On the cross-country course, there is never just one constant terrain. It’s full of rising hills and winding turns. The earth seemingly shifts as runners battle for 20 minutes to reach the finish line first.
Senior Katherine Receveur has battled the ups and the downs during her IU career, but no matter the path in front of her — whether in life or in a race — she's taken it head on and conquered it.
Receveur ran track and cross-country at Assumption High School in Louisville, Kentucky. She lettered every year in both sports and won five state championships, four in cross-country and one in track.
Her accolades before college end with All-State honors, but injuries jeopardized her success before her collegiate career even started.
She suffered through a stress fracture, mononucleosis and an iron deficiency in 2014 before her freshman year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. While struggling to recover, she left the program after one semester.
“Not many athletes realize how difficult college running will be,” Receveur said. “If you don’t come in in the best shape you’ve ever been in, then it’s even more difficult.”
The former Kentucky All-State runner came to IU to train with the cross-country team in 2015. Receveur struggled to keep up. IU Coach Ron Helmer said despite her accomplishments in high school, she offered no improvement to their roster at the time.
“She was terrible,” Helmer said. “She couldn’t do a workout. I didn’t have anybody slow enough for her to do a workout with and it took all of that semester and most of the next semester to get her up to speed enough to where she could work with our lower group.”
After the cross-country season, Receveur failed to score points on the track, which put her position in the IU athletic program in question. Helmer said he told her to go home over the summer and train hard. She couldn't come back to the program and struggle like she did during that first semester with the team.
“There was nothing I saw initially that would have suggested she was going to end up being the level of runner that she is, but thank goodness we let her stay around,” Helmer said.
As a sophomore, Receveur came back and had a breakout season as the top runner on the women’s team. She was a First-Team All-Big Ten selection after finishing second in the Big Ten championships.
Receveur was the only woman to represent the Hoosiers in the NCAA championships that year, where she placed 11th and was named an All-American.
Her individual performance inspired her teammates to push themselves during the following season.
“I remember watching her the first time at the national cross-country meet and I was with my teammates,” senior Maggie Allen said. “We were watching and it was kind of like, I don’t want her running all by herself out there anymore.”
Receveur built upon her success from her sophomore year and ended up taking first place in the Big Ten Championships last season.
She also led an IU cross-country team that would wear its cream and crimson uniforms in the 2017 NCAA championships. Receveur finished 20th in the national meet last season, and her teammates ran alongside her. They placed 24th as a team.
“She kind of set a standard for us as athletes being a multiple-time Big Ten champion, making it to USAs and getting to that national level,” Allen said. “It kind of set the standard for what we’re all hoping to be.”
It’s no longer a surprise to Allen that her teammate is running at such a high level.
Coming into her senior season, Receveur is the defending Big Ten champion and a two-time All-American, but she said she isn’t worried.
“Stressing about it isn’t going to get me anywhere,” Receveur said. “I’m going to put in the work that I always have, and I think if I can do that, I would love to get another title.”
Receveur said she is sure she has a target on her back this season after winning the Big Ten championship last year. Allen said her teammates will be there to support her.
“I think everyone always has a target on their back and you strive so much to be that No. 1 and once you get it, the target just gets bigger,” Allen said. “All the teams are going after her, but we’re just ready to back her up.”
Receveur made her season debut Sept. 14 at Iona’s Meet of Champions. She led the women’s team to its second victory of the season after finishing first in the 5K. She won with the time of 17:30.8, 10 seconds faster than the second place finisher.
“I know I’m capable of doing what I did two years ago,” Receveur said. “I’m going to work as hard as I have in the past, take care of the little things and hopefully the rest comes.”
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