Following his standout first place finish at the NCAA West Regional Championships, Stevie Steinberg HM ’22 earned U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) West Region Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year honors, contributing to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ second place team finish for the meet.
“Athlete of the Year was really nice; I felt great and I was just happy to be contributing to the team,” Steinberg said. “It was really cool to get some recognition and actually win my first collegiate cross-country race in this manner.”
Having heard about the award in the past, the cross-country star said earning this award was memorable, having admired the title throughout his collegiate career.
“I remember in past years, during the Nationals banquet, I’d get to see all the faces of the people who won the West region, East region, etc.,” he said. “And at the time, I thought: ‘Wow, that was so cool; these are the best of each region.’ Although I don’t consider myself the fastest person in the region, I feel blessed to earn this honor for having the best regional.”
Steinberg finished in 22nd place at Division III championships last month, the Stags’ second-best finisher behind third-place Henry Pick HM ’23.
Before earning the accolade, Steinberg stumbled across cross-country as a freshman in high school. As a new transfer at the time, he missed out on the opportunity to play soccer, his primary sport.
“I had to find a sport and pretty much the only one I could join was cross-country,” Steinberg said. “My buddy, fortunately, was in it, so I joined it and thought I would return to soccer after a year. But I had a good time and was better at it compared to soccer, so it basically stuck [with me].”
While applying to colleges, collegiate running was not the first thing that came to Steinberg’s mind. He originally was thinking of engaging in the sport recreationally, until the prospective student process and building memorable bonds with his teammates gave him “a good reason to stick with it.”
Including outside social relationships, the sport also gave him benefits on a more internal, personal level.
“[Running] occupied an important part of my physical well-being and gave me a nice way to organize and structure my day,” Steinberg said.
Despite finding early success with acclimating himself to the program, Steinberg ran into struggles attempting to navigate the life of a student-athlete.
“I had [big] issues adjusting to the pace of college life, being away from home at first,” he said. “I wasn’t super comfortable with being as involved compared to when I ran; I felt very overwhelmed.”
The obstacles formed by adjusting to a new college social life also disrupted his athletic performances.
“I thought at times about quitting the program or stepping back and that was definitely exacerbated when I was injured, when I maybe performed worse than I expected,” the runner said.
But the sense of community he built over the years within his teammates revitalized his collegiate career.
“I looked back at the people who I was running with [and] realized that the sport is much bigger than just times on a scoreboard,” Steinberg said. “It felt a lot more worth it once I did that.”
Moving forward, Steinberg is anticipating an outstanding track and field season in the spring, signifying the last leg of his collegiate running career.
Some of his personal goals are to set records in the 5k and 10k events. He also hopes to get another All-American award under his belt, although he believes “it’s a little more challenging” compared to cross-country.
Looking back on his final collegiate cross-country experiences, Steinberg said he’s simply grateful to be a part of a historic program.
“There have been a lot of really talented people who’ve come through the program, [many] who are really important in my life,” he said. “Being able to contribute and be the frontrunner for one of the fastest teams in program history is really validating.”