponded with my age and it was a 6 lane track….If only that was still my greatest concern in life.
Shortly after this, I was probably in 4th grade, I ended up doing a running camp called Noelle’s Running Clinic in Lowell along with my good friend McKenzie Clark. At the end of the camp, the director asked me to join her team, which was the Greater Lowell Road Runners youth program, coached by Joe Ferris. So I ended up staying on that team all the way up until the start of high school. A lot of the kids from GLRR would go on to be good runners at Tewksbury HS, like Makayla Paige, Devyn Veits, and McKenzie. It was a lot of fun.
Picture: Lily in her Greater Lowell Road Runner days with teammates Makayla Paige and Devyn Veits.
Do you prefer track or cross country?
Cross-Country forever but the indoor 5k puts up a good fight. Long, slow, and mind-numbing is the way to go (wish I could comment on the 10k but covid said ‘no’ to outdoor track)
What running accomplishment are you most proud of this school year? (Does not have to be running related)
I’d have to say I was pretty proud of myself for actually really loving indoor track this year. I’ve come a long way since freshman year of high school when I tried to quit before I started. It also felt good to train alongside kids I didn’t even begin to compare with in high school and actually keep up (most of the time).
Note from Coach Cusick: Lily hated the idea of indoor track so much that it took many long conversations to convince her to come out for the team. It didn’t help that she was a very good distance runner and frequently placed in the 2 mile, an event which involves a lot of time running around in circles.
What was your best race in high school? What was your best race in college?
There’s a couple from my HS. One of my cross country races freshman year, at All-States, I ran 19:24 which was a big PR at the time. The team also finished 3rd overall. And then states and regionals my junior year were really memorable as well. The D3 State meet in 2017 was one of the coldest days I can remember. I ended up running 19:15 and finishing 6th. And that was the day we beat Milton to win the D3 State Meet, which was very rare for us. But…incredibly, bone chillingly cold.
In college, my indoor track season was a lot better than my cross season. I ended up running 17:32 in the 5k at New Englands and placed 6th overall. We won the league meet as a team too, which was awesome.
What was your worst race in high school?
So many! Probably that 2 mile that you made me run at the Merrimack Valley League Meet my freshman year, outdoors that was just dreadful. I think I ran thirteen something.
It was actually 12:49. Tough day. Sorry for putting you in that one, Lilith!
Picture: Lily with teammates Rachel Sessa and Holly O’Leary in 2017.
You raced at the infamous 2019 Northeast Regional XC Meet that was run on the roads due to course concerns. What was that experience like?
Note: The D1 Northeast Regional meet was moved to the roads due to course concerns. This led to some controversy.
That was probably the worst way that meet could have gone for me. I don’t remember the whole sequence of events, but we got there two days ahead of time. The day before the race, we were supposed to be able to sleep in, but I woke up to a text from my coach saying “Regionals is officially a road race! We’re going to get shoes.” So we went to the store to get shoes, I ended up wearing the Saucony Kinvaras, which is what I wear for training anyway. Nobody got the Vaporflys on our team.
The race itself went horribly. If we had ended up running on the course, which I agree it was un-runnable, but if we did have it on that course it would have been to my advantage. It would have been so slow, which is exactly what I want from a cross country race.
Note: Lily attended Tewksbury public schools for one year (freshmen year of HS), but was home schooled for the remainder of her educational career.
What misconceptions do people have about homeschooling?
Everything! Every conception you have is probably wrong! People think you don’t have any friends, or that you are antisocial. People also think that your mom is your only teacher. It evolves over time. My mom taught me when I was younger, but as I got into middle school I took basically a patchwork of different classes at different locations.
And then when I got to HS, I did one year at Tewksbury and then the next three years I did a variety of different classes. Some were online, some were at Middlesex Community College. I got enough credits in my junior and senior year that, even though 2019-2020 was my first year of college, I was academically a junior.
So because of the credits you accumulated in HS, you are technically going into senior year. Can you talk a little bit about what your plans will be after graduation?
So, I’ll end up being at Umass for three years total. I’m finishing up my bachelor’s in journalism next year but, starting in the fall, I will also have a few graduate courses mixed in. Because I don’t quite feel ready to graduate, I applied for and was accepted to UMass’ accelerated master’s program in public policy. The way that works is that you start taking grad classes your senior year of undergrad and then your 5th, or in my case 3rd, year you finish up your grad courses and graduate with a master’s in a total of 5 years. It’s confusing to explain but basically you save a lot of time and money and get a lot of education. It’s a win-win.
What has been your favorite hobby/activity during social distancing?
Hmmm…All I have been doing is school work and running but writing for my school paper and the occasional word puzzle (NYT spelling bee in the am, Washington Post crossword in the pm) have found a nice little place in my schedule.
What is one food you could (or do) eat every day?
Peanut butter yogurt…sounds weird but it’s exactly what the name implies and it is amazing. Also, oatmeal but that’s too typical…although I make mine with pumpkin which i guess is a bit unique.
What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you began running?
This isn’t really a single event but I’ve had a lot of seasons/years that just kinda didn’t go my way at all (particularly late freshman year of HS through sophomore year) and looking back on that more recently I realize how badly I have tended to handle poor races. Since then I have come to understand how one person’s reaction to a race impacts the experience of the entire team and it has made me a lot more conscious of how I compose myself when I am disappointed and has led me to enjoy my experiences more even when they aren’t what I wanted.
One interesting thing to note is that at Stowe last year one of the counselors (I want to say Peyton McGovern but could have been Lilly Wells) talked about the ’20 minute’ rule where you get 20 minutes after a bad race/workout to feel upset and then you have to pull it together and get over it and be there for the rest of your team. I’ve altered it a bit to fit my unique sulking needs but I think about that a lot and it’s actually been really helpful to me.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)
Were you getting desperate for questions here? (Note: No, it’s a good question!)
You know what I hate? Changing billboards. You catch a glimpse of something interesting and look back and, before you can register what it is, it changes. So you are waiting anxiously for it to change back, looking in the rear view mirror, praying, risking your life….and it DOESN’T change back in time. Then you have to go on driving, contemplating how you will literally never in your entire life know what was on that billboard for absolute certain and it is such an uncomfortable thought. IDK, maybe that’s just a me thing.
What is a hot take you have that most people would disagree with? Why do you think this?
The Office is a terrible show. It is literally just a series of people being humiliated and then made to explain their humiliation while staring directly into a camera. Please don’t use this, though, I am wildly outnumbered in my opinion and don’t want to be ambushed by enemy thinkers the next time I leave my house.
Thank you for taking the time with us Lily! Good luck with your quarantine training!