Gretchen Farley's Secret To Balancing Life? Just Show Up.

* Gretchen Farley competes in an XC meet over the 2022 season

Michelle Pemberton/Indy Star via USA Today

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By Cory Mull - MileSplit

Gretchen Farley has been asked this question a lot. Probably more times than she can count. So it's not surprising that she's got an answer for me, almost the second I ask it. 

How do you balance all of the things you do? 

Just about anyone who follows high school sports in Indiana knows Gretchen's resume. An exceptional soccer player, an elite runner, on the verge of 1,000 points in basketball, a fantastic student. Somehow, she manages to do all of these tasks without much hassle, a double-combo of sports in the fall, hoops and track in the winter, and then track and field in the spring. 

And so to explain it, she points to an evening run in November shaped by a black sky, temperatures in the 30s, snow packed up against the sidewalk and her mother biking alongside her. Gretchen managed eight miles on this night, at roughly 7:40 mile pace on the canal path, a steady rhythm for a teenager who routinely hits 5:30 miles during a cross country race.

Then it was back home, dinner, studies and lights off. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention she had a basketball practice in the morning?

Sometimes, she says, it's as simple as this: You just have to put in the work in. Rain or shine, dawn or dusk, you have to be there. And if anything explains Gretchen, it's that. She shows up. 

Perhaps she learned this kind of work ethic from her siblings, all of which are over a decade older than her. Hannah Farley was a sprinter for Stanford in the early 2010s, Abby a middle-distance athlete for Duke in the mid 2010s and Henry a distance runner for Duke during that same stretch. Those traits rubbed off on Gretchen. 

Which brings us to cross country, where her season is rounding an important corner. The last weekend of November will find Gretchen, who finished 20th at the Eastbay XC Championships in 2021, in the throes of another qualifier, this one alongside her teammate Sophia Kennedy, at the Champs Sports Midwest Regional. 

Then it's a date with the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships on Dec. 3 in Huntsville, Alabama. 

Gretchen, a Notre Dame recruit, has yet to really let loose on a fast course.

She'll find that at John Hunt Park. 

"It's my senior year, so I said to myself, 'Let's try some new courses,'" Farley said. "I knew my friend (and future teammate) Reagan Riley was going to be there, she's from Alabama. I reached out to her and told her. I thought it would be fun to see her. Plus, I'll be running with some amazing competition."

There is no doubt Gretchen will face the biggest test she's ever encountered at RunningLane.

A total of four girls have seed times under 17 minutes, while 26 enter having run 17:30 or faster. Gretchen is among that latter group. She owns a PR of 17:27.40 from her IHSAA Regional in Noblesville. 

"I want to run close to 17 flat or maybe see if we can push it," she said. 

Her track record might even predict it.

Over the course of her Indiana season, she's clocked six times for 5K under 18 minutes. And she's done that on roughly 30 miles a week, though her mileage doesn't account for her exploits in soccer, which sometimes saw her run in excess of six miles in a game from her wing position. 

Sometimes she worked on her speed and explosiveness simply through soccer drills. 

You might be asking how she split her time between those two things, soccer and cross country. 

Gretchen ultimately made a decision, she said, that would allow her to do things the right way, to train and practice in dual sports without injury. She chose very early on to go to all of her soccer practices, and then complete her XC workouts afterward.

"I told myself, 'You might as well stick with this and see what you can do.' So I was able to believe in myself and push myself to a level that I didn't think I could go." 

Sometimes, she did them in the morning. Other times it was at night. Sometimes she missed out on the camaraderie of the cross country team. But overall, she said, she didn't regret her decision.

For recovery, she took advantage of Park Tudor's normatec compression boots in the training room and made sure to eat healthy, drink water throughout the day and get enough sleep at night. She made sure she did the little things.

Of course, there were a few difficult days. 

"With soccer and XC, there was no true rest day," she said. "These sports are so different. I might have a hard day of soccer and then an easy run. Or I could have a hard workout and an easy practice. It became hard to balance them that way." 

But nearing the end of her season, few would argue her approach worked. She won her first two cross country races in August and September, and then she went through state XC qualifying alongside Kennedy before finishing fifth at the Indiana State Championships in 17:58.40 on Oct. 29.

Photo Credit: Armond Feffer/Indy Star via USA Today Photos

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Hours later, she played in the Indiana Class A girls state soccer championship game and scored a goal, helping her team to a 3-0 victory over Canterbury. 

What a day it was. 

"I won't forget it," she said. 

Now the focus turns to her final races in cross country ...with a some basketball practice sprinkled in there, too. 

The Champs Sports Regional could see her book her place at nationals for the second straight season. Interestingly enough, it was this regional that showed her what was possible in the first place. 

"When I went to the Kenosha Regional race ... I really just didn't expect anything," she said. "I came out ninth and I qualified. It all happened so quick. It was a big surprise. 

"But I learned something there," she added. "I believed in myself, especially in that Kenosha race. I told myself, 'You might as well stick with this and see what you can do. So I was able to believe in myself and push myself to a level that I didn't think I could go." 

The same path might be for the taking at RunningLane, too. 

Fast time, big finish, another milestone mark to work toward. 

Having never broken 17 minutes, Gretchen will have ample opportunity to go for that benchmark time at John Hunt Park. 

Over the course of her soccer career, she tallied roughly 40 assists and 60 goals. This winter, she'll work toward reaching 1,000 points, which is a hallmark moment for any high school hooper. Cross country? The barrier now is sub-17. 

"I am hoping for a PR on this course," she said. "It's a great course to do it on and there are great girls to do it with. I think, more than anything, my mindset going into this is, 'I want to run fast and get a nice little PR.'" 

The first part is showing up. Then Gretchen will do the rest.